Electronic Arts' ability to build simulation and authenticity into their sports titles isn't just their greatest strength, EA Sports president Peter Moore told attendees at the Electronic Gaming Summit yesterday, it's also their greatest weakness.
Specifically, the weakness that EA faces when trying to deliver the same experience to the flood of new gamers brought into the fold by Nintendo's casual-centric Wii.
Moore said after speaking with focus groups who called their Wii sports titles a "joke" or the outcome of "spoiling a good game", they realised their approach to the Wii had to change.
"We weren't delivering the experience," he said. "We have to make it a little more approachable to allow them to get in early and quickly.
"We can't port content down to the Wii, we need to start building for the Wii from the ground up, that's what we are doing this year."
Specifically, they are doing that with their new All-Play brand which will bring Tiger Woods, NCAA, FIFA, NBA and Madden all to the Wii in versions built specifically for the console. Instead of trying to describe how that will be different, Moore booted up a Wii debug unit to show off how the alpha version of All-Play Madden will look and feel.
The idea with the All-Play games is to take a familiar brand, like Madden and make them "fun, stimulating, easy" Moore said, pointing out how All-Play Madden doesn't have "graphic intensity" but does give gamers a simple experience.
On first blush, the most noticeable change to the fabled franchise was the user interface. Cutting down on the slew of information-heavy, packed menus, the All-Star menu during play offered just three choices: Top picks, Madden's pick (which included a picture of Madden Mii) and all plays. Selecting one of the large buttons bring up a couple of options which can be quickly scrolled through.
It appeared that during Moore's time playing defence for us he controlled his player with the nunchuk's thumbstick and swatted the remote to play defence, either knocking the ball out of the air or tackling.
"There are no timeouts, no huddles, not a lot of penalties or interference plays," he said.
Next Moore showed us Five-On-Five mode which cuts down on the number of players on the field and features big-head players. Pausing the game while playing offence, Moore outlined the course a receiver was going to take in real-time by pointing to the field with his remote and clicking on a button. Each click created a waypoint. On several plays Moore used two or three waypoints when creating his play on the fly. After starting the game back up, the player ran his play.
"The idea is to make games a little more simple," he said.
Something, that from our brief time watching the game, Electronic Arts appears to have done.
Moore said EA plans to also market their All-Play titles differently, using less intense box art and different commercials.
When asked, Moore said that just because All-Play is meant to be an easier experience, it doesn't mean that the game can't still innovate.
"Innovation could come through more intuitive use of the Wii remote," he said, theorising: "Can i get the Wii remote in 2010 to feel speed and have the ball react to it? That's just blue sky stuff, but that's some of the things you might see."
"We are still looking at ways we can replicate the experience without it being too difficult."