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Digital games should be more like networks than products, says EA's Segerstrale

As EA increasingly emphasizes its digital game initiatives, company executive Kristian Segerstrale believes that it will need to focus less on individual products, and more on suites of games that span multiple platforms.
Over the past several months, EA has seen some major gains as it moves its business away from traditional packaged goods and into the digital market, but the company's recently-promoted EVP of digital, Kristian Segerstrale, thinks EA still has a ways to go. Segerstrale, who also co-founded the EA-owned social studio Playfish, told Gamasutra in a recent interview that in order to maintain success in the digital market, EA and other major companies will need to rethink their approach to production and view every game as part of a larger network rather than as a standalone product. Unlike traditional boxed retail games, Segerstrale believes digital games work best when they offer some sort of a connection to another game or platform. Whether these games link to other titles or exist across multiple devices, he says online-enabled games should connect with each other to form an "ecosystem" that better engages its audience. "What we aren't doing very well at all as a company and as an industry is to link together these games and ecosystems across different platforms in such a way that you create something that's greater than the sum of its parts," Segerstrale said. "Otherwise, we have these islands, where a consumer does lots of things in one ecosystem, when they could be rewarded for that in another." Some of EA's existing mobile and social apps, like Mass Effect Infiltrator on iOS or Dragon Age Legends on Facebook, already connect to their big brothers on consoles and allow players to earn in-game rewards. Segerstrale hopes that by offering even more of this "connective tissue between games," EA will make sure that players can interact with their favorite franchises regardless of the device sitting in front of them. "Increasingly, it's about figuring out a means of online interaction rather than having your game be a standalone piece of software," Segerstrale said. Rather than giving players a satisfying one-time experience, he wants to solve one major question: "How do you weave our games into the fabric of a player's everyday life?" A major part of Segerstrale's plan is to bring EA's biggest brands to as many platforms as possible, but it isn't enough just to port an existing game to a new device, he said. Rather, developers need to do what they can to create games that suit each individual platform. "While things like HTML5, which make UI layers more standardized, will be helpful in getting games on other platforms, you will always want to inter-develop in a custom fashion for a specific platform in order to deliver the best user experience," he said. If everything goes to plan, Segerstrale believes that EA's numerous connected games will capture players' attention whether they're using their console, their mobile device, or their favorite social network. As long as players remain engaged with these cross-platform brands and titles, he says EA will be able to retain, and hopefully earn money from its audience for some time to come.

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