EA's Peter Moore: I'm not sure video game press conferences have a future
As for its own gamescom event? "I think some people were confused."
Ask anyone at this year's gamescom and they will probably agree - this year's show feels a little different. There have been a couple of new announcements, sure, but much of the offering here in Cologne feels a little familiar, a tad reheated.
Most notable is the lack of Gamescom press conferences. Sony is completely absent once again. Microsoft is here, although its low-key press meetup consisted of Aaron Greenberg climbing onto a podium to announce a couple of Xbox One S bundles.
Nintendo has no new Direct broadcast, while third-party publishers such as Ubisoft and Activision are content with simply getting the games they revealed at E3 out into the hands of the 500,000 eager visitors.
The lack of new announcements does not come as a total surprise - Gamescom 2016 takes place in an odd moment in time: after E3's annual information blowout but still too early to include this autumn's big console reveals of PS4K and NX.
But it also feels indicative of a wider move away from publishers talking directly to press, and towards companies targeting the "influencer" stars of social media and the gaming public themselves.
Nowhere was this change of focus more evident than EA's Gamescom event, which was broadcast online but was decidedly not a press conference in the traditional sense. Many who tuned in were expecting more than what we actually got - a meandering stroll of a stream mostly focused on FIFA and Battlefield - and it's fair to say we weren't too impressed.
Fast forward less than 24 hours from the company's public pow-wow and I find myself sat opposite EA's very own Peter Moore. He had read our livetext - and, of course, it wasn't what anyone would want to hear about their own event. But to be fair to Peter, and as a preface to the below since the internet and nuance can be difficult friends - our subsequent chat remained jovial throughout. Even when we were told it had been booked to discuss competitive gaming (which was news to us), he treated the matter all in good sport and good spirits.
Eurogamer: So, how has your Gamescom gone so far? How well do you think the event went last night?
Peter Moore: I think the event went great. I think some people were confused about it being some kind of show instead of live stream.
Eurogamer: I'm going to say you're referring to us... There's no denying it, we were left feeling a little confused!
Peter Moore: I saw that. You and Martin were very confused. [laughs] We didn't do a good job of explaining but the 800 people who showed up initially were fed, watered, Patrick [Soderlund] did an intro and then the stream which followed was nothing to do with the event itself. There was no audience element or recognition.
Eurogamer: Yeah, I think there was just some expectation of some announcements.
Peter Moore: Did we give an expectation of an announcement? No - it was a classic livestream.
Eurogamer: The internet definitely had some expectation, but then the internet isn't always right!
PR: I think it's just come from so many years of doing press conferences instead of a livestream - although we had little bits of news during the stream. We did a lot of news back in June at EA Play - and these two events are now close to each other.
Eurogamer: Right - this year at gamescom there are no press conferences in the traditional sense.
Peter Moore: I'm not too sure, Tom, that press conferences have a future. Let me make a radical statement - what you see here [gestures to EA booth around], which is full, is a combination of our key customers, digital, retail, probably 40 per cent influencers. Our EA lounge here - have you been here before?
Eurogamer: To gamescom? Yes.
Peter Moore: And to our EA lounge?
Peter Moore: It used to look like an IKEA showroom but, like EA Play, it's indicative of how we see the future. The medium is changing. Influencers, celebrities who aren't the classic journalists are finding their own way. Our job is to put the games in their hands like we did last night.
I know your stream said a lot of people went home - well, they did what they needed to do - but what you didn't see was we had about 400 interactives [screens] and people did come and start to play. And then yes, they went home. I didn't expect them all to stay until 11pm.
Eurogamer: Definitely. I had a good time playing Titanfall 2 and Battlefield 1.
Peter Moore: And that was the intention.
Eurogamer: I think it was just that, from home, on the stream, it looked differently.
Peter Moore: Well I was reading Eurogamer live, as I have done for many years. You were actively telling people to log off the site and stop reading... which felt... I'm sure some people somewhere who care about your click rate won't have appreciated that [laughs]. I read and I just thought... you don't understand what the event's really about.
You jumped in too [to the livetext]...
Eurogamer: I did.
Peter Moore: I'm not sure what you expected but we expected a bunch of FIFA fans to drop in and then Battlefield, we went deep on a load of stuff. So yes, [for FIFA fans] after FIFA was over I expected people to do what Martin was saying - to 'go out, walk the dog, anything but watch this'.
Back at E3 you guys showed a pretty broad range of things, we had smaller projects in the vein of Unravel, a look at Mass Effect, Star Wars... If not at gamescom, when might we hear more about those other projects?
