FIFA's a pretty big deal, which makes EA Sports president Peter Moore one of the most important executives in the industry. But it's easy to forget that the ex-Microsoft and Dreamcast man has more on his plate than virtual footie.
He's got golf, Madden, MMA, and that emerging market, fitness, to worry about. Here, in an interview with Eurogamer, we quiz the Liverpudlian on everything from Tiger Woods' private life to the controversial Online Pass.
Eurogamer: You've been successful with FIFA following the investment in a new engine a few years ago. How long before you have to create a new engine and start again?
Peter Moore: It's more of a question for [FIFA lead producer Dave] Rutter. For me, this has been a great year of polish. That's the advantage of going in early with a new engine. We're now maybe in the fifth year of this new engine. It's no longer new, I guess. He would be a better one to ask that question of. But I think he's going to tell you that for the course of the future there are certainly no complaints from the community of what this engine can do.
Eurogamer: Is it a case of if it 'aint broke, why fix it?
Peter Moore: Yeah. A 91-rated game, we'd be loath to throw that engine away and start all over again. Once you do there's a ramp time for the team to get used to a new engine. It probably doesn't seem like a good use of resources in mid-cycle, if that's where we are for this generation.
Eurogamer: Do you really believe we're mid-cycle?
Peter Moore: If you look at the history of the pricing, we're in mid-cycle. Chronologically, this is the last few years of previous cycles, but when you look at pricing, we're mid-cycle.
Over the years, $199 and below has been where 75 to 80 per cent of business is done. With the exception of 360 and the Wii, PlayStation 3, which seems to have a lot of momentum, is not even close to that. So we're still to reach a price point across all three consoles where historically 75 to 80 per cent of business is done. Yeah, I think we're in mid cycle.
Eurogamer: So you don't expect to see the next round of consoles for a while yet?
Peter Moore: No. Particularly when you've got things like Move and Kinect, these are tantamount to new platform launches for both Sony and Microsoft respectively. I don't think they are going to be investing in new hardware 12 months, 24 months, 36 months after investing I'm sure a considerable amount of money in getting both of these platforms out.
I'm sure if you ask them is this a tactic and a strategy to extend the current lifecycle, they'll say absolutely. You add Kinect to the average price of an Xbox 360, you're back up to that $400 again. That's not the end of the cycle. We're nowhere near mass-market pricing. Maybe with the Wii - and you've seen a little bit of a downturn in that business. But they've sold a considerable amount of consoles.
Eurogamer: Do you expect Nintendo to bite first, then?
Peter Moore: I don't know. It can be, having been in this business, a little bit of a game of who blinks.
Eurogamer: You've been there before, of course.
Peter Moore: Yes I have. If a company feels they're losing momentum, you've exhausted the consumer base that is willing to pay that price point, and then you look at other tangibles and variables like what big first-party launches we've got coming out, where are we investing in third-parties, and then you make a hard call. It's a very difficult call for the companies because it's a lot of revenue that disappears. It comes right off the bottom line.
But at the same time, from the perspective of the platform holder, you can't afford to lose momentum in the marketplace, so you have to make that tough call. History has told us that comes when the companies involved think they're starting to exhaust the amount of consumers that will pay for a piece of hardware at that price point.
Eurogamer: Is Kinect too expensive?
Peter Moore: We're about to find out. Microsoft is obviously incredibly bullish. But I hear in the UK in particular the pre-orders are strong. The entire industry, ourselves included, are looking forward to a strong launch from both them and Sony. But the consumer is in the driving seat on this one so we'll wait and see.
Eurogamer: When we ran the story saying Kinect will cost £130 in the UK, there were quite a few negative comments from gamers saying it was too expensive. I wonder, though, how casual gamers will feel about the price.
Peter Moore: You could argue that they're even less likely to pay that kind of money - the more casual people just don't see the benefit. Like I said, we're about to find out. We're only a couple of months away from launch. So from the point of view of the consumer, they're going to determine whether it's too expensive or not.
Eurogamer: Are you happy with the commercial success of the last Tiger Woods game?
Peter Moore: Commercially, the numbers speak for themselves. It's not where we'd want to be on a year on year basis. It's been disappointing, in particular on the Wii. There's no hiding, because the results are there. The Wii has been a disappointment.
It was a difficult year because we had the Wii MotionPlus bundle the previous year. That was a tremendous platform for us to sell on. We had strong advertising, strong support from Nintendo, both Nintendo of Europe and Nintendo of America. Consequently we always knew [this] was going to be a difficult year.
I will say this: we're continuing to focus on the Ryder Cup being a boost for us, and then Tiger on Move becomes a good opportunity for us to get on a new platform launch. You're going to see Tiger well represented as part of the Move launch from our point of view.
Remember, Andrew Wilson from my team was on stage at the Sony press conference at E3. They chose that as the game they thought showed off Move best. We'll get a boost this September. Ryder Cup is in October. We have the Ryder Cup licence. We have online teamplay built into the game, but Ryder Cup hasn't started yet. Whenever it's in Europe it's a big boost for us because it's a popular tournament over here.
So, it's a little early, but the early numbers are disappointing.
Eurogamer: What about from a quality perspective?
