Archive for the ‘NFL’ tag
Christopher Craft is a speaker and the author of O.P.E.N. Routine: Four Components to Personal Branding Excellence.
With Google+, Google is forming productive partnerships and building relationships with content/media makers from a variety of verticals. Their biggest push is in sports and entertainment.
Why are they doing this?
I was fortunate to have a recent conversation with Google’s Iska Hain about their big “why” concerning Google+’s work with sports influencers and she explained:
“In order to effectively build a community, you need to have the voices from many different perspectives the passionate fan, the informed expert, or the newly converted. We believe sports users want to connect in a deeper, more meaningful way connected by way of their common interests.”
I have direct experience with the work the Google+ teams are doing with media entities and content creators. In late January of this year, my agency received an email from a Google+ team member who was interested in working with our client Bomani Jones on special content for the NFL Combine. It’s not everyday that you receive an email from Google. They’re not the spamming type so I knew that it was something official. We eventually partnered with them to produce a well-received Hangout On Air discussing post-combine topics. My eyes were opened to the amount of attention that Google is giving to building authority for its influential users.
Building community is their transparent goal, but it’s no secret of the impact all of this will have on personalized search and distributed media content. The possibilities are enormous.
My conversation with Hain went beyond Google’s goals, motives, and mission behind Google+’s influencer engagement activities. Here are some observations and items from my experience, research, and our discussion:
Google+ has a clear advantage over other social networks: They “own” search.
This is why they don’t seem to be terribly concerned about growing their membership at a certain pace (though they’re doing fine in that department ranking 2nd of all social networks in monthly active users). They know what they’re doing by positioning themselves to be the center of online authority. Their motives were clear with Google Authorship being one of the early features of Google+.
Their other clear advantage is access to talent. For example, they can handpick YouTube stars for easy collaborations.
Google+ has partnered with top global leagues like the NBA, NFL, and MLB, premier professional teams, and global athletes like David Beckham and Virender Sehwag. They’ve also done more oneoff partnerships recently with personalities, athletes, and media entities of all kinds.
Not only does this allow these brands to attract their fans to the platform but it also gives Google+ the opportunity to bring brands, media, and fans together for compelling mashups.
Just hanging out (on air)
Google+ is constantly deploying new features that allows influencers to use Hangouts as platforms for real showlike production and interaction. Check out the Hangout they conducted with 2013 NBA AllStar and 20122013 scoring champion, Carmelo Anthony.
They will be making announcements of new Hangout features at their upcoming Google I/O 2013 event.
Google offices have been springing up in different cities for a while now. The interesting part is how they’re strategically positioning Google+ teams to have access to specific verticals.
This reach gives them access to a wide variety of sports influencers. Their teams move around quite a bit, especially for major events; but their influencer relation crews in certain cities have focuses that stick (i.e. Atlanta:Football and Austin:Music).
The company currently has stateside teams in Boston, New York, Austin, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Denver, and San Francisco and international teams in Europe, South America, and Asia.
When Google+ unveiled Communities, they gave influencers a means to engage with their stakeholders in a more interactive way. Conversation can now flow both directions. This is crucial for the rapid fire nature of sports. Hain summarized this in our conversation:
“Google+ communities are an online place to explore and engage in the topics that matter most to you. From SEC Football to Knitting, communities afford users a place for users to connect with others who share their interests, using Google+ Hangouts, Photos or YouTube videos, for example.”
What does this mean for you?
Google established Google+ for the people.
My interactions with their team for various projects has featured overflowing support and concern for the development and distribution of good content. This Google-supported content was well received by the fans of our clients. These experiences excited me and inspired me to write this article.
Your voice is valuable and has the opportunity to reach the people who value your platform.
Christopher Craft is a speaker and the author of O.P.E.N. Routine: Four Components to Personal Branding Excellence. He’s also the Chief Visionary at Nao Media and Consulting, a digital agency for the sports and entertainment industries. You can follow Chris on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, and circle him on Google+.
Google and the NFL have teamed up to make fantasy football more real for pigskin fanatics everywhere.
Wednesday, in advance of the 2012 football season, the companies announced that they’re adding Google+ hangouts to fantasy football pages. The team-up will give people a one-click way to video conference with their fellow league compatriots.
Participants will be able to initiate Google+ Hangouts with league members and be alerted when anyone in their league is already “hanging out.” The functionality is designed to make for more dynamic fantasy draft sessions, spirited trading discussions, or interactive game-day viewing parties.
NFL commentators will also make appearances and host Hangouts each week for a rundown of each week’s fantasy football highlights.
“Because most fans select their fantasy rosters in real time, and many leagues consist of people from across the globe, we think you’ll find that hangouts are a natural extension of your (healthy) obsession,” Google+ product director Nikhyl Singhal said in a blog post.
The Google-NFL hook-up is an interesting one that will not only provide more web exposure for the (arguably) coolest feature of Google’s social network but will also introduce the video chatrooms to broadcast viewing audiences. The NFL Network plans to pluck the best soundbites from commentator Hangouts each week and broadcast them on air.
