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Video games need more mass market appeal, says EA COO

Thursday, 11th April 2013 21:37 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Electronic Arts CCO Richard Hilleman believes video games aren’t mass market yet, with the closest medium to reach the sector being the social and mobile space.

Speaking with GI International, Hilleman said from his perspective “television is the mass market and we’re the fringe”

“We have to make sure that game companies know what a mass market really is. We’re not one yet,” Hilleman said. “The closest thing we’ve had to a mass market, frankly, has been the social and mobile spaces. From my perspective, television is the mass market and we’re the fringe.

“The challenge in front of us is, does the customer think about it that way? Do they see us as so distinct we can’t merge those two experiences?”

Hilleman said the games industry needs to learn how to appeal to larger audiences, as it has a tendency to segment the core, mobile, and social spaces into groups ” that are too small to be relevant.” This can cause the medium to lose mass market appeal.

He also believes that is one of the benefits of connected TVs, especially for EA, as the television set is what people turn on when they shit off their mobiles and tablets.

It’s a gateway to millions of potential new customers, he feels, and there’s no sense waiting around on Apple TV to “jolt” the market. Such a move by Apple has also produced rumblins in the console sector that such a device could spell the end of traditional consoles – something Hilleman doesn’t agree with.

“Console players buy what they buy, based on the expectations of having a crème de la crème experience,” he said. “The truth is that, for all that Apple has done, an iPad today is between one-tenth and one-twentieth of the performance potential of the current shipping generation of consoles. And that’s just always going to matter.

“When Apple got into the music business it caught that industry at its absolute lowest ebb, and did very well with their deal-making as a result. Television and movies are not in the same place: they are not as desperate, they don’t have the same short-term needs, so Apple will be less able to dictate the terms as they did before. The other thing is that Samsung, the leading provider of LCD panels in the world, has a billion reasons not to help.

“Apple is going to do what it wants to do, and if they make a great product we’ll be happy to support it… If they do anything at all. I actually believe that nobody knows if Apple TV will happen, including Tim Cook. There are deals that need to be made to make that possible that haven’t been made yet.”

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7 Comments

  1. Gheritt White

    One word: Tetris.

    In other words: the man’s right.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. salarta

    Comparing the video game industry to the television and film industries in this way is precisely what’s wrong with treatment of the industry and medium as a whole.

    Video games are NOT like TV or film, and never will be. Film and TV came out as shocking and amazing innovations to the way people experienced entertainment, information and records of everyday life. Just the concept of film in color was a shocking concept, and the ability to have some type of visual medium right in the home, piping in news and entertainment at an affordable price? Huge.

    Video games are not like that. The concept of an interactive electronic experience has been around since the 60s and 70s, and when it comes to interacting with information, people experience it every single day in a much more concise and quick way with computers hooked into the internet. There’s also the issue of the video game medium being an ACTIVE medium; you don’t just sit back and watch or read it, you participate in what happens.

    There are a lot more issues I could mention, and in a lot of cases there is no definitive right answer or right interpretation. But the core remains the same: the video game industry is not merely an interactive version of Hollywood. It won’t develop into a pathway that provides real world mass market appeal until companies stop treating it like interactive Hollywood and start looking at the medium’s capabilities for its own real merits.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. zinc

    l’d say games need good gameplay. Nail that & the mass market follows. Pokemon, Tetris, CoD, Mario are all examples of games that have that gameplay mechanic, that keeps people coming back for more & bringing their friends with them.

    It doesn’t surprise me that a EA suit instead would have the industry chasing the ephemeral *mass market appeal*, an attitude that has seen EA water down & homogenise any semi-succesful franchise it owns, to the extent they lose their individual appeal, driving away the early install base, instead of using them as foundation.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. DSB

    You’re never going to achieve anything close to mass appeal as long as you keep weighing your games down with shady surcosts.

    Do what TV did and deliver a quality product, and really bet on that quality. Get proper writers, get designers who have a personality and a vision. Build your games around those guys, and maybe you’d stand a chance.

    There’s not a chance in hell that EA would ever care about stuff like that though.

    TV was behind the curve too, until they began to realize that talent and quality really should matter to them.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. FeaturePreacher

    There’s no way to manufacture the game industry into something as large as the TV industry. It’s just going to take 50 years for the 30 something’s of today to become the 80 something’s that continue to play the hardcore titles that keep the industry going. Going for the softcore audience is only going to last for the short time it takes to realize they are satisfied by a small number of titles for a small time.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. salarta

    While I’m thinking of it, another complication to the video games achieving anything close to mass market appeal is the deliberate lack of variety.

    The most recent glaring issue of the medium is how big name companies within it seem to think that female protagonists are not a viable market. Of the cases where one IS attempted, they’re treated very poorly; weak scared victims, or overly sexualized bimbos and dominatrices. This is just one of the obvious examples in the whole scheme of companies trying to make all their games emulate the concept of a Hollywood blockbuster.

    You know what this attitude is like? It’s like the comic book industry. The comic book industry got a HUGE boost in popularity as a result of things like V For Vendetta and The Dark Knight Returns in the 80s. Then the 90s happened. The obsession of the time was to overly emphasize male fantasy, put all the focus on superhero type books, and try to dupe people into buying “collector’s editions” that would ultimately be worthless because everyone would have a copy. This was to suck easy money from people foolish enough to actually believe an issue #1 of some new hero would some day be worth as much as the first issue of Spider-Man. Comic book companies also tried to bring people in with stupid gimmicks, like reflective or 3D covers, moreso than actual quality. There was no real variety to what comic books offered.

    Today, the comic book industry is a shell of its former self. Note I said the comic book industry, NOT the “products made based on comic books” industry. THOSE are selling like crazy, as we know from all the Batman and Avengers films.

    Meanwhile, manga has largely overtaken comic books in terms of popular interest. Comic books are seen as the place primarily for superhero male fantasy largely spawning half-naked women, musclebound men and idiotic, convoluted, half-assed storylines. Manga is seen as a medium covering all sorts of genres and styles, ranging from intellectual and artistic to trashy and dumb.

    The video game industry is currently heading down the same path. Even the games being touted today as high intellectual fare, supposedly “realistic” due to their grittiness (by the way, that trend of “gritty realism” helped kill the comic book industry’s popularity too), are very vapid. Video games are made today with gimmicks and assumptions of popular trends in mind, from Resident Evil 6 to DmC to Final Fantasy XIII to Tomb Raider. They’re games made by people treating the medium as wannabe Hollywood, not like a unique medium. If things don’t change soon, the video game industry is going to crash and burn in the same way the comic book industry did. Sure, video games will still exist, but they’ll be nowhere near as successful as they could be.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. DrDamn

    So nobody linking these comments to the rumours of some sort of deal between MS and EA (lack of EA presence at PS4 reveal) and the link in the TV deals MS is rumoured to be making with NextBox? I think there is something there.

    #7 2 years ago

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