This evening in Tokyo, major publisher Electronic Arts had its second annual pre-TGS showcase event, and Gamasutra spoke to COO John Schappert about its lineup and its goals for global expansion.
The company's showcased games ranged from the newly debuted
Nintendo 3DS casual title My Garden
through to a proper unveiling
of long-awaited EA Partners-published, Grasshopper Manufacture-developed hardcore title Shadows of the Damned
"Playing wherever they might be on every device they have accessible to them, that's our charter," says Schappert.
"[At this event] We didn't talk about mobile or the iPad... We didn't talk about social networking or web gaming... The good news for our industry is that there are more gamers than ever before. Arguably, everyone's a gamer," he told us.
He believes that the company is already well on its road to that goal. "Our team is the number one global mobile publisher," he says. "On the [Apple iOS] App Store itself-- not just games."
And while Windows 7 Mobile is launching with Xbox Live Arcade this Holiday, Schappert had no announcements of support -- though he did say that "Microsoft is a valued partner and we've been a strong supporter of them in the past... They've got some nice functionality in that device."
Currently, the company is divided into four silos: EA Play, for casual boxed games, EA Interactive, for casual online titles and social games, EA Games, for its hardcore console games, and EA Sports, for its sports titles. That strategy, says Schappert, is "working well," despite the fact that "when we started it there weren't pads, there weren't smartphones, there weren't social games... The market is really changing."
for the 3DS is very casual, and Schappert considers the platform "similar to a standard Nintendo offering", with an audience profile like "the Nintendo DS we had before." However, its new technology allows for games that are "unique and something that we could not do before." My Garden
is "a great example of new gameplay you can expect thanks to 3D."
The game, developed by EA Salt Lake, has a distinct Asian influence -- it stars a tanuki, a Japanese mythological creature. Is it a play for a bigger, global market? Says Schappert, "You've got to focus on making great big blockbuster titles that have success around the world. We're the number one Western publisher in Japan."
The presentation also made a big point of the Japanese version of EA Sports' MMA title, which has a localized title and a Japanese cover athlete (Hidehiko Yoshida, alongside Russian fighter Fedor Emelianenko), as well as content for each of the game's major markets. Says Schappert, "Whatever market you might be based in it feels like the game has content just for you."
"I think the world wants a new MMA game," he says. "It's a big new launch for us in a genre we haven't been in before."
However, alluding to THQ's sales falloff
with its second UFC title, Schappert says, "I don't know if I see that segment as one that you can iterate as quickly. You can't guarantee it'll be an annually iterative title... I think what's important is that you bring out a fresh game with new features and unique offerings year to year to bring the audience back."
He compared it to the current strategy the company is following with the Need For Speed
series -- different flavors of game, such as the sim-heavy Shift
one year and the more action-packed Hot Pursuit
the next. "You can bring them out annually if you have that innovation."
Of course, the star of the event was the Grasshopper Manufacture-developed Shadows of the Damned
, which was presented in trailer form for the first time
by Resident Evil
mastermind Shinji Mikami and No More Heroes
director Goichi Suda (pictured above). The team also announced that Silent Hill
composer Akira Yamaoka will be creating the game's music.
"The reason why we chose EA as our publisher was because they were absolutely capable of bringing our game to a bigger, global audience, and they showed a great interest and passion for this game," said Suda, during the presentation. "It's one of the greatest games I've ever worked on in my lifetime."
Says Schappert, "it's an incredible trio of people, they've made amazing games and been very successful worldwide, and we couldn't be happier to be their publishing partner, and I think the audience just loved it."