Times are tough in gaming these days, for the people making what we play. That's a common theme at the DICE Summit, as studio shutdowns and declining sales have darkened the mood here. But EA today offered some survival tips.
Recognise the stakes, before you read on. The EA man talking this morning at DICE, chief operating officer John Schappert, certainly make it sound tough to be a video game publisher. Talking about game sales rankings, he said: "If you're not in the top 30, arguably the top 20 you could even say the top 10, you're probably not making money."
OK. So, how to survive, according to EA? Five suggestions from Schappert:
1) A commitment to quality: People read blogs, Schappert said (properly displaying several logos including that of Kotaku), so consumers know what's good and follow that. EA believes that its FIFA series fell behind Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer because EA lost sight of quality - and believes FIFA achieved its recent comeback for regaining the quality lead.
2) Get more from your marketing: Schappert's slide entitled "Marketing can't sell questionable games" showed EA's Catwoman and Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, two bad games from a few years back. He said that, a decade ago, you could get away with convincing gamers a bad game was good through effective marketing. Not anymore, because of point number one. Marketing, however, is still important, maybe more so. "Some games deserve more" was the next slide, which showed Mirror's Edge and Dead Space. Schappert said EA "could have done better" marketing those games. He pointed to Dante's Inferno's Super Bowl commercial last month as a sign of EA's improved marketing commitment.
3) Invest in the future - get online: Schappert called online gaming the new platform of this gaming cycle. "People are buying fewer games now but want to play those games longer," he said, arguing that publishers need to take advantage of online-connected consoles to extend the life of a game. EA's aggressive plans with downloadable content, promising DLC for all of its games, is surely a part of that.
4) Don't abandon your consumer base: He argued that disc-based games are not going extinct any time soon. "Don't forget the shiny disc." In other words, Facebook gaming, online gaming, and other non-physical gaming is not the whole future.
5) Illegitimi Non Carborundum: Translated from Latin, according to Schappert is "Don't let the cynics get you down."
Schappert's speech was supposed to be the pick-me-up. Of course, it also essentially articulated EA's current strategy. Will it work? Well, it's hard to imagine that whoever does survive this rough patch not saying that most or all of those five tips - the disc idea is the most debatable - are the ideas that helped them get through it.