Photo credit: Danny E Hooks/Shutterstock
Filed under: social
Usually when I want to watch the goofy antics of a middle-aged guy with weird fake facial hair wearing an ugly three-piece suit, I take a look in the mirror. David & Goliath saves me the trouble with a trio of 30-second spots touting NFL Thursday Night Football and the NFL.com Fantasy Football competition. This spokes-dude is equal parts quirky and annoying, and to ratchet up the quirkiness factor even more, he's shown in settings not normally associated with football: a wheat field, a downtown rooftop and a bucolic mountain clearing (with sheep). To his credit, he works the self-consciously wacky material hard, modulating his voice in oddball ways, gesturing with a blue foam novelty hand and kicking a cheerleader's pom pom for a field goal as he struggles to inject humor into the proceedings and convince viewers that these NFL offerings are "serious fun." Check out two more spots after the jump.
Electronic Arts reported its first fiscal quarter earnings today, hitting its target but falling short on revenue.
The maker of video games such as Madden NFL and Battlefield 3 said that revenues for the first fiscal quarter ended June 30 were $491 million, down from $524 million a year ago. Non-GAAP net loss was $130 million, compared with a loss of $123 million a year ago. Non-GAAP earnings per share were 41 cents, compared with 37 cents a share a year ago.
Analysts expected EA to report non-GAAP revenues of $502 million and a loss per share of 42 cents. After hours, EA’s shares rose 3.6 percent to $11.40. Evidently, investors interpreted the loss as good news. EA also announced it would buy back more than $500 million in its own shares of stock.
“We have established an unmatched diversity in our business with multiple brands performing across several channels, business models, and geographies,” said Chief Executive Officer John Riccitiello. “This allows us to drive profitable growth in a rapidly transforming marketplace for games.”
In other news, Redwood City, Calif.-based EA appointed Blake Jorgensen as CFO, filling a gap that has been open since Eric Brown left the job to become CEO of conference call communications firm Polycom. Jorgensen will report to EA CEO John Riccitiello and start in early September.
It was a relatively light release schedule during the quarter. EA did release SimCity Social (pictured at top), and the game has more than 16.3 million monthly active users on Facebook. EA has 51 million monthly active users on Facebook, compared to Zynga’s 255 million. EA’s release said it had more than 10 million monthly active users for SimCity Social.
Arvind Bhatia, an analyst at Sterne Agee, believed EA would lower its full-year revenue guidance of $4.3 billion for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013 and earnings per share guidance of $1.05 to $1.20. But EA reaffirmed its previous guidance.
“We had a solid first quarter and are reconfirming non-GAAP guidance of annual earnings per share growth of 30% at the midpoint of our guidance,” said Interim Chief Financial Officer Ken Barker. “The $500 million stock buyback demonstrates our confidence in EA’s future.”
“We continue to make progress in our goal of becoming the leading digital entertainment company,” said President of EA Labels Frank Gibeau. “Over the last twelve months, we generated over $1.3 billion in non-GAAP digital net revenue, and approximately two-thirds of our non-GAAP net revenue in the first fiscal quarter was in digital.”
As we noted earlier today, EA faces considerable financial challenges now as it tries to balance the sale of $60 retail games with the need to invest in digital games in the social, mobile, and online spheres. Last year, EA had $4.1 billion in revenues, and a quarter of those came from digital games. But the stock price is at a historic low, and investors have focused on declining subscribers for EA’s flagship online game, Star Wars: The Old Republic. The stock today closed at $11 a share, valuing the company at $3.52 billion. For much of last year, EA was valued at around $7 billion.
Last week, shareholders asked Riccitiello when they would see returns. Riccitiello, speaking at the annual meeting, asked them to be patient and said that EA is moving toward all-digital revenues. Larry Probst, chairman of EA, said that the board is 100 percent behind Riccitiello. For the trailing 12 months, EA said its digital revenues were $1.3 billion. EA also said that pre-orders for its Madden NFL 2013 game are up 25 percent from the same period a year ago.
EA said that Star Wars: The Old Republic, which EA-owned studio BioWare developed over the past six years, will have free-to-play options starting in November. The Old Republic is EA’s main competitive thrust against Activision Blizzard’s money-making machine, World of Warcraft. Wags on Twitter are now calling it the “non-WoW-killer.”
EA did not mention how many subscribers it has for Star Wars. The company had previously said the vast majority of Star Wars’ 1.3 million subscribers signed up for beyond the initial free trial. That was down from the previous quarter’s subscriber estimate of 1.7 million. The game is now shifting to include a free-to-play option, where users play for free and pay real money for virtual goods. Analysts believe the game, which cost a reported $200 million to make, had a chance to steal subscribers from World of Warcraft, which has dominated massively multiplayer online games for seven years and has more than 10 million paying subscribers.
Founded in 1982, EA was once the biggest independent publisher of video games. But it now has a smaller market value than rival Activision Blizzard. EA ended the quarter with 9,225 employees, compared with 9,158 employees in the previous quarter.
EA announced today it would team up with Nexon to publish its EA Sports FIFA Online 3 game in Korea. The previous title generated $25 million in digital revenue for EA. EA said that FIFA Ultimate Team contributed over $30 million in net digital revenue in the first quarter.
EA also said Battlefield 3 Premium, an online service for Battlefield multiplayer fans, has sold more than 1.3 million subscriptions to date, with all of the deferred revenue to be recognized in the fourth fiscal quarter. EA’s online social network Origin now has more than 21 million registered users, including 9 million on mobile. 57 independent game developers are publishing games on Origin.
