A Sporting Chat With Peter Moore
With NCAA out the door, Madden on the way, and a new direction for EA Sports on the Wii just announced, Peter Moore has been a busy man since he exited Microsoft to become president at EA Sports. During E3, EA Sports announced a new adaptive DNA for NBA Live 09 that will change the game on a daily basis, but how will this be integrated into other EA Sports franchises? What's it like having your Madden cover athlete possibly come out of retirement and play for a different team? What's the deal with this new All-Play series for the Wii? We drop Moore in the Crispy Gamer hot seat, and get you the answers to these questions and more.
Crispy Gamer: It's been a while since you left Microsoft to move to EA Sports. Are you still happy you made the switch?
Peter Moore: Oh sure, I'm happy on a professional and personal level. There's only one job for which I would have left doing what I was doing, and that is to be the president of EA Sports. It's a small industry so there are many people -- as a lot of the executives in this industry attest -- [who] get offered jobs to run companies and publishers or run a studio, and I think I've been offered many of those. I've always turned them down, obviously. But when the first idea was floated, the label structure was being built at EA, and I saw I could bring back my old days of being in sports marketing.
I love sports. My Reebok days in particular and my Sega Sports days. I saw I could have complete control of what is a billion-dollar plus business -- at a studio level and a marketing level -- and make those decisions. And John Riccitello was coming back. And being able to move back down to the Bay Area was very important, because my son never actually moved up to Seattle. He was still at Berkley at the time. And you know, Seattle is a great city, it's a little damp. There's a reason I left northern England, and it wasn't to get back into the rain.
I loved everyone I worked with at Microsoft from Bill Gates down. I was very privileged to spend time with Gates and Ballmer. Robbie Bach is one of my greatest friends ever, and a close family friend, so it was very hard for me to leave. But this was a great opportunity. I think it deploys my skills better than maybe what I was doing up there. I love the idea of finally getting into EA. EA had made a run at me a couple times before and I had determined it wasn't the right time. I never look back at anything, anyway. No sense in doing that. I thoroughly love it.
Crispy Gamer: One of the big announcements you guys made was with your NBA Live franchise with updates on a daily basis.
Moore: Made fresh daily, Billy. Made fresh daily.
Crispy Gamer: Is this DNA concept something you're only going to keep solely with the NBA titles, or is this something you're planning on expanding out to the rest of your sports titles?
Moore: Each sport is different so it's a question a lot of people are asking. Every time a game is played, NBA Live changes. We can do Dynamic DNA in [the] NBA because the data is being gathered. A company that we're contracting is gathering the data anyway for teams, for statistical analysis for competitive reasons. It's very labor-intensive to gather all that data, but it's there. So we sat down with the company about a year ago and thought it was very interesting. As we saw yesterday, when Paul Pierce goes to the top of the key, they are tracking what he's going to do next, and the success rate of that. And that was being provided to general managers of NBA teams the next day. So the credit goes to Brent Nielsen, who was on stage with me, who said, "Boy, wouldn't it be interesting if we put that into the game?" That's how these things come about.
Basketball is different from hockey, different from soccer, different from American football, in that the tendencies are different and the behavior is different. In some sports it's the coach that pretty much determines everything and it's a little bit out of the hands of the player himself. The NFL is one of the most likely victims in that whole thing in that, when the coach says that the quarterback is going to throw into the flat, then the tendencies aren't really there.
But the answer is yes, we're going to look at each sport. We might look at the data in a more customized way, but yes, if we can get the telemetry and the data analysis and we can have each game made fresh daily, even though a lot of games are only played on weekends, we'll certainly be looking to do that.
Crispy Gamer: Roster updates seem to be something that is lacking.
Moore: No, we do roster updates?
Crispy Gamer: Well, you're making it fresh daily in basketball, but roster updates on more of a weekly basis, is that something that you're thinking of doing? Things change a lot in sports like hockey or football, for example.
Moore: I don't know if they need to be updated on a weekly basis, because there are trade windows. One of the things you can argue is serious injuries. Players should leave then. Madden does it three or four times during the season. There is client-side stuff you can do, if you can figure out how to do it. It's a matter of getting the data. This is not trivial work. So basically in the NBA you've got -- I don't know the number -- a half a dozen people watching every NBA game, every night. They have to document the data, the data has to be digitized, and we have to then convert that into where we are in the game and then move it down.
But soccer is different. A lot of work in soccer -- there are 22 players on the field. There are 700-plus teams in FIFA. Boy, that seems like a lot of work. Hockey could be next. I'm not a huge hockey fan but I do like hockey, and I do know enough about hockey to understand that when particular players bring the puck up the ice that's no different than when a player brings a ball up a court. How things set themselves up and around the goals. We'll look at this.
But to answer your question, absolutely. People are constantly connected now. We can update and update and update. With hockey, it's not played every night, but you've got hockey games going on three, four, five times a week?
Crispy Gamer: But even with football... For example, I'm a huge Packers fan, and the Packers' rating in Madden last year was kind of low. Is that something you'd like to see tailored throughout the season? Even with the Giants -- the Giants sucked in the beginning of last year?
