Peter Moore Was Wrong About Core Gamers And Industry Growth
Peter Moore, COO at EA, had some interesting gripes to share regarding “core” gamers being uncomfortable with change and reluctant to embrace new business models that are innovative and necessary for industry growth. I feel it was very telling of the mentality behind EA itself, and I also believe that many examples exist to show how much core gamers are willing to get on board with new business models as well as support industry growth. I’d also like to speak of some of the problems I believe that EA has as a company and basically explain why I believe that Peter Moore was wrong in his assessment of how things are. Grab your popcorn, folks, it’s EA this time and not Ubisoft at last.
It always rather puzzles me when people say that gamers “don’t know what they want” or “don’t like change”, and then use examples like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty to back that up. It is true that a ginormous portion of gamers like their tried and tested games others would see as dull, but for me this is simply mainstream popularity, which is something that is far from being exclusive to the gaming industry. Just look at the recent movie Transformers: Age of Extinction. It ran rampant at the box office. What about all those pop songs you dislike so intently? Or Twilight and Fifty Shades? I could go on, but the point I’m making is that every medium has its mainstream and massively popular material that, in my view, isn’t reflective of the fact that the core audience don’t embrace change or want innovation.
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After all, most of the time what is highly popular like that has to do with the casual gamers. But tell me something. If core gamers were uncomfortable with change and reluctant to embrace new ideas and business models, then why is gaming more diverse than it’s ever been? Why has gaming matured? Why is gaming getting closer to being accepted as art? Why is there actually a huge demand now for games like Gone Home and Journey, which are innovative and seemingly unlikely to appeal to the masses? Why are platforms like Kickstarter, Steam Greenlight and Desura so massively successful, especially since the former is based on what gamers actually want and is actually a new way of funding games that exploded in recent years? These platforms were backed and given life by the core gamers, weren’t they?
Perhaps I’m veering away from the point a little bit. But Peter Moore specifically references the free-to-play model and microtransactions, and this is the part where I want to bash my head against a brick wall. There’s a misconception that clearly exists with EA. Allow me to open your eyes. It’s not that gamers are against the concept behind free to play and microtransactions. Do you think they are? Let me answer that with one game. Dota 2. One of the most famous games currently out there in the world, sitting with a prize pool of over $10 million for its upcoming tournament effectively funded by gamers, is free to play and uses microtransactions. I shudder to think of the amount of money Dota 2 generates from its market. But why is Dota 2’s model successful, and EA failed so miserably with Dead Space 3? It’s because it’s not free to play or microtransactions that are bad. It’s the way they’re used.
Publishers like EA have a bad habit of cherry picking some model that brought success, like microtransactions in the mobile market (an entirely different market at that), and trying to apply it to their own games in a way that will get them all the benefits and money but without having to give gamers the return. Furthermore, there is a misguided belief in Peter Moore that microtransactions and free to play and the way mobile gamers work is how triple A gaming can also work, despite the market differences. Also, EA seems to be overestimating the amount of money to be found in microtransactions ‘schemes’ (the bad ones). This blog post makes some excellent points, and one of them is that according to Recode half of mobile games revenue is apparently generated from 0.15% of ‘long-tail whales’, which means that less than one percent of mobile gamers are busting their cash on free-to-play games. Others are doing as expected, which is playing for a while and then going on to better things. So is the way free to play and microtransactions work in the mobile market a positive thing for the triple A market? Or shouldn’t we be looking at more healthier examples like the way Valve does it?
I believe gamers will be happy to embrace new models when the benefit exists for them, rather than for anyone’s wallet. Many gamers out there love good DLC. But you won’t see people loving on-disc DLC, day one DLC and that sort of thing. Many gamers don’t mind online-only titles or having to be connected to the internet to gain additional features. But gamers mind DRM or being forced to being connected otherwise being barred from play. It really is in the execution when you talk about ‘new business models’, because free to play shouldn’t encompass most of the bad and very little of the good. The same can be said for microtransactions, or any other model EA sees itself trying to implement in the future. EA is right about one thing, and that’s the excitement surrounding social and connected gaming, which is another big way in which gaming has changed. I feel it’s been embraced massively. Just look at Destiny for instance. So I’m not really buying that gamers don’t want to embrace new things. It’s that they don’t want to embrace models or changes that don’t benefit them or make gaming better.
This industry does embrace change. Sure you get Assassin’s Creed five and Call of Duty nine and sequels everywhere, but it’s time we stopped acting like this sort of thing doesn’t happen elsewhere. Transformers or The Hobbit or superhero movies, anyone? But for me all you have to do is not have a short memory and look at the last ten years of gaming. The boom of the indie market, the growth of games as far as maturity is concerned, the recognition gaming has received in other mediums, the massive growth in audience, the sheer diversity of what games are and can be, and the amount of platforms games are accessible on are all telling of how we’re in an evolving industry that gamers are on board with. So don’t approach things with poor motives and expect great results.
At the end of the day I don’t find it that surprising that Peter Moore has this impression of core gamers when the response to Battlefield Hardline for example, and other such EA-related products and practices, has been so average.
I’d like to leave you with this quote from Jon Stewart: “So let me get this straight: corporations aren’t just people, they’re ill-informed people whose factually incorrect beliefs must be upheld because they sincerely believe them anyway.”
That for me perfectly describes what it’s like sometimes to look at publishers.