Multi-platform games are the future – EA publishing boss

17 Oct 2011

Dr Jens Uew Intat, SVP and GM, Europe Publishing, EA Games

EA Games’ head of publishing for Europe Dr Jens Uwe Intat says the key challenge for the games industry going forward is to create games that communicate across multiple hardware platforms.

“I think the Old Republic is certainly the shape of things to come and one of the pillars of our company for sure,” Dr Jens Uwe Intat says reflectively of the upcoming new Bioware Star Wars PC game that will spawn a series of new revenue streams via apps, mobile and social for EA Games and which has resulted in employment in Galway doubling to 400 to handle customer support.

The company’s Galway facility is intended to provide BioWare with greater proximity to European players of its games, which include Star Wars: The Old Republic, Dragon Age: Origin, and Wrath of Heroes. These will be people who will not only buy the game but could prove to be a vibrant marketplace for micro-payments for goods and abilities, from more powerful weapons to stronger ‘force push’ capabilities.

It is one of a growing number of major games giants located in Ireland and indicative of a trend that Forfas estimates will see employment in the Irish games industry double to 4,500, at which point the global games industry combining consoles, PCs, mobile and social will be worth a staggering US$82.4bn per annum.

Dr Intat points out that ensuring gamers can enjoy the same game on any platform not only means more game sales but greater levels of engagement with customers. He spoke with Silicon Republic at a gathering of some of the highest-ranking executives in the global console, casual and social gaming industry in Dublin last week organised by Games Ireland.

“Take FIFA 12 – 3m units were sold in Europe in the first week alone. There are 12 different platforms that the game can be played on. We’ve created FIFA Ultimate Team because people are consuming and playing more with the online components and will continue to pay money for better features, players etc.

“We are trying to move away from that traditional business model where you bought the game once and then moved on, to a model where you could probably start playing without paying and then if you want to keep playing and getting better you buy virtual goods.”

An example of this he said would be The Sims Social by EA’s PlayFish Studios which is now the number two gaming app on Facebook.

But with the rise of social and online gaming, what does this mean for the traditional games industry bulwarks of consoles and PC platforms. “Our vision is that you will be able to play an EA franchise on every platform that there are out there.

“The challenge we’re having is those platforms have to communicate and we have to give people a reason to play on multiple platforms for a holistic gaming experience. What’s the point in playing the same game on different platforms but not proceeding on your journey. That’s a challenge we have to solve with the hardware manufacturers to create that single experience across multiple platforms.

“The idea will be you can play FIFA on the PlayStation 3 at home and enjoy a cinematic experience and feel like you’re there. Then you could be travelling to work or school and play the game for 10 or 15 minutes on your smartphone and still be proceeding in the game. The same could be true for Need for Speed or Battlefield 3 and that’s where we’re heading.”

Ireland, as I mentioned has benefited greatly already from this emerging new future that combines the best of consoles, PCs, casual, mobile and social with the potential for buying virtual goods.

I put it to Dr Intat that the country could play a greater role in content generation in terms of storytelling, music, animation and more. “

“I think you are right that video games are an interesting blend between graphical design, technological design and game play/storytelling, all those interesting components are very interesting.

“The biggest difference to Hollywood which is also story and technology but not game play, so we actually have three dimensions. In order to be an attractive place for people to work in that space you just have to continue to offer what you have been offering – a good education, a good place to live for the people who are already educated and interesting conditions for companies, which Ireland is offering.

“You are in a very good space in terms of the prerequisites and usually the culture phenomenon of getting studios into places takes a little while, but I think you are on a good path,” Dr Intat said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years