Peter Moore is a big cheese. There's no two ways about it, the ex SEGA and Microsoft man is one of the most well known figures in the games industry, and his role as head of EA Sports has once again put him in the spotlight. We caught up with him at gamescom last month to talk about football, price cuts, UFC and more football.
VideoGamer.com: Will Liverpool win the Premier League?
Peter Moore: Not after watching them on Sunday. Anything less than a good result tonight, with already a patchwork defense... they're in real serious trouble.
VideoGamer.com: They've been tipped this season to perhaps go all the way.
PM: I don't know why. I think the squad is weaker than last year. Losing Alonso was ridiculous.
VideoGamer.com: £30m though. That's a lot of money.
PM: Yeah but it's just money. That's fine paying off your debts but if you're going to once again going to be third or fourth, or even second. Remember they only lost two games all of last season, and that wasn't good enough. They've already lost one and it's still August. Disappointing. So really big game early on tonight.
VideoGamer.com: Will you be watching it?
PM: Jon Rosenblatt, who runs our marketing here in Europe, has been told to find an Irish pub in Cologne, Germany. There's an Irish pub everywhere. Apparently there is, so he feels confident he's got somewhere in Cologne we'll watch it tonight. It's a later kick off because we're an hour ahead.
VideoGamer.com: Leading on from talking about real football to FIFA, you've talked before about improving the Metacritic review score. To me it seems incredibly difficult to significantly improve FIFA 09. How do you think fans will respond to FIFA 10?
PM: Our goal is to continue, as difficult as it is, to make an even better game than FIFA 09. There's no such thing as a perfect game. I can tell you that the team in Canada strives to make the perfect game. They'll never get there. There is no such thing. But the stuff that Dave (Rutter, line producer) showed you just in a brief video [during EA's gamescom press conference) that you can now feel when you play, whether it's the 360 degree dribbling, the Be A Pro gamer photo face - that will be very cool, finally I get to play for Liverpool - some of the improved defending, the sense of urgency, what should be noted here is all of this is reaction to community feedback on FIFA 09. The team has done a tremendous job in eliciting feedback immediately after FIFA 09 shipped. Their first goal last October was not let's sit back and see how good the sales are going to be. It was okay, FIFA 10, which becomes the ramp to World Cup as well, because this game becomes the platform by which we go to World Cup next year, is very important. The team is continuing to push, and while they will never be perfect, no game ever is, the features you saw yesterday, the things you can feel, the intuitiveness, particularly in defending was an issue a lot of the community had last year. They felt there wasn't the urgency, that the AI was taking over in weird places - all those things that are very difficult in football. It's not like American Football, where so much of it is scripted. Plays, the ball is snapped and there are scripted things. The fluidity of football makes it even more challenging for what we do. But boy, if a team is going to get closer to that perfection, it's that team in Vancouver.
VideoGamer.com: I interviewed David recently in London, and he told me you hit the crossbar in a real world crossbar challenge on your second attempt.
PM: Yeah. It's a matter of luck as well. You find your range. It's like a mortar attack, right? Once you figure out where your range is you can drop it in there. We have a football pitch in Vancouver. It was brilliant! It was hilarious! It was about a year ago. You can spend 20 minutes and not hit the crossbar. It was just flukey.
VideoGamer.com: You're too modest.
PM: I was a right fullback, and I could pretty much drop a ball... I was the old style of fullback, down the line to the winger, and that would be one of my strengths. Now, get the ball at my feet and start dribbling, it's a different story. But I can nail it from 50, 60 yards relatively easy. And it was lucky. The first one probably missed by three or four yards, but you get distance then, right? And then it's just [clap]. I don't think it's that hard. If you have enough attempts you're going to hit the crossbar.
VideoGamer.com: Wouldn't it be cool to have a crossbar challenge in FIFA, perhaps during loading?
PM: Yeah it could be. They've got the Practice Arena now. That could be something they could do down the road as a mini-mode. You could actually do it in the practice mode now, where you try and chip.
VideoGamer.com: As you mentioned it's World Cup year next year. Will there be a Road to the World Cup FIFA game?
PM: There will be a World Cup SKU that will go prior obviously to the World Cup that will then lead on to our FIFA 11 game later in the year.
VideoGamer.com: Do you know of any changes or improvements the team is thinking of implementing?
PM: No. I'm sure there will be, but too early to talk about that.
VideoGamer.com: Moving on to your gamescom press conference, EA Sports Active looks to me like it would work wonderfully with Microsoft and Sony's motion sensing technology. Have you had any thoughts about that?
PM: We're certainly looking at it. As do most top publishers we have our development kits now for both technologies. The teams are looking at it. Broader term, health, wellness and fitness could be a big play. One of the things in particular that you see with motion control now, it democratises gaming. You don't have to worry about buttons any more. If you've got arms and legs you're a gamer. The ability for us to bring to life Active in particular on other platforms is a great opportunity for us. Again no announcements. It's too early yet. Microsoft hasn't even announced when they're going to bring the technology out to retail. But you can imagine that we're looking at it with great interest. Particularly, broader relation with sports. Sports are about movement, they're about gestures, they're about control, and looking at ways that we can bring our franchises, our licenses, or actually create something afresh.
