John Riccitiello, chief executive of gaming powerhouse Electronic Arts, observed in a speech today that just nine months ago, the hype around social gaming had reached a fever pitch. The press hype was at a “scale and excitement that I have never seen before,” he said, speaking at the Global Mobile Internet Conference Silicon Valley in San Jose, Calif.
Just months later, as Zynga’s growth stalled, the press turned ugly. A few short months ago, social gaming CEOs were geniuses. Now they’re viewed as idiots. Riccitiello could join in on the social gaming bashing with an “I told you so,” but he didn’t quite do that. He said the truth is somewhere in between.
“The companies that are suffering will have another day,” he said, explaining that the business is changing once again, and gamers are flocking to quality gaming experiences on mobile platforms.
“Consumers won’t pay for crap,” he said. “Bad entertainment ultimately will not prevail. Be suspicious of entertainment companies — I lead an entertainment company — that start to talk about themselves on the basis of the terabytes of data they are moving around on the Internet or on the basis of data-driven marketing analytics. I love data-driven marketing analytics. But great gaming starts with a great gaming experience, and if you lose sight of that, you ultimately will not have a business.”
He said social gaming is evolving in free-to-play mobile and social games. Taking a shot at rival Zynga, Riccitiello said, “It’s not a great game mechanic to grind for a half hour and then spam 500 of your best friends to get a shovel. That’s not entertaining.”
“My view of what is coming next is a combination of things that are essentially linked together strong brands, high-quality game mechanics, and will often be cross-platform,” Riccitiello said.
He pointed to quality games such as Backflip Studios’ DragonVale and EA’s own Real Racing 3 game, which is coming out in a few weeks. He showed off a cool racing demo that was highly realistic and full of loud racing noises.
The mobile games that Riccitiello applauded have a few things in common: They are entertaining independent of the business model. They have no grinding mechanic. They have strong branding, and the minute-to-minute fun and detail is a great experience.