Peter Moore: When you look at Metacritic we're down a point or two, but I don't think there's been a drastic drop. Anything over 80... Particularly something like golf where there are no monster changes, there are no player trades, no new uniforms. We've built upon feature upon feature upon feature.
The other thing we've done, which people forget, is launch Tiger Woods Online. So while we're looking for console business and saying, boy, I wish we'd sold more, we've stretched our reach into other areas. Tiger Woods Online is a long play into bringing in new golf consumers in a different way. And that of course is not recorded from a sales perspective.
So yes, disappointed with the early going. It's a long road. Tiger as a game always has a long tail. We've got some heat coming up with the launch of Move, the Ryder Cup in October, and then Christmas is always strong for golf. Probably come January we'll look at the situation again.
Eurogamer: Some analysts suggest the situation with Tiger's private life has impacted sales.
Peter Moore: Yeah, it's a consumer call. I'm sure it probably has something to do with it, but there are a lot of elements. That's a consumer call we have no control over.
We've been clear on our positioning. We stand by Tiger as a golfer. He's still the number one golfer in the world. I don't think there's much doubt he'll get picked for the Ryder Cup - that would be a big disappointment for people in Europe. Tiger not playing well is not good for golf. It's as simple as that.
We've been consistent in standing by him, continuing to do so, and look forward to the day when he gets back to the form that won him 14 Majors and 71 PGA Tour events. You don't suddenly lose it. Of course, he's got a little bit of a challenge going on in his private life. We wish him all the best with it.
Eurogamer: How's Online Pass working out for you?
Peter Moore: Of connected consoles, people who can connect, between 60 and 70 per cent of them are connecting, putting their code in, and or buying Online Pass, getting the new digital content, and getting access to premium services and multiplayer.
We've got College Football in the US as well as Tiger, the two titles we can look at. And, you know, strong figures. And it's doing exactly what we hoped it would, which is rewarding our customers with premium content, with digital content and access to online services.
Eurogamer: Is it having a meaningful effect on second-hand sales of your games?
Peter Moore: Difficult to tell. We don't get to see that data. It's not tracked. It wasn't intended to stop or slow down or in any way negatively impact second-hand sales. It was to encourage people to play online and enjoy download content. It was never intended to be any kind of strategy or tactic to impede used sales.
Eurogamer: Really? That's what people think it's for.
Peter Moore: Well, what they think it is... We're pretty simple. If you're a customer of ours, not only will we give you our premium services, we'll give you digital content. Now if you're not, then there's a price for that, and it's currently $10.
We're not seeing any issues with people not punching the code in if they've got it. We're not seeing huge business yet, because it's early, but there are people paying their $10 and enjoying Online Pass and getting the content they want.
More on FIFA 11
Eurogamer: Any plans to retrofit 3D support into FIFA 11 with an update or patch?
Peter Moore: We talk about it with the teams all the time. I'm up in Vancouver and Orlando on a regular basis talking to the teams. For me it's simple. If 3D adds value to the gaming experience, then the teams will do it. It's not, as you know, inconsequential from a cost or performance issue. So there's got to be some real value. There's a cost to getting it done. There is a performance hit with frame-rate. So the teams have this extra work. More importantly for me is as both a sports fan and a sports gamer, it's got to add some value other than gimmickry.
Quite frankly, I've seen Madden in 3D using our regular game, and there are some cool moments when the camera comes down into the huddle and when the players are standing around, where you've got depth of field. But once you pull back to the normal camera - and FIFA's no different - 3D doesn't help you because the camera is so far away. You lose that depth of field.
So, it's got to add value. We're looking at it. We've got some titles at EA that are running in 3D. So we're learning from that. But I always draw the analogy that James Cameron, when he filmed Avatar, from the get go he knew it was going to be in 3D. Those camera angles and everything were built to deliver a 3D experience. Sports is not that easy. You've got to see the field to play it properly. It's not just washing over you like a movie.
If 3D helps you, which, to be fair, having seen some of the first-person shooters, you can see how 3D allows the depth of field in the shot. At some point we'll figure it out in sports, but it really has to add value before I put extra work and expense on the teams to deliver games that have it.
Eurogamer: So there are no plans to patch 3D support into FIFA 11.
Peter Moore: Not right now, no.
Eurogamer: I watched a football match in 3D in a pub recently. I felt a bit silly.
Peter Moore: Both my brothers did the same thing. They went to see a World Cup game. They came away saying, 'It's cool.' I said, 'Is it cool because you see the game better or you understand the game better?' 'No, it's just cool.'
Is 'cool' good enough in our world where this is not an inconsiderable expense, and in a world where you expect us to deliver FIFA every single year? Do I have to hire more people to do 3D, and then can I sell more copies of the game?
3D came a little too late to impact this year. But there's also got to be an installed base of televisions to make it worthwhile. I don't know anybody with a 3D TV. That says it all. And how much 3D broadcasting is there right now?
It reminds me of what high def was in 2003, 2004. Six or seven years ago it was still gimmickry and there wasn't enough high-def programming. Now of course it's very difficult to watch sports in particular in standard definition. So maybe six or seven years from now we'll be in the same boat with 3D.
FIFA 11 is due out on 1st October.