Peter Moore: ?the Giants sucked halfway through the season.
Crispy Gamer: Yeah, and that's the team that went on to win the Super Bowl.
Moore: That's a team DNA thing that's often impacted by trades and things that change. That you can do. I don't see us getting down to the player level on Madden. I think it's a different game. But I think we'll start looking at this stuff. The leagues have to approve the data. There's a lot of stuff that goes into this.
Crispy Gamer: Another thing that was brought in a few years back was the ESPN integration with the ESPN Radio updates. Are you planning on pursuing that partnership further than just the Radio elements and news updates?
Moore: We do a ton of stuff with ESPN whether you see it or not. It's a very deep multi-layered relationship that is marketing, integration and statistics. They enjoy the fact that we integrate them fully into the game and we enjoy our marketing relationship with ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. They do a tremendous amount of stuff for us. You'll see the Madden machine kick in typically in the next three or four weeks where Bill Simmons will start talking about it.
There's a balance of how much broadcast integration that you want in the game and ESPN and we are very aware of that. You want it in there, but it doesn't need to be intrusive. You're still playing a videogame -- you're not playing the TV rendition of a videogame.
Crispy Gamer: Speaking of the Madden machine kicking in with ESPN, it seems like your cover athlete seems to be all over it.
Moore: Well he's your boy?[laughs]
Crispy Gamer: [laughs] I don't know if he will be my boy or not.
Moore: I think he's going to be your boy. You know it's funny. When we did it, I talked about this a little bit on my blog that even inside of EA it was a little controversial decision. We were very committed to Brett before he actually retired. We were going with Brett.
Crispy Gamer: So this was after last season?
Moore: This was during last season. We have to plan these things to start thinking. We start thinking about who our guy is going to be in the season during the playoffs. You really get a feel of who stood out. It's the 20th anniversary and Favre was on fire. I remember thinking -- I hate to bring this up -- but the final game and the pass that got picked off. Game over. I remember thinking then, "This is the guy we're thinking about. There's no way he's going to retire with his last pass being an interception that kept the Packers out of the Super Bowl." How wrong I was. Well I may have been wrong. We don't know right now.
But when we started to socialize this at the highest level at EA, people were saying, "Well this is ridiculous! He'll retire! You'll never hear about him ever again. He'll be in Mississippi and he'll disappear in April."
For a guy that isn't playing, it's all the NFL is talking about. I think it's interesting that people that aren't Packers fans all have an opinion about this. He's one of the most popular players to ever play the game. Everybody has a soft spot for the Packers because of who they are and the way they are structured, and where they are. The press are having a great time with it because the tension between love and passion and business and commitment and big money. Would he go and play for the Vikings? How weird would it be to see Brett Favre in any other uniform? We went to this kind of farewell thing that we held, and it was weird to see him in a Falcons uniform in his early days.
Crispy Gamer: So what happens then? You guys are releasing on August 15th?
Moore: ?We're printing now.
Crispy Gamer: So what happens if he lands on another team?
Moore: There's a plan.
David Tinson [marketing director, EA Sports]: The game will ship as you see it today.
Crispy Gamer: With Favre as a Green Bay Packer.
Tinson: It will ship with what you've seen. Yes. And then we'll have a plan if he's not.
Moore: It would be a massive collector's item if we do a packaging change mid-shift.
Tinson: We can put him on any team in the league.
Crispy Gamer: Well, the review build of the game you can release him and put him on whatever team you want to.
Moore: The interesting thing -- this is my mantra, and I'd love to be proved wrong -- but when he retires, "Madden 09 is the only place where you'll have Brett Favre playing for the Packers." We may be wrong now, again. He was always going to be seen as an unlockable player.
Crispy Gamer: Well John Madden is a huge Favre fan. Did he have any input?
Moore: He had an opinion on it -- which I won't share -- but John did have an opinion on it. It wasn't, "You should put Brett on the cover." We informed John of it and he had an opinion -- which you'll never know. [smiles]
Crispy Gamer: Can you say whether or not it was favorable?
Moore: No. I won't. But he had an opinion. Madden, to your point is a huge Brett Favre fan. I've actually talked to Madden about Favre, which was a great moment for me. I sat down with him in his office actually about three weeks ago and he said, "Here's a player that embodies everything that I always thought was great about the NFL." This is a classic Madden guy. Blue collar. Throw anything into the wind and get it out there. Gun slinger. Madden has a huge amount of respect for Brett Favre -- probably more than any other player in decades.
We got a lot of internal abuse. "Why would you put a retired player on the package?" Because it was the right thing to do.
Crispy Gamer: One thing you're introducing with the Wii is the All-Play concept. What was behind the decision to go with All-Play? Why not just have All-Play as a mode for all three of the consoles?