EA said that it has to defer Battlefield 3 Premium revenue from the quarter until the end of the year, for accounting purposes. That revenue is expected to be $37 million.
Life is very random. You’ve probably noticed.
For example, did you know that I like Marilyn Manson’s music, but I’m also a fan of Beethoven. I love to watch the NFL but not baseball. I like electric cars and the environment, but I also like target shooting and air shows.
It makes no sense. Or does it? I’ve been digging around Facebook for a few years now, running ads based on all sorts of random interests. Yes, selling colon cleanses to Britney Spears fans was highly effective.
All of this led me to the conclusion that random is the new consistent: Everyone appears random. But there are patterns in all that randomness.
And from that chaos was born my latest project: The Idea Graph. I’m starting with Facebook data, later expanding to other social networks. The Graph maps out unexpected relationships, not between people (the social graph), but between ideas. It’s a social graph for topics.
To grow it, though, I need your help. I need a huge database of ‘likes’, grouped by Facebook user, to make this work. I’m only using the data anonymously. And I’ll be releasing the first dataset at MozCon, for free.
I won’t commit to that for later, multi-million-record datasets – someone’ll have to pay for air conditioning to keep servers from exploding, for one thing.
The result will be a list of topics and their distance – the likelihood that someone who likes that topic will like another particular topic. We can use it to create cool, contract-boosting but impossible-to-interpret graphs like this:
More important, you can use this for content brainstorming. Writing for Uneeda Burger? Need topic ideas? How about V for Vendetta?
Please participate—you’ll help create a better dataset we can all use.
Sports have been played, enjoyed by spectators and covered by the media since well before the advent of smartphones and social media. But it’s no question that the development of social platforms has changed how we play, enjoy and cover sports. Twitter is the new sports ticker. Facebook is the new hub for fans. Who needs to catch ESPN’s Sportscenter now that highlights are put on YouTube within minutes after the play? Dump your local sports section in the paper and hop on your iPad to read sports opinions from your favorite bloggers. Nike+ has revolutionized how runners track progress, compete and interact. Sports will never the be same and it’s quite exciting.
The London 2012 Olympics from July 27th to August 12th are going to be the most covered sporting event in our world’s history. Traditional media will be there but social media and blogging will be the major reason for the media explosion. Twitter is preparing for its biggest surge in event traffic with the London Games. Outside of the Olympics, social and new media is positively (and sometimes negatively) affecting “the game” in many ways.
Athletes Break the News
Texans running back Arian Foster famously tweeted an MRI of his torn hamstring. Other athletes followed by tweeting x-rays and circumventing the media by tweeting their own injury reports. The potential problem with media at the player level is the possibility of team secrets being revealed to the opposing teams. The more important good is that this gives the players a voice… especially in a league like the NFL where showcasing individual personality is met with financial punishment. Traditional media is no longer the source… socially adept athletes are. Good for Deron Williams for being the person to break his new 98 million dollar contract with the Brooklyn Nets. If sports news is about reporting the facts, who is in better position than the guy controlling the dribble to present them?
New Careers are Being Forged
Chad Ochocinco is regarded as one of the more savvy users of Twitter in the NFL. He has over 3 million highly engaged Twitter followers. He recently organized a swarm of 200 patrons at Sylvia’s soul food restaurant in Harlem (and yes, he paid). His website, which is more of a news and interview destination than a personal site, receives major daily traffic. Wide receivers, who are usually the most self-centered players on the football team, tend to make the most entertaining users of social media. In Chad’s case, his social media acumen has given him a platform to build a strong and fun brand that has lead to television deals and a ton of non-sports press.
New Media Entities are Born
SBNation.com is the best example of a new media sports entity that has risen out of this era of social media. Funded by reputable venture capitalist firms, Wizards/Capitals/Mystics owner Ted Leonsis and other sources, SBNation has taken the concept of the blog network to another level. They now have regional web sites that cover sports news and opinion items from the various regions. According to April 2012’s ComScore rankings, SBNation.com ranked #10 in unique visitors… one spot above their San Francisco-based competitor BleacherReport.com (that has some of the best hyper-targeted email marketing practices on the planet and was reportedly acquired by Turner for over $200 million in June 2012). The big dogs like ESPN and USA Today have embraced the blog network concept by rolling out their own.
Social-Powered Traditional Media
ESPN’s SportsNation is a television program that features viral sports video and interactive public polling. Sports talk radio hosts are quicker to have conversations with their listeners via Twitter than email. The newspaper industry has been slow to adapt to the social web, hence their major decline in readership. The sports section of the newsroom however has been more proactive in embracing Twitter. Most sports columnists either manage a Twitter account or have an assistant manage one for them.
The Downside: The Pressure to Provide More
There’s a downside. The convergence of sports and media has resulted in the watering down of news. Honestly, sports media isn’t the only one suffering from this. For every useful news detail tweeted, there are hundreds of useless guesses, speculations and mentions of mysterious sources tweeted by sports media types. This has given the old-school media guys something to point to when they criticize the legitimacy of sports blogging and microblogging. Personally, I’ll take this little bad with the big good. The trick for filtering the mess is to use new age curation methods like combining Twitter lists of your favorite sports content creators with a feed column platform like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.