Peter Moore: Well... first of all I'm here to speak about competitive gaming, really. But secondly, if you're a Mass Effect fan you know what BioWare does - they're like the chef cooking in the kitchen for as long as it takes. We leave them alone, the game's still on target, and I'd say six, seven months out you'll begin to hear more.
Eurogamer: So, something else that's changing - as well as how media talk to press and such - is how publishers are getting new console hardware to play with on a much shorter timeframe. I imagine any big publisher such as EA is delighted that consoles can now keep up with PC a whole lot better.
Peter Moore: Well, yes. We've been very public about how supportive we are for Sony and Microsoft's plans for Neo and Scorpio. From my experience of having to launch two platforms and planning for a long life cycle - first parties have so much to cater for now. Getting ready for 4K, getting ready for VR, this kind of mid-cycle refresh is great for the industry, great for publishers like ourselves, great for developers to get some more tools, more power. I'm nowhere near any of that in my new job, but that's what I'm seeing.
Eurogamer: Got it. I know you're all about competitive gaming now - although for us you are the face of EA this show so hopefully you don't mind me asking a little more about this. We've heard PS4K won't require separate version of the game - it'll just run better, look a little nicer for people with the newer console. Is there an extra level of investment from you guys to cater for that?
Peter Moore: I honestly don't know. I've never worked in development so I just couldn't say. [laughs] Sixpence. It'll cost sixpence more.
PR: Do you have any questions about competitive gaming, because that's Peter's new role and that's what this interview really should be about...?
Eurogamer: Not as such, no.
PR: I mean, he is chief competitive officer.
Peter Moore: Keep going. Keep hitting them at me. I'll answer what I can.
Eurogamer: Nintendo - it also has a new console coming out. EA, like a lot of publishers, were kind of quiet on Wii U. What is EA's stance on supporting NX?
Peter Moore: I don't know - obviously a lot of details are still to be unveiled. EA has developed for Nintendo for 30 years and I was famously quoted as saying we're still good friends. I have lived the console cycle's ups and downs - I launched the Dreamcast. Some publishers got behind that and some didn't. But certainly, EA has never come out and said it won't develop for Nintendo.
Eurogamer: EA had that 'special relationship' announcement for Wii U which never really materialised - how do you see NX being different in that regard? It sounds like Nintendo are again choosing a path which is not trying to compete with other consoles EA supports and simply be another Xbox or PlayStation. Does that make Nintendo a more difficult proposition to support?
Peter Moore: Nintendo has always based its success on its first-party games because it is a brilliant first-party developer. If you asked that question to them they'd say they have to launch with first-party software first - that's where the first dev kits go.
Eurogamer: How do you see gamescom next year? Do you expect we'll see less press conferences from now on?
Peter Moore: Will EA have less than the one we didn't have, because that wasn't a press conference? [laughs] I was happy with what we did - we were happy with the viewer numbers, the Twitch concurrents, the ebb and flow of what was going on. If there's a lesson to be learned, perhaps, it would be to do that in a different place. Once Patrick had got off stage you'll have noticed there was a lull, everyone went to go get a beer, and then after an hour or so they left. That's perfectly fine. We wanted to let you Titanfall or Battlefield, whatever you wanted, and not have to come queue up today [there was a five hour queue already on a press day] and god forbid don't have to queue up tomorrow [when the show actually opens, and you have to wait far, far longer.]
Two separate things happened last night - a welcoming thing with Patrick, standing on stage, then a livestream which happened to be in the same location. When I read you and Martin's stuff I just thought - they don't get this. But that's fine.
Eurogamer: I think it was a successful event but not really an event for the Eurogamer audience. Which is why Martin was sort-of jokingly telling people to leave our own site.
Peter Moore: You know I read Eurogamer every day and still will, and smile, and move on.
Eurogamer: Final question.
PR: Is it about competitive gaming?
Peter Moore: Go for it - what's your question?
Eurogamer: Do you still have that Halo tattoo?
Peter Moore: I still have it right here on my right arm.
Eurogamer: I feel like I haven't allowed you to talk about competitive gaming at all.
Peter Moore: You are correct.
Eurogamer: Is there anything you would like to say about competitive gaming?
Peter Moore: Well, look at the announcement we made. The UK is at the epicentre of this. $1.3m [EA's new FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Series prize total] is the largest prize purse EA has ever offered. We're now offering your readers who do enjoy FIFA an all-year-round experience.
Eurogamer: I think that's a good place to leave it. Thank you so much for your time.