Interview: Peter Moore, EA Sports President
Five pages with the former Reebok, Sega and Xbox boss, on expanding the EA Sports brand, signing up new sporting mega-talent, bundling Wii MotionPlus, growing up in a pub and why darts and snooker aren't really sports.
Peter Moore, one of the highest profile executives in the games business, is happy. He's happy for a few reasons, it seems - not least because the Liverpudlian has been back in his adored home of San Francisco for the last eighteen months. But also: who wouldn't be happy with the security of a top President job at Electronic Arts, in a role that combines your two most favourite things? As President of EA Sports, the man whose career spans top jobs at Reebok as well as Sega and Xbox is immersed in the world of both gaming and sports in a single exciting role.
Some might look at EA Sports with a cynical eye and talk about the repetitiveness of the constant, year-after-year releases. It's one of the hot points we quizzed him on when he was in London last week, as part of EA's annual Spring Showcase event. We hadn't had a chance to talk to Peter since he joined EA a year and a half ago, so we had a full list of questions to get through. And here they are.
Kikizo: What's your impression of the hardware manufacturers at the moment?
Peter Moore: I love 'em all, that's my overview! I love them all in their own different and unique ways.
Kikizo: Right, moving on then. Can you tell me how you plan to realise this vision you've talked about, to transpose EA Sports into an 'actual' sports brand?
Moore: I think that in today's economy, you've got to be looking for opportunities to grow your business wherever they present themselves to you. I look at the EA Sports brand, and what attracted me to come here from Microsoft was the brand itself, and what I thought the elasticity of that brand was; who we could talk to differently than just as a hardcore sports video game brand. You're seeing the fruits of that a little bit today with EA Sports Active. We're talking to a consumer we've never talked to before -which is let's say a 35 year-old woman - with a type a product that, as recently as eighteen months ago, you would never dream we'd do; it's not related to a licensed sport, and you don't actually play anything, and it's... not really a game! So it's one example of what we're doing.
You've seen an announcement recently that we're doing youth training sports aids, with a company called Toy Island, and you're going to see some announcements over the coming months of new licenses outside of the world of video gaming but inside of the world of sports, that we're signing in order to take the EA Sports brand in different places. We're using our technology - our 3D game engines - and licensing them to sports broadcasters for sports analysis purposes. So we're doing a bunch of different stuff that is growing our market - while not losing focus on our core consumer - expanding our brand and giving us different opportunities, as any responsible company should right now, to make sure that you keep your people employed and keep the business moving.
Kikizo: I'm looking at the player roster you've secured in Grand Slam Tennis, and the Wimbledon license, and also to things like securing Mike Tyson in Fight Night - how do you pull off these signings, when in the past EA and others have consistently failed to?
Moore: So tennis - tennis wasn't easy, because to your point, getting Wimbledon in the game wasn't easy. One thing we have to our advantage, without sounding pretentious, is we're EA Sports. And I think that when we sit down and talk about who we are and what we do, and the experience we deliver, people feel very comfortable that they're not going to have their brand, or their product, or their league or association, depicted in a way that they're going to be embarrassed. [John] McEnroe - I personally got involved with McEnroe because he was a tougher nut, and had never played a video game - although we've changed that very quickly. He's not a huge 'endorser' type of a guy. And we felt it was important to get McEnroe in the game as a differentiator. He's a tremendous icon in tennis, not only as a former player but as a broadcaster now. And well, people just love Johnny Mac, you know? He's irreverent, he's controversial, he was a great player, and we jut thought it was important to try and get him in the game, as representing that era.
You know, you've got Björn Borg in there, and how can you have Björn Borg and not McEnroe? So we "pulled it off", to use your words, by going in, making - I guess - compelling business proposals, but also presenting our credentials. Who we are, what we've done, and how we present things. And I like to think that anyone in sports likes to be a part of EA Sports. And they also recognise the service we deliver to their leagues, because we introduce kids to their sport. And we've done research on that - we make fans, and therefore we make customers, by playing the video game. The NFL certainly recognises that, that we create fans of American Football through our Madden game. No doubt in my mind, we've created fans of soccer, through our FIFA game, particularly in the US where it's more difficult to watch a game, but where we sell over a million units of the game - and everybody I talk to has a favourite team! "Oh, I play as Chelsea, or I play as Liverpool" - even though they've never seen those teams live. So we create fans for the leagues and for the clubs. So that's how we pull it off!
Kikizo: Deep pockets help as well, presumably?
Moore: Yeah, but you know, everybody has money...