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At this year's E3, Gamasutra had a chance to talk to Frank Gibeau, formerly executive VP and general manager of North American publishing for Electronic Arts, and now, under the recent EA company structure reshuffle, the president of the EA Games label. More specifically, Gibeau is in charge of many of EA's core franchises worldwide, which means the Battlefield, Burnout, Hellgate, Warhammer, and Need for Speed franchises, among others, as well as the EA Partners publishing label.
In this extensive interview, we discussed Gibeau's concerns about the PlayStation 3, the impressive nature of the Wii's business model for Nintendo, the viability of casual MMOs, Gamecock's publishing model (hint: EA doesn't think it's sustainable), the future of the E3 expo, and the possibility of EA getting back into the game console market.
You previously said you were somewhat disappointed with the PS3 software attachment rate. Are you finding that to still be the case?
Frank Gibeau: Specifically in terms of tie ratio?
Tie ratio and also sales of PS3 hardware, in terms of how that affects software sales.
FG: I think that the platforms that have a lot of heat right now are the PS2, the Wii, the DS, with the 360 in there as well. I don't think the PS3 is necessarily in a bad spot, but it's not necessarily in the number one spot, like it has been traditionally with the PlayStation brand. I think what that platform really needs is platform-defining content.
At the press conference, we saw some interesting titles with Kojima's games, as well as Killzone and Gran Turismo in addition to the stuff that you get from third parties. I think 2008 feels like when you start to see the titles that define that platform start to come out. That was a comment made in the context of Christmas, where we looked at how it rolled out, and how the [launch] titles were selling through.
Frankly, there weren't any platform-defining titles on the PS3 that first Christmas. There was Resistance: Fall of Man, perhaps. I think as we get more titles, that tie ratio will improve. It has improved since release, which is good news. I think it really starts to get into the range where we feel like we're bullish and aggressive. It feels healthy in 2008.
Are you nervous about any titles that you might be releasing before the end of the year?
FG: Nervous from a quality or ship date standpoint?
Nervous from an "Are we going to recoup costs?" [perspective].
FG: You sweat those all the time. The way the market works this year, we've been calling it "Murderer's Row 2" inside EA. There's some terrific competition coming. Call of Duty 4 is spectacular. You look at Halo, and you look at a lot of first-party titles, and there's some good stuff coming. We like our chances in that mix, but you never know. The customer gets to vote.
If you get the game right but the marketing's wrong, you end up with a loss. If you get both right, then you're there. I think the nervousness is something that we have on all titles. We get nervous about Madden every year. We track it to the nth degree to make sure that the launch goes well. I always have an anxious night before release to get the first results in, to be honest with you.
Which of the games that you're in charge of right now do you have the highest expectations for?
FG: In general, I have really high expectations on Battlefield: Bad Company and Burnout. We're working with Patrick Sutherland and Alex on those designs. I love their creative vision and the integrity that they're bringing to those games. Spore is also clearly up there.
I'm having a lot of fun watching the team working on The Simpsons right now. The twist and the take that they've gone after with the concept of that product feels like it's really fun to have a controller in your hand. You're playing with Homer and the crowd, and you're doing all these different things with the different levels being game-based stuff from the game industry. Those are the ones that jump to mind initially. With Warhammer, the beta's going really well. With the number of newsletters and signups for the beta and the feedback we're getting, I'm getting really optimistic about what we're doing there.