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If the former Electronic Arts CEO has a secret to his success, it’s not by being a game industry historian.
While his GamesBeat 2014 session was meant to focus on the winner of the console wars in the last console generation, Riccitiello couldn’t help but get sidetracked by his excitement for the present and future of gaming, even beyond traditional consoles.
“We’re in the golden age of gaming,” asserts John Riccitiello.
You don’t become a CEO of EA without having an appreciation for playing triple-A games on a giant television in the living room. Yet what excites Riccitiello today are the wealth of gaming options on screens of any size, from games that are more suited to tablets to games that work best on smartphones. With differing sizes and mobile experiences to complement at-home experiences, 2-minute play sessions are just as valid as those that last 20 — or even two hours.
As present-minded as Riccitiello was, fireside chat moderator Dean Takahashi eventually succeeded in getting a succinct response from Riccitiello on whom, in his opinion, won the console wars: “Anyone who cares about games won.”
Riccitiello was frank in believing that EA did not make the most of the last console generation despite all of the innovation that resulted in the last eight years leading up to the release of the PS4 and the Xbox One. He thinks that this has given publishers like Ubisoft and Take-Two a prime opportunity to finally be on the same tier as EA and Activision in this new console generation.
That said, he’s confident that EA will stay on top due to Titanfall and whatever the publisher has planned with the Star Wars franchise. He’s also curious on how Activision will sustain both Destiny and Call of Duty, not to imply that the developer/publisher won’t be up to the task. Given the high production values of Destiny and the long-term roadmap Bungie has planned, he’s looking forward to seeing how both series will turn out 10 years from now.
Riccitiello briefly touched upon the period when EA began to operate as a digital content provider, which he says isn’t an easy skill set to master. That includes acknowledging that the speed of download culture is a completely different beast than traditional retail sales.
This was a good segue to his belief of multiplatform production, which he’s convinced is the key to successful game development. Riccitiello is a strong proponent of Unity, especially given the engine’s multiplatform prowess and how studios of any size can develop with minimal overhead: “Six million people are writing code … three million of those people use Unity. This is a big deal.”
Complementary to his insight on multiplatform development, another reason why Riccitiello considers this period as the golden age of gaming is due to the gigantic ecosystems that companies like Apple, Facebook, and Amazon have created. And it’s not just consumers, as Riccitiello states, “Everyone here [in the main GamesBeat 2014 room] is directly or indirectly working for these ecosystems.”
Given that the cores of these ecosystems are about content and commerce, he’s anticipating that ecosystems with walled gardens will end up giving way to open platforms. Riccitiello is especially curious if Sony and Microsoft will set their ecosystems free. He cited Apple letting Netflix into its ecosystem despite the two being competitors. “It’s not impossible. It just needs a different mindset. … I’ve always wanted Mario on my phone.”
Given that consumers can manage their PlayStation Network accounts on iOS and Android, Riccitiello just might be on to something.
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