I think a lot of technologies are made successful not by redeploying existing things and making them work for a platform, but actually building something from scratch. So, those are the things I think all of the major publishers are looking at right now. If you're going to be there at launch, whenever that is, how do you make a difference? What content is really going to resonate?
VideoGamer.com: As someone who played football in real life and someone who plays FIFA, how might FIFA work with Natal and Sony's wand?
PM: Well I'm not sure that simply having a, let's say Natal from Microsoft, having a Natal version of FIFA is arguably the right thing to do. Are there some cool mini-games you can do as a Natal or motion controller from Sony, where you actually put the controller down maybe, you get up off the couch, and then there's a penalty competition? And maybe, and this is right off the top of my head, maybe, there's a penalty, instead of using the controller, you have to take the penalty?
VideoGamer.com: Maybe a crossbar challenge?
PM: There could be a crossbar challenge! The challenge is how do I interact inside that screen? How do I bring to life the ball outside of the screen? I think the simplest thing to do is maybe just take a penalty. Now do I know how to do that? Do I write code? No.
VideoGamer.com: But you know how to take a penalty.
PM: I know how to take a penalty, but like every Englishman it's touch and go. I don't believe you're going to see early on a full game where you and I can play one on one. I don't think that's going to happen. It's going to be, as we saw with Wii, sports is going to play an interesting role, but it's going to be relatively bite-size types of games that are instantly fun. But I don't see you jumping up and down for two-and-a-half hours. It's going to be very interesting to see what develops. And we'll be there. Certainly EA Sports needs to play a role in gesture and motion controllers. We'll obviously be there.
VideoGamer.com: I assume you kept abreast of the news coming out of Sony's gamescom press conference. What's your reaction to the PS3 Slim announcement and the price cut?
PM: Like all publishers in the business, anything that sells more hardware is great for the industry and publishers. You'd like to think, as powerful as we are with sports games on next-gen platforms in particular, that it will be a benefit for EA Sports. But I think it's good for the industry. Obviously we've had a little bit of a tough year so far, and this is the boost we're probably going to need come September 1, to get some hardware going, and it's certainly going to give Sony a boost to get back in the race. I think the entire industry cheered the announcement.
VideoGamer.com: Does the amount of the price cut sound about right to you?
PM: Sony's obviously done a lot of research. As a former platform guy I know how these things work. You figure out where you need to be, how much you need to drop the price and what kind of uplift you're going to get back and how much can they afford, because it hits the P and L [profit and loss]. They know what they're doing. Clearly their price-drops have been well thought out, well researched and they've accommodated for them in their P and L. As a publisher I'm delighted it's happening.
VideoGamer.com: Moving on to EA Sports MMA, you've been willing to talk on your blog about the game. Is there a need for you to be more open with the community with regards to EA Sports MMA than some of your other games?
PM: The game is not shipping until next year. I have personally got very involved. Just as an example, I was here in Europe last week and I actually flew home to the Bay area for two days at the weekend primarily to launch the Randy Couture announcement in San Jose, attend a fight that night I was interested in, the Strikeforce card that night, and then fly back to Europe the next day. That's the level of commitment I've got to this title. I feel very very good about our strategy of having Fight Night and MMA in alternating years, and giving fighting fans a world class fighting title, either boxing or mixed martial arts, every single year. I don't know how much more open we can be with the community. We are still a ways from shipping this thing. It has been under development. Every time we sign a fighter, whether it's Fedor [Emelianenko] a couple of weeks ago and now Randy, we're out there. I've been relatively personally involved in doing it. It's a very interesting development in sports. I think it's a sport that's going to continue to grow. It's certainly gained a lot of legitimacy in the last few years, and we think we can provide great growth by adding another video game to the mix. Our research proves that when EA Sports comes in and does the world class games we typically do, that's of great benefit to the sport itself and that's our intention.
VideoGamer.com: What's your reaction to some of the outspoken comments from Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White [in July White said he was at war with EA Sports after the company allegedly refused a meeting to discuss making a game based on the UFC on the grounds it's "not a real sport"?
PM: Dana has said what he thinks is the situation. I've been very clear in the 10 or 12 interviews I've done on this, is that his time line is a little out of whack. He claims 18 months ago. That is not the case. The facts are this: they signed a deal with THQ in January of 2007, which would indicate to me that whenever they went to EA, certainly before my time there, it was probably some time in 2006, three years ago. For whatever reason at that time the company, EA, decided there wasn't a deal they could strike. To UFC's credit they did a deal with THQ. THQ's made a very good game with Undisputed, but at the same time we believe we will add value to the sport. Having another game makes a very healthy competitive environment. We think having a video game with the global power that EA has with distribution, the marketing support we typically put behind a title, it's going to help grow the sport. Whatever Dana has to say it's his opinion and he's certainly welcome to it.
