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Interview: EA Sports marketing boss talks FIFA 09

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FIFA and PES. PES and FIFA. It's the ball-shaped war that'll never, ever end. How does EA plan to win this year? Videogaming247 caught up with EA Sports senior marketing manager, John Dongelmans, and had a chat about FIFA 09 and the threat of Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer, multi-platform support, and plenty more.

FIFA 09 is in the shops today.

Check out the interview after the link.

By Mike Bowden

VG247: Would you say that the FIFA franchise is the "Madden" of Europe in terms of sales and brand recognition?

John Dongelmans: The EA Sports FIFA franchise is one of our key game sport franchises. It has a 15-year plus history and is well known all over Europe. That being said it is also expanding in North America and on a larger global scale. Perception has always been that people in the US are not interested in “football" or "soccer” but this is absolutely not true. We have football fans representing all continents in the world. The experiences we offer might be different by country but every market is important because of the global appeal the sport has. Our overall vision is a global one. We do want to create the most authentic and enjoyable football experience on any platform.

Following on from the first question, just how important has the FIFA brand become to EA on a worldwide scale? Is it as important for brand awareness in Asia and the US as it is in Europe?

The great thing about football is that it is a global sport. It might be the only team sport in the world that truly brings everyone together. The EA Sports FIFA franchise is very important and dear to us among a stable of other key sports franchises like Madden, Tiger Woods and our recently announced Tennis title.

Are there any markets where FIFA doesn't sell as well as you'd like? What do you think can be done to improve brand awareness in those territories?

First off, we are extremely excited how the FIFA game franchise has performed over the years and we as a team are very proud of this years’ game. Every country in the world has its own unique dynamics. Asia for example is an upcoming market with great growth potential, especially online. Specifically for this market we offer an online version of the game FIFA Online.

Many people are either 'FIFA people' or 'PES people,' and have stuck by their game of choice for years now. How difficult is it to bring people over to 'your side', as it were?

We have a lot of respect for the football fans out there. For us as a team creating the most authentic football experience has always been a key priority. You cannot do this without the fans. In FIFA 09 this year we feel we have made some really good gameplay improvements with the addition of the Be a Pro: Seasons mode, Adidas Live Season, 10v10 online team play and over 250 gameplay additions. Additionally we deliver a platform-specific experience with platform specific features that offer the consumer the best football gaming experience out there. We hope to continue to convince not only existing fans of the franchise of the quality of our game but also to convince new consumers that FIFA 09 offers a football gaming experience on a whole new level.

What is it you think that separates the FIFA brand, and in particular FIFA 09, from the competition? Also, in the past, the FIFA franchise has been criticised for releasing only incremental updates year on year but charging full price to the consumer. How aware are you of this charge and what can we expect from FIFA in future releases?

For FIFA 09 we have listened carefully to gamers feedback, as we always try to do, and included this gameplay feedback into FIFA 09. As mentioned prior, authenticity is key but for us it is also extremely important to be very innovative and creative. These things together enabled us to improve the game with new features and services mentioned that offer a whole new dimension of a football gaming experience.

We will always try to be innovative and creative while taking consumer feedback into our planning to offer the fans a great new FIFA each year. The EA development team in Vancouver is a fantastic, international team of passionate football fans that strives each year to deliver the best football experience possible. We all love football.

What do you think the future holds for sports games. What the huge success of Wii, do you think EA will soon lead opn the format, with 360 and PS3's more traditional controllers being somewhat an afterthought? In short, FIFA 09 Wii could easily outsell FIFA 09 360 and PS3. How do you think this will affect future iterations of the franchise?

All gaming platforms are important to us. That’s why we created unique experiences specially developed for each of the platforms, from PS3 and Xbox 360, to the Wii, PC, PSP and NDS. The All-Play philosophy for the Wii with the 8v8 Footii match and the unique controlling system is a great example of specific platform development. It is absolutely not a "one size fits all" gameplay experience. We will continue delivering these specific experiences for all platforms in the future.

Additionally we are trying to offer the consumer the best authentic football gaming experience while using the strengths of each platform. Adidas Live Season on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC is a good example for using new ways to expand the football gaming experience. The weekly form updates on player performances that reflect reality in a video game and changes the way football games are played.

It is also great that more and more new consumers get into the gaming market on a more casual level. We will make sure that we also offer these new and maybe inexperienced consumers a great football experience with easy accessible games as well.

How important are the online capabilities (10v10 feature, for example) of 360 and PS3 to the FIFA franchise? Is this where you see the future of FIFA?

The online capabilities are very important for us. Online offers us the ability to be more authentic then ever before and to create a unique and better gaming experience. Adidas Live Season is a brand new way of reflecting reality into a video game that has never happened before. 10v10 online team play and FIFA 09 Clubs are great new innovate ways of creating an interactive football experience that also has never been possible before. We will continue to use online possibilities to deliver platform specific content on a whole new level.

Additionally the FIWC09 [FIFA Interactive World Cup - Ed] gets players from all over the world online together to play a great football championship on PlayStation 3.

On the subject of online, what can we expect to see by way of downloadable content this year?

There is much more for the consumer to look out for, but these surprises will be revealed at a later stage. Game on.

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