Moore: The first one is simple: Because we were not doing what we needed to do for that consumer. The experience on the Wii -- we were not delivering the experience that the Wii is built for. Just flat-out not doing that. Family Play got us into the game a little bit last year with Madden. We said time out. We just hit the reset button and have spin-off teams focused on the Wii. Build it from the ground up. Let's change the graphical interface. Let's stay with our licenses.
People said, "Why would you stay with the Madden name? It's about hardcore football!" We've taken that risk and we've gotten the Madden name on there but it's a completely different experience. There are unique modes and presentation. Even different packaging, and we've never done that before.
Second, we needed to get it right here, but it's really built for the Wii remote. So you've got a lot to do to make it intuitive. When you play Madden Wii, to snap the ball you do that [pulls back Wii remote], when you throw the ball you do that [flicks Wii remote forward]. If you want to -- which helps me a lot because I'm not good at the Xes and Os -- if you want to get the receiver route you use "Call the Shot" where you use the remote almost as a cursor and when you throw the ball it lands right there. It's a little different when you have a controller that needs to be held like this (mimics holding a traditional, two-handed controller) to register any kind of motion.
But at the same time we're doing more and more things about approachability inside the game [on other systems]. It's not All-Play -- we know that's specific to the Wii -- but look at Madden. Have you gone in the holographic trainer? It'll recognize what you're doing. We've got to keep bringing people in the first time every year. Let me tell you, myself included, you get there and start going, "I have no idea. Maybe I'll figure out how to drop back and pass. Maybe I'll figure out how to get my receiver there." The nuances of the game are built for core consumers, obviously. Building in the idea of going into the trainer and the game figures out how good you are, and like any intuitive adaptive artificial intelligence, it will back away from you and say you need help. It'll then do Backtracker and show what you should have done. Then your football IQ, I think, is something that people will love seeing progress.
Crispy Gamer: Is that accessibility something you plan on bringing to all of your franchises?
Moore: Absolutely. I like to talk about it as approachability. To me accessibility is [when] you've already got the controller in your hand and then you find out it's not that difficult to play. It's like kryptonite. People don't want to sit down and give it a go because they don't want to embarrass themselves. We got to make it more approachable, we've got to market it and say, "C'mon in, it's not that hard." And then when you get it, you're right! It's not that hard. Approachability and accessibility are built into every title this year.
Crispy Gamer: One of my concerns -- and I've got NCAA for the Wii, and this is especially true with a game like NCAA -- is that it seems like a guy's game. If you go to the store, and the only system you have is the Wii, on the cover the athletes are like "Yay!" The packaging and the overall feel is -- well, I think guys would shy away from it. It wouldn't seem as cool as playing it on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.
Moore: If you're a guy and looking for cool, then play it on the Xbox 360 or the PS3. We need to bring more people in. Those guys aren't going to be put off because Brett Favre is smiling versus being intense.
Crispy Gamer: So are you looking to target my parents?
Moore: I'm looking to target somebody who says, "I'm a football fan. And I absolutely love the fact that I like to play it on the Wii." But, boy, the idea of playing Madden on the 360 or the Wii -- it wasn't that great of an experience a few years ago. It's going to be a case where you get it as you play it. It's not going to happen overnight. The only other option is to give up on the Wii. Basically just say, "Yeah, yeah, it ain't working."
Call Your Shots is a great example. Once I got the hang of it I was running a route with three stops. And then I have to survive long enough to throw the ball down there. So you call a route where you got to break right, and then you've got to get inside the corner, and then drive on the safety. And that's all boop, boop, boop.
Crispy Gamer: I'm just wondering why you have to brand it All-Play.
Moore: Because the only other option I think we would have done was start removing some of the fully licensed names. Have "EA Sports Basketball" instead of "Live." Maybe if we had given a top-class, world-class experience two years ago from the get-go, then we wouldn't have to, if you will, retrospectively say to you, "This is something different." That is what we're saying.
Crispy Gamer: One thing that you said when you made the switch over to EA Sports was that you were planning on bringing in new sports: international sports. When are we going to see those?
Moore: Next month.
Crispy Gamer: Leipzig?
Moore: Seems like going international would make sense for talking about international sports.
Crispy Gamer: There's a lot of European press and international press here at E3.
Moore: We're a global company. I think the right thing to do and pay respect to where you're going to go is to talk about it somewhere there. That's about as much as I'm going to tell you.
Crispy Gamer: Are you planning on making a big splash with this at Leipzig?
Moore: Ummmmmm. One of the things you've heard me say is that, when you split North America and the rest of the world, we're a 60-40. The thing that I said is that we need to at least get that to 50-50. I can continue to sell Madden in Spain. It ain't going to happen. We have a world-class franchise with FIFA, one of the jewels in our crown, but I've got to do other things to appeal to specific markets. I'm not sure I can sell NASCAR here on the west coast! I need to do things differently for consumers that are in Spain, Italy or Eastern Europe. FIFA is good, but NHL? We're doing some stuff in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. NBA, we continue to be the sponsor for the NBA in Europe with NBA Live. But we need to do more. Instead of popular American sports that we can drive business with, we need to look at other things with which I think we can make a difference. Stay tuned?