Minions Paradise is a new game coming from EA Mobile

Above: Minions Paradise is a new game coming from EA Mobile.

Image Credit: EA

The CEO has lost some key EA leaders, such as longtime exec Frank Gibeau, most recently head of mobile. But Wilson hasn’t missed a step. He replaced Gibeau with Samantha Ryan, a former Warner Bros. game leader, as head of EA Mobile. The talent is going to EA in part because of the leadership at the top. EA has a deep bench, with leaders such as Soderlund and No. 2 boss Peter Moore. But, once again, Wilson gets some of the credit for making EA a magnet for the right people. And his bench is getting more diverse, with more women in executive roles. That’s important for EA, as the definition of a gamer — the stereotype of the lonely male teenager — has changed. The average age of U.S. gamers is 35, and 48 percent are female.

In mobile, the audience is even more diverse and more global. EA is fighting many battles on many fronts, going head to head against Activision. But mobile may very well be where Wilson’s EA wins or loses, as mobile is becoming the industry’s biggest, most global segment. Regarding mobile, Wilson said, “Wherever our players are, that’s where we want to go. That’s why we’re building for Apple devices. That’s why we’re building for Android devices.”

And if gamers want virtual reality, Wilson will give it to them.

“There’s a core motivation that players have to immerse themselves into an experience, to escape into an experience,” he said. “VR is an opportunity to do that. But as you know, there’s five or six players right now. Our job is not to pick one of them. Our job is to build a technology layer that can facilitate distribution of virtual reality experiences irrespective of how they come — whether it’s goggles, whether it’s augmented reality, whether it’s a room you step into, whether it’s a pod like Total Recall. We’re trying to build at a core engine layer to facilitate that type of experience.”

Star Wars: Battlefront is just one of the reasons EA is on the rise.

Above: Star Wars: Battlefront is just one of the reasons EA is on the rise.

Image Credit: Electronic Arts

The leadership at the top is translated down through the organization. EA is taking risks and doing things that the old EA didn’t do. The new Rory McIlroy PGA Tour had a zany Grand Canyon golf course. Soderlund’s team signed up a tiny studio making an interesting yarn-based console game dubbed Unravel. EA added women to its FIFA 16 soccer game.

These are small, but perceptible, differences at EA. And Soderlund said that the publisher is being careful to be creative, not just corporate.

“For me it’s about fully understanding that we’re an entertainment company. We’re not a financial institution or a platform company,” Soderlund said. “Our job in the world is to entertain. Right now, EA is a place where the creator in general has a lot of respect and a lot of gravitas. That comes not only from Andrew, but from the publishing teams and everything else. I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve never seen the different parts of EA collaborate so well.”

We’ll see how it goes from here. But EA’s newest games, such as Mirror’s Edge Catalyst to Star Wars Battlefront, are getting fans excited about EA games again. During E3, EA games were viewed 53 million times, including 22 million views on social platforms for Battlefront alone. When EA announced a new Mass Effect game at E3, the audience went bananas. And that’s a welcome change.

The trick is to know what fans want, when they want it, and when they’re about to change their minds. Unlike some of the risk averse companies in the industry, Wilson hopes to surprise fans with brand new games as well.

“We understand that there will come a day when people get up and want to play something completely different,” he said. “We have to prepare for that day. We have to start building and investing against new IP that might feel like a big risk today, a big creative risk, but it ultimately might be the next blockbuster. That’s an important part of our strategy.”

Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA, at the company's E3 2015 press briefing.

Above: Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA, at the company’s E3 2015 press briefing.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

 

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