Google+ and the Independent Sports Blogger
Depending on the amount of weight that Google chooses to place on the influence of authors, the rel=author developments could have huge implications on search rank in sports media. With quality and consistent content, independent bloggers could establish a strong voice in the sports new media landscape. ESPN, Yahoo, SBNation and Bleacher/Report have been recruiting up-and-coming blogs and bloggers for several years now. Rel=author will give the independent authors more leverage in the recruiting process. For more information on rel=author, read Sean McGinnis’s recent blog post here at C&C. Speaking of Google+, who saw Tiger Woods host a Hangout and then win the tournament that followed it!?
I wrote the majority of this piece from my hotel room in New Orleans while at NABJ 2012. With a belly full of crawfish bisque, I realized that I had to sit down add a point about my dinner with some of the younger and more cutting edge ESPN talents with whom I shared soup and dessert. At the table was Bomani Jones (SBNation + Around The Horn), Jemele Hill (First Take + Around The Horn) and Michael Smith (Numbers Never Lie). All three are brilliant and have used social and new media to grow their personal brands. It was fascinating to hear them trade stories and notes on how to excel in the digital sports world. Keep enjoying the connection between sports and social media because it will only get stronger and more credible.
About the Christopher Craft: Christopher Craft is the Founder/CVO of Nao Media and Consulting, a hybrid firm (media/branding/marketing/design) working in the fields of business, entertainment, sports, food and information technology. He blogs regularly at the Nao blog. You can follow Chris on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn and circle him on Google+.
Girls are more likely to lose interest in science than boys, and that’s contributing to the nation’s weakening pool of college graduates with science degrees. The Science Cheerleaders are trying to do something about that.
The cheerleaders wear short skirts and carry pom-poms, but they aren’t cheering sports athletes. They are former NFL and NBA cheerleaders, but they’re also engineers, dentists and other science specialists. Their job is to get more young girls into science.
They performed for more than 100,000 people at the recent USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. Allison, a former cheerleader for the Philadelphia Eagles, has degrees in biology and chemistry. The group, founded by Darlene Cavalier, has 175 former cheerleaders in the group.
Filed under: dev
I have a secret. I’ve kept it from most of my colleagues and coworkers for some time now.
The sad truth is this: Seven years ago, I weighed close to 205 pounds. And I stand all of 5 feet, 9 inches. So, when you weigh that much, are of limited stature, and don’t have “NFL Running Back” in your job title, you are officially in the “obese” category. I never planned to be that out of shape by the time I was in my early 30s. It just kind of happened.
Once I realized how out of shape I was, I attempted to do something about the excess weight. The problem was I only did some of the things necessary to achieve weight loss. For example, I would go for a run—but only every so often. I would join a gym, but I didn’t go consistently. I would go on healthy-eating kicks and stay away from fatty foods. That would last only until I traveled again. Then I’d inevitably opt for the bacon burger and fries instead of a chicken garden salad.
Backing Up Your Desired Goal With Action
Even though I said I wanted to get in better shape and lose weight, I did not back up my words with actions. Not until I made consistent changes to my lifestyle did I see the difference. Once I committed to actionable change, the weight started to come off, and I eventually shed 40 pounds.
Was getting in shape easy? No. But all that work was worth it.
My weight-loss journey may serve as a lesson for marketing and sales organizations. Marketers and salespeople talk a lot about the desire to improve, to be more effective, and to “get in better shape.” However, the key components of commitment and action are not there.
The resistance to change was highlighted for me during a recent conversation with a senior director of marketing at a large enterprise company. The conversation focused on training personnel on demand generation and lead management best practices and on developing process for the organization.
Soon in our conversation, such phrases as “Well, we don’t do it that way here” and “That won’t be possible with us” began to come out. What the person was really saying was “We want to change, but we’re not all that committed to it.” That was just like my talking about my plans for weight loss while downing a heaping bowl of ice cream.
The action of change was not there to back up the words of change.
There is no doubt that marketers need to change. Recent studies by The Marketing Automation Institute, Focus and The Fournaise Group have shown that, although buyers have changed, marketers are still far behind in terms of skills and the knowledge needed to succeed.
So, despite a lot of talk about change, it won’t happen until commitment and action are part of the equation. Until that occurs, our marketing and sales groups will continue to be out of shape.
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Weight Loss)
What’s wrong with this picture? It’s 2012, cheap broadband is ubiquitous in the developed world, and TV still isn’t dead. In fact it’s thriving. Sure, for the first time ever, Nielsen says more people watch videos on the Internet than on a TV–albeit barely–but if you look at how much time is spent on the two, there’s no comparison: TV utterly dominates. Which explains why, again according to Nielsen, more money is spent on TV advertising than all other ad platforms combined.
A few doomsayers say the TV industry “may be starting to collapse” and that excessive production costs are its weak spot. Yeah, if only. Television as constituted today makes no sense at all; it’s a kludged-up legacy system that’s enormously painful and expensive to maintain. But TV’s entrenched economic interests and cultural inertia are so pathological that even HBO Go wouldn’t make sense as a standalone app–as HBO confirms–and the rumors of a brand-new Apple TV ecosystem were, alas, dead wrong. Sure, YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu are mighty powers in their own right, but if even nigh-omnipotent Apple has given up, what hope do they have?
