EA May Replace Sports Games With Live Services


Sports titles like Madden NFL and NBA Live have always been a reliable and consistent source of revenue for EA, but CEO Andrew Wilson is considering a future without them.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Wilson said he can envision a world where the publisher provides Madden and FIFA as an interactive entertainment service, rather than as a succession of annual releases. 

The company is already doing this in some markets. In Korea and China, EA makes incremental changes to core sports games like FIFA with regular updates with big new "code drops," delivered every four years rather than yearly. 

"There's a world where it gets easier and easier to move that code around -- where we may not have to do an annual release," Wilson said. "We can really think about those games as a 365-day, live service."

"Streaming and subscription services have already disrupted other media like music, movies, and books," Wilson said, "and it's only a matter of time before they have a similar impact on video games."

"When we design a game that lives in a true streaming world, we have to think about screen size and session time," Wilson noted. "How does a Madden game that exists in the cloud manifest on your mobile phone, one minute at a time? How does that manifest on your 60-inch TV, an hour at a time?"

While free-to-play is still the dominant business model in mobile games, Wilson said apps like Netflix, Spotify, Tidal and the like have shown that users are increasingly amenable to subscription business models.

This has prompted him and the rest of the leadership at EA to consider what value it could provide players using the format. "I don't think we're there yet," Wilson said, "but it's something we're looking at."