My focus and my team's focus is on bringing MMA fans a great world class game in the spirit EA Sports always does, and putting marketing behind that as we always do, that will help grow both the legitimacy as well as the authenticity. That's pretty much it. I did a press conference with about 40 MMA bloggers, which was a fascinating experience to me. I had this same conversation. It's a great sport. I love going to the fight night night. I got cage side tickets and it was a great experience to me. I'm a big fan. I'm a big boxing fan and I'm becoming very much a big mixed martial arts fan.
I've been involved in this industry in mixed martial arts since my Dreamcast days. We had UFC in those days via Crave, who was the publisher. We're not Johnny-come-latelies to this. Nor are we somebody that watched what happened when UFC shipped in May and decided, well this is a good idea, let's get on that. Not the case.
VideoGamer.com: Is there a sport you enjoy personally that EA Sports currently doesn't have a game for that you would like to release?
PM: Baseball. Huge baseball fan. Love baseball. When I first went to America it was clear to me I needed to learn baseball to understand America. MLB gave an exclusive third-party license to Take-Two. They still have a Sony license for first party. We have over the years been a very good baseball developer. When the time is right, in a few years when maybe there's some discussions we can have with Major League Baseball and the Players Association, I've said this a hundred times, EA Sports will be there. Right now there are licenses we respect and we're not going to be able to do anything. Baseball is the one sport I would love to get back involved with.
VideoGamer.com: Is having a license crucial for all EA Sports games?
PM: Yeah. Particularly in baseball there's a level of authenticity. I'm a Boston Red Sox fan. The idea of, particularly doing an unlicensed game when there are licensed games, I don't want to go play at a generic Boston stadium, the Boston whatever versus the New York whatever. I want Red Sox versus Yankees at Fenway Park or at Yankee Stadium. I want Derek Jeter, I want Big Papi, I want them all. I don't think there's any room in EA Sports, on my watch, not get involved in unlicensed, less than authentic experiences. It just doesn't feel right.
VideoGamer.com: EA Sports MMA is obviously not the UFC license.
PM: UFC is not MMA. The confusion people have is they think if it's not UFC it's not MMA. UFC is clearly a very powerful part of the mixed martial arts world. To their credit they've done a tremendous amount to grow mixed martial arts, but there's room for another game. There's a lot of fighters, as we're proving, out there that I think you can bring together, as we've done with Fight Night, where you bring individual fighters together, and I think we can grow the sport accordingly. UFC's a great license. THQ's done very well with it. Yuke's has developed a great game. It's selling very well around the world and more power to them. I think there's room for us to come in, add to that, grow the overall market and then get into what I think will be a great competitive battle that I think is going to be a lot of fun.
VideoGamer.com: What's your take on what Konami is doing with PES this year? It feels to me that it's slowed down and a more authentic football game.
PM: I haven't had a chance to go over there and play it. Basically in the last 24 hours this morning I read some previews on some websites that have got their hands on it. Konami is a great company. Football has been a very important part of their business. Overall it's been material to Konami's earnings. I'm sure that they know that they need to do better, that we made some very instrumental decisions about engine investment, at doubling down with development resources, about continuing to make sure all our licenses were in place so we're giving the real authentic football experience, and they probably look back and say I wish we'd have done some of that.
It's tough for me to comment because I haven't played the game, and I'm not sure I will get to, but I can tell you, I've nothing but the greatest respect for them. We are not taking their competition lightly. We are not really complacent. And I like the fact that they will continue to push us hard because that makes us make a better game.
VideoGamer.com: Finally, who will win the Premier League?
VideoGamer.com: Good choice. I'm a Chelsea fan.
PM: I saw Chelsea twice in the US.
VideoGamer.com: During pre-season?
PM: Yeah. They were playing good teams. They were playing AC Milan, Inter Milan, Club America. Their squad depth is impressive. Ancellotti impresses me. They're already winning ugly. Going down twice [against Hull and Sunderland] and then coming back is always a measure of a team of, in the early going as well when it's easy, as my boys proved, to trip up, is they can find a way of winning. That's a character mark of a team. Eventually they'll get into their stride. They've got too good a squad. We do not have a great squad right now, and it worries me enormously. United eventually is going to miss Ronaldo and Tevez. They like us have not replaced a key player. We will not replace Alonso with Lucas. That's for sure.
VideoGamer.com: You've got Aquilani from Roma.
PM: But he's maybe two months away from starting. He'll be another two months away from getting up to speed with the Premier League. He's injury prone. If we get 25 good games out of him this year that would be something. But there are 30-odd games he's not going to play in. If I was a betting man, which I'm not really, but if I was in Vegas right now with a sports book, 20 bucks on Chelsea.
VideoGamer.com: Thanks for your time Peter.