Electronic Arts and the future of gaming

Industry leading publisher provides a glimpse into the past, present and future of video games.

Moving to Sydney from the UK, Rob Davey took up the general manager position at Electronics Arts for Australia and New Zealand in 2011. In the role mean Davey is not only in charge of overseeing EA’s operation in two territories, but also the distribution of the publisher’s titles in physical and digital outlets. Having graduated from university in the UK with a degree in Biology, Davey admits to a passion for the games industry dating back to the ZX Spectrum.

EA A/NZ general manager, Rob Davey, sat down with us to outline his vision for EA and the gaming industry as a whole.

What drew you to the games space?

EA A/NZ general manager, Rob Davey (RD): I grew up with gaming. As a very young lad I played Pong, one of the first videogames, before getting a 48k Spectrum that at the time was unbelievably cutting edge. I subsequently owned a Sega Mega Drive and a PlayStation 2, so whilst I would never have regarded myself as a core gamer, I’ve always had a soft spot for the category. The challenge and excitement of moving to a new, fast moving category that I could personally identify with was too great an opportunity to pass by.

What did you apply at EA from your non-gaming jobs?

RD: I was fortunate enough to work for a major blue chip company in the UK that supplied fast-moving consumer goods to some of the largest retailers in the country. The greatest learning point that I took me with me into my EA career is that relationships internally and externally are paramount. Ultimately, the best result for all parties is facilitated by people wanting to work with each other, understanding each other’s targets, ambitions and working collaboratively. People make things happen.

Who is your biggest inspiration in the business world?

RD: I guess there would be two, James Dyson and Steve Jobs. Both created huge innovation and moved the direction of their respective categories into new space. You might even argue they created the categories they exist in today. The focus, drive and ambition required to make their creativity come alive, to overcome all of the obstacles they faced, is truly inspiring.

What is it about you that you feel most people don’t know?

RD: That at the age of 44 I play Battlefield online and can hold my own against players the same age as my two daughters. [Laughs]

What are your thoughts on playing games vs. understanding the business?

RD: For me personally, having a passion about your product is key. I simply don’t think I would have the same degree of motivation if I didn’t get excited when I see internal product presentations or walk the floor at E3. Gaming is such a deep passion for many of our consumers, that being able to appreciate the role they play in peoples’ lives is important in giving us a better opportunity to deliver what it is that consumers want.

Should other executives start gaming more?

RD: Far be it from me to advise others what they should or shouldn’t be doing. [Laughs]

Is there a lack of creativity at the end of the current console cycle?

RD: Well, we certainly do see a slow down in new IP releases as we approach the end of hardware cycles. The fact is that the software business as it is reported is only part of the true demand that we see as one of many publishers. Consumers today are choosing to remain engaged with fewer titles, and these are titles that delivering real quality and depth of gameplay, and have an ongoing, online component. EA, for one, has evolved from delivering a day one game launch that we put on shelves until the following year, to providing year round engagement with our players for on-going offerings, game extensions, new content and new ways to play across multiple platforms. I would suggest therefore that, whilst the sheer number of titles slows down toward the end of a console generation, innovation and creativity is alive and well, but in an increasingly diverse multi-platform gaming ecosystem.

Is the longer console cycle holding back the industry?

RD: The introduction of new hardware always brings excitement to the industry, with new offerings for consumers. When and if that will happen, only time will tell.

What is your proudest moment at EA?

RD: There have been many, such as joining the company in the first place, becoming sales director in the UK, taking over as general manager, and moving to Sydney would all be up there. However, the moments that sit highest with me are those when good people have told me that I made a difference to them, hopefully for the better.

What's your biggest regret?

RD: Seeing some good friends in troubled times in the UK retail environment.

If you could pick any IP to add to EA, which would it be?

RD: EA has a great portfolio, and with the likes of Battlefield 4 and UFC in the pipeline, it’s going to get stronger. What makes the industry so exciting is the creativity that comes from so many developers, large and small, which pushes the boundaries every year. I’ve always admired Bioshock and think that Borderlands is a great addition to the category.

What does the future of the games industry look like?

RD: My personal opinion is that we’ll see the emergence of real brands in the market, characterised by year round relevancy, visibility and support. These will be accessible across an increasing number of devices that, rather than operating in isolation, will give gamers an increasing opportunity for gameplay across their leisure time, whether this be on their PC or console at home or when on their mobile/tablet device whilst on the move.

Where do you see free-to-play fitting into all of this?

RD: Increasingly, we’ll see free-to-play entry models into franchises, which then give consumers greater scope as to how deep their gaming experience is and how much ultimately they wish to spend on that experience. Game quality will rise and rise across all models, as consumers become increasingly demanding as to what great looks and feels like. This is a challenge that all publishers need to step up to remain successful.

Want to read other video game interviews with key figures from Sony, Microsoft and more? Then check out Good Gear Guide's complete interview archive.

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Patrick Budmar

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