Funny you should ask. I just happen to have an answer.
For starters, they could ask Rupert Murdoch, who singlehandedly disrupted the TV industry in the 1990s, when it was even more powerful. He’s a man not without his flaws–when Dennis Potter, the great British TV writer, was diagnosed with cancer, he named it “Rupert”–but in the mid-1990s he defeated the invincible Goliaths of television in both the USA and the UK with a mighty sling named sports.
Many, many techies are virulently anti-sports. Maybe that’s why so many of us don’t realize their importance. But where sports fans lead, the viewing public will follow. That’s what Murdoch proved with Fox in the USA and Sky in the UK. I’m (mostly) a huge sports fan, and take it from me, live Internet sports video coverage is terrible–most of the time. But two years ago I caught a glimpse of how great it could be: when I was living in Canada, the CBC streamed every single game of the World Cup live, free-to-air, in high quality. It was terrific. But until that kind of sports programming is regularly available on the Internet, cutting the cord will simply not be an option for hundreds of millions of people.
NetFlix and YouTube are pouring money into original programming, but instead they should have gone hunting for the biggest elephants of all: the NFL (in America) and European Champions League (elsewhere). Alas, in December the NFL re-upped its TV deals until 2022. The deals “will ensure the NFL will stay on free television for another 11 years”–meaning the NFL will stay on television for another 11 years, and we’ll be stuck with these antediluvian legacy “networks” and “channels” for at least that long. O disintermediation, where is thy sting?
But America is not the world. Elsewhere, it’s soccer that matters, and the Champions League rights are only being sold for three years at a time. Some TV entity or other will win them this time around, but maybe, come 2015, YouTube will splash out and buy those rights, and knock the TV industry right on its ear. One can hope. I look forward to one day watching Lionel Messi‘s magic as shown by a twenty-first century industry rather than a twentieth century dinosaur.
Image credit: thesportreview.com
Electronic Arts is in the midst of rebooting its EA Sports business. Not only is the company re-entering basketball games with NBA Live coming this fall, it has also snatched the all-important license to Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed-martial arts fighting games from THQ.
The video game giant is also well beyond testing the waters in digital games. It is leading the charge by taking sports game franchises such as FIFA into new platforms such as Gree’s mobile social game network in Japan and digital-only downloadable content (DLC). EA has had a free-to-play version of FIFA in Korea for six years and it expects to run with that business model in Asia. We talked with Andrew Wilson (picture below and above left), head of EA Sports and the man in charge of the reboot. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: Your big news was the getting the rights to make UFC games.
Andrew Wilson: Yes! Well, we had lots of big news, that was the one that seems to have broken through.
GamesBeat: That sounds like it was a long time in the works.
Wilson: Yeah, they had a relationship with THQ for a very long time. We have good relationships with most people in the sports industry… We’ve always remained close with them. An opportunity came up recently and we decided to jump on it with something we have a passion for. We think they’re a global brand and a global sport. I think it presents a great opportunity for us to continue our strategy of global cross-platform experiences.
GamesBeat: So I guess video games have a pretty good trash-talking environment, and sports video games have more of that. And fighting games seem to have an even bigger trash-talking environment. There was a lot of history of such trash talk with UFC’s Dana White (pictured above, right). Are you used to that?
Wilson: The conversations that happened in the past, I actually wasn’t part of those. When we started these conversations, we only talked about the future. What I can say is, I dealt with Dana, I dealt with Lorenzo [Fertitta], I dealt with their team. They are consummate professionals, they’re very passionate about what they do, I think they do a tremendous job, and as Dana said on stage, this was the relationship that we always wanted to have, and finally it’s happened.
GamesBeat: So it must feel good to have it sort of pay off like this.
Wilson: Yeah. You know, I’m personally a fan, I think many people in our sports organization are personally fans. I think we have been watching the sport for a very long time. I watched in the early ’90s when it was Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock. I watched PRIDE with Sakuraba and those kinds of guys fighting in Japan, and Rickson Gracie, Royce’s older brother fighting in Japan. So I’ve always believed that it was going to be the fighting sport that prevailed. That it was always going to be a global phenomenon, and that it just needed some great organization to drive it. I think that’s what Zuffa brought to it. For us, we always wanted to be involved. At the time we built our game, the UFC license wasn’t available. We worked with another great promotion in Strikeforce, which incidentally now is owned by the UFC so clearly they also saw value in that promotion and in the fighters that were part of it. So I think now the opportunity to kind of consolidate, for us, around what is the number one brand in the sport, the UFC, is a pretty big deal.
GamesBeat: And is it global, across all platforms, then?
Wilson: Yeah. Absolutely.
GamesBeat: And how soon does it kick in?
Wilson: The ink is literally still wet on the deal. But certainly when we announced the ink was still wet. So we finish out E3 and then we’re going to sit down with a team from the UFC and our development organization, our marketing organization at EA Sports, and start to map out what the future looks like. It’s a long-term deal, so we are looking at this as a long-term play for us. I hope that we’re still talking about the growth of UFC 20 years from now, like we do today about Madden and FIFA.
