Post-gamescom 2012: Change is Good

In the past several weeks, there have been plenty of articles written and reports issued that seemingly show the games industry in a downturn.  A few days ago, I returned from the gamescom show in Cologne where I saw the exact opposite.  There I witnessed hundreds of thousands of excited consumers looking to get their hands on new games, including hundreds of amazing new titles that represent millions of man-hours in development.  No matter which way you looked – this crazy industry, the industry I love, is more vibrant than ever. The energy, excitement and passion for what we do has never looked stronger.

It is a changed industry, no doubt.  At every turn, there is transition and challenges.  There are more gamers than ever playing games across more devices.  Games that are services as opposed to one-time purchases.  They have more ways to obtain games, and certainly many more ways to play.  But these are hardly the descriptions of a downtrodden industry.  These are transitions of growth and opportunity.

A few of the biggest trends, through the lens of what I just saw in Cologne:

Mobile, mobile, mobile.  Mobile gaming is reaching more players, and breaking down more barriers to play than any other platform.  Just last week, we announced the return of The Simpsons: Tapped Out to the App Store.  In just 24 hours, it rose to be the #1 Free app in the App Store in the U.S. and has stayed there since.  A few days prior, we showed a jaw-dropping new trailer for Real Racing 3 from our FireMonkeys studio in Melbourne, coming later this year to the iPad and iPhone.  Our teams at EA SPORTS for FIFA Soccer and Madden NFL are introducing new games and connected services for those franchises that will redefine cross-device experiences this year.  It has never been more important to provide consumers with game content on the go.

Free-to-play is the future.  My colleague Frank Gibeau had the privilege of delivering the keynote address at the gamescom opening event, during which he spoke about how the free-to-play payment model is set to dominate the industry in the not-too-distant future.  This is a tough one for a lot of people to wrap arms around, but trust me when I say the potential for free-to-play is just beginning to surface.  Will the games still be high quality, will they still be innovative, will they still look beautiful, will I still enjoy them?  Take a look at the new trailer to the just-announced free-to-play Command and Conquer and I think you’ll see the answer to all of those is emphatically “yes.”   It’s early days, but our experience in mobile, online games and social has taught us a lot – free-to-play is an opportunity for every gamer to try more, play more and make their own spending decisions.  For millions of new gamers, the value is obvious: you get to try before you buy.

Digital breeds diversity.  If there’s one word that I’ve heard used to describe EA more recently than ever before, it’s diversification.  Our press conference at gamescom was the perfect microcosm: for the first time that I can recall, alongside a line-up of intense new AAA titles we also launched a major mobile game, updated our online game platform Origin, and introduced new digital content and services to expand several of our biggest games.  We had a line-up that ran from shooters to sports, SimCity to Star Wars.  But most importantly, it represented the diversity of devices and ways gamers connect and play today.

275,000 people walked through the doors in Cologne last week, ready to see innovation that only gaming can deliver, to marvel at the ability of games to immerse, transport and amaze.

Those moments of amazement are what drive us in this business, and at EA to inspire and unite through play.  They are what drive us to explore new devices, to develop new games and ways to play, to bring our games to more people no matter how much they are able or willing to pay.  These have been profound changes, industry-altering changes, changes that require us to think differently about what we do. 

But as more people around the world play more games than ever before, I can say this definitively: Change is Good.