GamesBeat: Are you increasing the number of digital events as we speak now? Are you doing more frequent updates for some of these event-related features in the games?
Sitrin: As far as the number and frequency of events, absolutely. Between the middle of March through August 1, that sort of time frame, we’re executing — either ourselves or in partnership with third parties — something close to 100 different esports competitions. That’s an order of magnitude more than what was planned in that time frame. It’s a huge increase in the number of executions and the number of broadcast hours. That’s changed dramatically.
As I was mentioning, we’re looking at recasting the entire rest of our year, knowing to the best of our ability where live events can play and where online can play and so on. For the remainder of the year, that increase in magnitude — what it was going to be versus what it is now — is probably going to be about an order of magnitude, a 10-times type of increase.
As for the games themselves, it’s not really requiring changes in the games. The games were already built, the games we’ve been working with — Apex Legends, Madden, FIFA, FIFA Online — those games were already supporting what we’re doing. Right now we don’t need much additional development. We’re letting the teams focus on delivering their schedules as they’ve planned.
GamesBeat: Is there anything else you wanted to add today?
Sitrin: The model is pretty simple on my end. We have those three levels of competition: very celebrity driven for fun, a mixture of celebrity-driven and authentic, and then authentic esports with no celebrity. We only had a plan for that last one, as far as our plans for the year. We’ve now changed that by addressing all three areas. We’re trying to do what I mentioned for the Madden broadcast a few weeks ago in terms of sequencing, so you can have a viewer journey that takes you from the top of that experience all the way down.
As a result of trading off live events that were less frequent, we now can have online events that are much more frequent. Because of the opening up of our distribution and viewers, people who had never come to esports or given it a look, now they have an opportunity. Broadcasters are putting it in front of them. For the core esports fan as well, we have something for everyone. As a result of that greater distribution, more interest from the viewership, and the type of product we’re producing, an order of magnitude than we did before, the viewership numbers are through the roof. Given that we built our business completely around viewership and broadcast hours, as opposed to ticket sales and live events, we can really deliver on the original goal, what’s always been the goal of the CGD, which is to take esports mainstream. This has accelerated that effort considerably.
The other thing I’d comment on is that despite all the business-related things that are going on, EA has always had a vision of uniting the world through play. We believe that we’re doing something that’s very good for the world right now. The world is locked away in their homes. It can be pretty challenging. A lot of people are out of work. A lot of people, if they are at work, are balancing their families and work at home. What people want in times like this is entertainment, escapism. We can provide that.
A lot of the motivation here is about living up to what EA has always tried to do, which is to unite the world through games, unite the world through play. We’re doing it through viewership and creating those moments where communities can come together and participate and have fun. We’re all working from home just like everyone else. We understand how much we rely on entertainment to take us away from the realities of the world. A big driving force for us has been–we can produce content. Hollywood can’t do it. The sports leagues can’t do it. But we can. Let’s use this as an opportunity to give back and do something that the world needs.
That’s become a rallying cry within EA, and certainly within my teams. It’s what gets us up every morning in spite of all the trouble there is for all of us. It feels like a good thing for us to do.
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