GamesBeat: I suppose the good thing is that you already have fighting games in production, right? Not starting from ground zero…
Wilson: We have built great fighting games. Our MMA game was a great game. It lacked the number one license, but as a core game mechanic, it was a great game. Fight Night Champion is a boxing game with fighting physics and striking, it’s arguably the best fighting game that’s launched to date. Albeit just one facet of what the UFC game will ultimately be. So we’re certainly not starting from ground zero. We certainly have a history in the…pugilistic arts? And I think that we definitely have a passion for it. So I think you’re going to see some big things from us.
GamesBeat: And other licenses are also possibly, I guess…getting used again? NBA…
Wilson: NBA, absolutely. We never didn’t use NBA. Even last year we launched NBA Jam On Fire Edition, so we’ve always maintained a close relationship with them, we continue to release NBA products. But of course now we are in the process of working towards announcing some very aggressive plans for NBA Live this year.
GamesBeat: So you’ve kinda rebooted EA Sports in general, then. How do you look back on the process…?
Wilson: In what way?
GamesBeat: I guess…restarting NBA, baseball may be in the works as well…?
Wilson: Is that a particular question that’s kinda…?
GamesBeat: Okay, is an MLB baseball license in the works?
Wilson: It is not a focus right now. What you’ve seen of Madden in the last week is, we have made a huge, the biggest investment in Madden gameplay that we’ve ever made. If you’ve seen what we’ve done with NCAA and Heisman winners there, and all the features of NCAA, that’s big. FIFA of course continues to grow, we’ve got a relaunch of NBA this year. We’re coming off just relaunching FIFA Street and SSX, in Q4 of the last fiscal year, and we now have UFC on the horizon. We’ve got plenty to take up our time right now. Baseball, I’m a huge baseball fan, I watch a lot of baseball, my wife and I go to a lot of Giants games, but it’s not a focus for us right now.
GamesBeat: Remind me what you guys have said to investors on EA Sports for the coming year… Is there anything from the last call that painted a road map? One thing I wonder about is, there is a console transition going on…
Wilson: If we ever believe what we read, yes, there is.
GamesBeat: Typically there’s a lull in game sales during that time, so it seems like it would be a challenging year coming in the next year, to keep sports growing. I don’t know what other factors may be big enough to flag for investors like that.
Wilson: We’ve not flagged anything of that nature. We continue to see our franchises go from strength to strength. And we see that based on three key pillars. We continue to drive innovation that fundamentally changes the way you play. So every game that you play from us this year is going to play fundamentally different from the game you played last year, in a better way. We’re adding physics to Madden, we’re adding a new skating engine to NHL. Real-life plays in NCAA changes the way you think about it. Again, when you hear what we’re doing with NBA Live, again, innovation that fundamentally changes the way you play.
The second thing is, we’re moving from product to product plus service. We’re changing the engagement curve on our products through services like EA Sports Football Club that we launched last year. Like Madden Ultimate Team, Hockey Ultimate Team, FIFA Ultimate Team. Like what you see with connected careers, across platforms in Madden. Or GM Connected in NHL. We’re changing the engagement curve on our sports properties to where actually we’re seeing much higher levels of customer play. And as a result, monetization deeper into the season than we’ve ever seen before. So we feel very good about that.
And then lastly, what we’re seeing with our ability to connect gamers to each other, connect gamers to their sport, their team, their club, their players like no other brand can, and connect experiences across platforms, so that now you can engage on your mobile phone and interact with your console experience or interact with your Facebook experience… This level of connection is something that we believe will continue to grow our business in the coming year. Because that’s how people are playing. Interacting with friends in the context of games is more important now than it’s ever been. A connection with your club, for many sports fans, is the strongest relationship they have in their life, other than their immediate family. The battle that they have against their rivals and the way they rally with other fans around their club is something that we can deliver to them like no other brand can. And then ultimately, regardless of what happens with individual platforms or consoles or pieces of hardware within that gaming experience, we’re building experiences that go across there. So that with the ebb and flow of how you play, you are always connected to that experience. And nothing you ever do is wasted. No time is wasted. We announced with FIFA this week that for all the FIFA 12 users, they bring everything they achieved last year right through to this year. That’s an important part of driving that year-over-year persistence. And you’re going to see that in all of our franchises.
GamesBeat: So I guess monetization on the digital side is very important. But you have to balance that against what fans like to get for what they pay up front, right? How do you guys find that balance, what have you learned about it? There’s a point where people feel like, hey, I’m being charged again, or being charged too much for something that’s online.
Wilson: I look at the review scores in our games, so I think the critical press do a very good job of giving a review score, a measurement of quality, where value is a very key component of that measure of quality. It’s about… Is the game fun, is the game deep, is the game engaging, and is the game good value for money? We come off a 90 rating for FIFA last year, we come off an 89…
We had great review scores on NCAA and SSX and FIFA Street and NBA Jam On Fire Edition and NFL Blitz. All at varying price points, but all were seen to be high quality experiences and good value for money. So when we go out and we’re building a game that is going to…where a series of content is going to ship on a disc, we are very conscious of the need to ensure that we are providing great value for what a consumer gets for their money on that disc. Now, what we also know, however, is that gamers are playing our games for much longer than they ever did before. The decay curves are changing. Decay curves of play used to be five or six weeks and then you would see it go down. Then that would ramp up on something else. On our games in this past cycle, six months into the season, six months post-launch, we’re seeing record days of online play. So people are playing our games more and they’re playing them longer than they ever had. And as a result of that, they’re getting great value for money, but they’re also saying, hey, this is the game I want to play. I gave you 60 dollars, but rather than spend 60 dollars on something else that I may or may not want to play, I would love to be able to extend and enhance the experience I have, the experience I love and the experience I play with my friends.
