The EA Montreal general manager discusses Army of Two.
Q: Did you play the terrorist level in Modern Warfare 2?
AT: I didn't play it. I've seen the video.
Q: Do you think that goes too far?
AT: I think it's very intense. But me seeing that, again... I'm thinking, I don't know how I would have pitched that to EA. But when I listened to what they [Infinity Ward] said, it kind of made sense. I felt like, yeah, okay, now I feel as a terrorist and I feel as a bad guy and a good guy. I was talking to a few screenwriters, and they wanted to do things so that when you create a character and he's a villain, he doesn't know he's a villain, really. He's not a hard villain. He thinks he's doing the right thing. Showing the humanity of the villain, it's an interesting way to go to. So it's like, how do you play with it. I have to finish the game to really see. But for sure, they have been very ballsy.
Q: You were quoted in an interview with EDGE that EA Montreal is going to focus more on blockbuster HD games than on Wii titles. What are the reasons behind that?
AT: Wii titles are quite unpredictable, right? We're not pulling out of the Wii market, as EA. But as an organisation, as the Games Label, and our studio... It was the first studio that was created from scratch six years ago, and we touched everything. We did hockey games, dancing games, racing games, skateboarding games, snowboarding games, on all platforms from the GameCube to the DSi to the PS3. We felt that we needed to focus a little bit more and we needed to do something that is in phase with what we feel for our organisation are the best opportunities. Right now for us, it is more this HD action game. There is a story in Montreal about this type of game - character based, big action, with a story. If you look at everything Ubisoft did... I was one of the founders of Ubisoft Montreal there, so there really is a story in Montreal. Even Eidos is doing this kind of game. There is something in the city and the region that means the synergy around this type of game is very positive.
Q: Does it make you sad when you see great games like Dead Space Extraction not sell on Wii?
AT: On the one hand it makes me sad because we put a lot of effort into respecting the audience and giving them something of quality. On the other hand we say okay, we need to understand not only quality - and for the first six months EA has been back hitting it out of the park with all the games, and the Metacritic ratings have increased - but we need to understand what is engaging people on what platform on what time. EA is always accused of copying people and being the last one to do something. I feel today what we're showing, by specialising on different platforms, we are ready for this transition that's happening right now. Right now people are playing on many devices in many different ways with many different price points. And if you see what we did with the Wii, our acquisition of PlayFish, with Jamdat, we specialise in all of these things. I think we're the first publisher that's covering everything.
We're not asking one studio to do everything. We're just specialising a few people who are passionate about doing something well, to go after the market they know and do something incredible. That's why EA Mobile is number one in its field by a huge margin. Playfish, well they're number two in their field, online Pogo is number one. In the RPG realm we've seen Dragon Age for instance, Mass Effect, we feel we're going strong there. Shift, in the driving, is really raising the bar again. And hopefully what we'll do in the next three or four months, is show we're trying to be the best in class in every field. We're back to number one position, which we're very proud of it. I feel this is what EA is doing now: trying to lead the market rather than follow the market.
Q: Are you worried that some of the risks EA has taken in recent times haven't met the amount of success they deserved? Does it concern you that this will impact upon creativity?
AT: I joined EA six or seven years ago. I joined when everybody was telling us the opposite, right? Now, we're doing it and people are saying, why are you doing it? The company and our CEO, we're very proud of what we're doing, because this is why we joined the video game business as game makers. And I give credit to the marketing people and everybody. We want to take the risk. Risk comes with a price because it's risky. But the rewards, when they are there, are incredible. Today I feel we are trying and in the process of turning around the image of EA being evil, of trying to make money without any respect for the gamers. I feel if you were in a meeting with the executives of EA, you'd see that the first feeling we have is how can we deliver something of quality that people are going to enjoy. I feel if we're consistent with that strategy, success will come sooner or later. We believe strongly that respecting the customer with the right product and the good quality will pay off. It's starting to pay off right now. But yes, it is difficult. In the long term we feel well positioned, hopefully.