That, for us, is the role of DLC. That, for us, is the role of ongoing services that form part of that franchise experience. And so in our… The feedback that we get is very positive, that we get that balance right. There are things that we do at 14.99 like NFL Blitz that are seen as incredible value for the amount of game you get there. And FIFA at 60 dollars is incredible value, it’s a giant game, it’s probably bigger and has more hours of gameplay and online support than pretty much any other game in our industry. But it’s also one that monetizes DLC at a very high rate, because of that engagement and because gamers understand that while they’re getting great value for money on the disc, they love the notion that they can extend and enhance that experience, much deeper into the season, and maintain that connection with their friends, maintain that connection with their club, and maintain that connection with EA Sports.
GamesBeat: How do you view the rising quality of free-to-play online games, too?
Wilson: I think it’s great. We’ve been free-to-play with FIFA in Asia now for I think six years? And it is an incredibly high-quality game. In Asia what we’ve come to realize was, for the most part, people weren’t saying, we don’t want to pay to play your game. What people were saying is, we want to know that this is a game that we want to play long-term, before we pay. And as a result of that… I think when we had a packaged-goods FIFA based in Korea, I think we were at about a 25 million dollar business down there. I think what we’ve talked about publicly is that these days, that’s nearly a 100 million dollar business. That’s a free-to-play experience.
GamesBeat: Is that for EA or for EA Sports…? $100 million, is that for EA Sports, or…?
Wilson: That’s for FIFA. FIFA alone. That is built off a quality experience, a high-quality, great, 11-on-11 twitch-based experience. It’s just a different business model. And I think we’ll see some of that continue in the west. But we’re prepared for that, we’re prepared to deliver great quality games, and we believe that great quality games, regardless of what business model we go to market with, they monetize at a high rate. Because consumers have an appreciation and converge on quality.
GamesBeat: I think [EA CEO] John Riccitiello talks a lot about the market funnel starting with free-to-play and leading down to $60 paid games and subscriptions. How does the funnel start for you guys? What do you see as far as what happens at the top of the funnel, and what comes down…?
Wilson: You mean the kind of end of the funnel up to those that actually pay? I mean, we see… Here’s the way I look at it…
GamesBeat: I don’t know, is Facebook the top now? What is the top of the funnel?
Wilson: I think by the very nature of our business, sports in and of itself is the top of the funnel. You start with one of the biggest communities in the world. Sports is the world’s largest circle… There are more people watching and engaging and pontificating on sports than I think just about any other subject matter in the world. And they are more passionate about it than just about any other subject matter in the world. So that, for us, represents the top of the funnel. There are a series of access points, then, which is Facebook, which is mobile devices, which is our console networks, which is Origin, which is EASports.com. There are a number of access points for that funnel, but the top of the funnel is very truly the global community of sports fans. And what we’re seeing is, the more and more experiences that we provide based on the different access points is that… We’re providing, one, a greater opportunity for people to monetize at levels that make sense for them. There are going to be console people that monetize at 60 dollars, or significantly more than 60 dollars, because of that extended and engaging service and DLC content. There are people that are engaging on iOS and Facebook at much lower rates than 60 dollars, and there are people engaging with various different free-to-play models around the globe that give us no money. But here’s why that’s okay. Because there’s two fundamental factors that drive towards monetization in our business. Or in any business for that matter. One is collection, or accumulation of stuff, that gives you status. And the other is competition. And sometimes how those two things are decided is, do I have more stuff than you? So when you think about a world where we are replicating that core human dynamic of the need to collect and compete with our fellow man… Then a world where you have people coming in at various different price points… You actually enrich the lives of those that spend a lot in your ecosystem, by having a lot of people that don’t spend so much. Because it gives everyone someone to compete against and it gives everyone someone to collect and show off to. And that’s a very important part of who we are as human beings. I think that those that give us a lot of money appreciate the ability to collect and compete with those that give us little or no money. And their lives are enriched as a result of that. The people who just want to come in at a very low monetization rate appreciate the opportunity to interact with the great games we make, and be there and compete against those who monetize at a higher rate, also in this notion of collection and competition. So it’s a really cool ecosystem, and it kinda replicates what we see in the real world.
GamesBeat: Do you…think the “build your own” or “partner with somebody else” on some of these new technology platforms? There’s things out there like OnLive, looking at Gaikai… Where do you guys feel like you’re building your own versus going out and tapping somebody else?
Wilson: Certainly when we sit down and talk about it, we talk about it this way. There are competitive advantages and there are business necessities or commodities. There were a lot of people a few years ago who thought they had to build their own video player. And that that was going to be a competitive advantage for them. What we know today is that video players are a commodity, and those that invested a great deal of money in video players, many of them, it turned out to be a poor investment because there were other people that built commodities that were far cheaper, scaled far better, and delivered much better consumer experiences. So when we look at any feature or any distribution method or any of these things, we look at… What would be a competitive advantage for us? What would facilitate us to provide a better customer experience? And then what is ultimately going to be a commodity? Things like our ANT animation engine or our physics animation engine, are competitive advantages for us. They absolutely are. Things like video players, not so much. We believe our Origin platform, because it allows us to provide you a different level of access to our content, is a competitive advantage. So we invested in it. But certainly the production of the discs that we put our games on today is not. So any time we look at these things, we’re looking at competitive advantage versus business necessity and commodity. I’m not exactly sure where the OnLives and the Gaikais are going to end up just yet. But we work closely with them in the meantime while we evaluate how best to deliver great content to our consumers.
GamesBeat: On mobile, everybody talks about how it’s going to be such a big market. But the dollars aren’t necessarily rolling in and looking impressive next to the traditional consoles. For your business, when does that start changing? At some point, it is the biggest market…
Wilson: There’s a couple of things in play here. One is the notion of direct gaming and direct monetization on mobile. And you know, we have FIFA running on GREE, on mobile in Japan. And right now it’s one of the hottest monetizing mobile games in our company. So it’s doing tremendously well. Our FIFA and Madden properties, our Tiger property, those have traditionally done very well on mobile, and that continues to grow. But here’s the other nuance. It’s that… It’s not just about consuming something here and monetizing something here. What we know based on our telemetry is, gamers who engage on more than one platform monetize at a higher rate as a result of that engagement. So gamers who play console and go and interact with that console experience from their PC, they engage at a high rate. And it makes sense, because they’re spending more time within that experience, and given the opportunity to enhance and extend that experience, they do so. As we announced the iPhone app for FIFA on Monday, I think we’ve delivered another dozen iPhone companion apps over the last 12 months or so for our products… What that does is it’s an engagement mechanism.
GamesBeat: That’s the funnel at work.
Wilson: Yeah, it’s a funnel, it’s an engagement mechanism. And part of it ends up becoming a monetization property, but they may or may not monetize here. They may monetize back on the console, they may monetize on PC. But a big part of their engagement is because of this. You get an indirect growth in your business as a result of provision of service and engagement in your mobile device. So we look at it two ways. We’re going to have mobile properties that actually deliver an experience and monetize an experience right here on the phone. But at the same time, this will be your communication hub for your entire FIFA world, for your entire Madden world, and by virtue of the additional time that you spend engaging with your world and your friends in that world and your team in that world, on your mobile device, you will likely monetize at a higher rate because of that engagement, wherever you choose to. Whether it’s the phone, the console, or the PC.
GamesBeat: What were some of your reactions to the Wii U and the SmartGlass announcements?
Wilson: You saw us as part of the SmartGlass presentation with Microsoft, where they’re very excited about that. Again, we’ve been building toward this for some time, before even our console partners started to think about this multi-screen consumption method. We’ve been dealing with this over the last couple of years already. We’ve had partner applications… This just allows us to deliver an even more compelling proposition to our consumes. So we’re very excited about that. Our research and our telemetry tells us it’s exactly how gamers play, and it makes absolute sense for us. Quite frankly, it empowers us to do the kinds of things that we’ve been wanting to do for some time. With respect to Wii U, I continue to be positive about Nintendo. They’ve been a great partner for us. They’ve done some amazing things in our industry, and I think that anyone who can deliver the kind of innovation in our industry that they have, anyone that’s delivered the kind of IP to our industry that they have, is always going to be a strong player. We stood on stage last year and said that we will be supporting them. We will be doing that. You would have seen Mass Effect 3 in their kinda montage at the Nintendo press conference. We’re doing some things in sports that we haven’t talked about in detail yet, but we’re certainly moving towards that.
GamesBeat: It seems like that second tablet really affects you guys, you really want to play Madden with two tablets…
Wilson: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.
GamesBeat: And then… Is FIFA sort of… It’s like the flagship into digital for you guys. Do you expect the rest of EA Sports to really come in once FIFA has sort of paved the way for all things digital?
Wilson: You know, it’s interesting. FIFA is certainly the franchise that gets the most notice, because the size of the FIFA audience is so large. I mean, it’s an audience size and a revenue model that breaks out not just of our company, but the industry. It’s a top two or three game globally every year, year over year. There aren’t many other games that are up there every year. Halo comes in every now and then, a Call of Duty will come in, or a Battlefield, but FIFA is there every year. So by virtue of that it gets a lot of notice. But here’s what I’d say is, three years ago NCAA started to take your online Dynasty to PC and allow you to do things across platforms there. Tiger Woods PGA Tour, that we just launched, has a whole new monetization opportunity as part of their courses and play for free and all these types of things… Social and mobile engagement, free-to-play engagement… And Madden this year, with connected careers that you see, again, it has a whole new digital construct that’s going to drive that business. So I think FIFA gets a lot of credit because it’s just so big, and certainly it pioneers in a lot of areas, but every franchise that we have is delivering product plus service, delivering cross-platform experiences and cross-platform engagement. You’re going to start to notice that more and more as the size of that engagement audience continues to grow.
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