EA Sports chief Peter Moore is no doubt proud of his team's "Madden" and "Tiger Woods" games this year.
But when I asked him what the highlights and lowlights were for EA Sports this year during a quick sit-down interview in New York last week, the first positive thing that came to his mind was … a Korean version of "FIFA."
"You hate to point to certain franchises, but I can't overstate the importance of 'FIFA,'" he told me while his PR handler was getting him a coffee. "Not only because, of course, we can sell 'FIFA' in just about any country in the world -- particularly here in North America we're selling very, very well. But the opportunities to iterate off our 'FIFA' franchise into a mid-session game [like] we gave you an example of with Asia [are] important."
Moore was referring to a presentation he gave earlier in the day at the BMO Capital Markets Conference, during which he said that the "FIFA Online 2" game in South Korea has been a rousing success. The game is free to play on PC but, like many Asian multiplayer online PC games, offers players a bevy of cosmetic and gameplay items for small fees. Moore said that most people don't buy any items, but those who do have bought an average of $28 of goods since the game's launch.
It wasn't just the Korean version of "FIFA" that has pleased Moore. It's also the success EA has had in challenging Konami for soccer/football game dominance: "FIFA" vs. long-time global leader "Pro Evolution."
"Three years ago, we were the second-place guy," Moore said. "You may recall we took a big risk of jumping right in and spending on a new engine before Konami did…It's one of those examples where we simply swallowed hard and said we have to go to a new engine. All of the grief, it costs you. And sometimes you don't get it right the first time… I'm very proud of "FIFA."
Thriving because of spirited competition? Some might see irony there, given that EA notoriously faces no formidable challengers in the making of American football games.
How could he say fitness games are the new music games?
However, EA will be facing tough competition next year in fitness games. The morning of Moore's presentation in New York was also the morning EA announced "EA Sports Active," a Wii-exclusive workout game designed to be used with specially packaged leg bands that can hold the Wii remote or nunchuk.
Moore maintains that the game is "complementary" to, rather than competitive with, Nintendo's runaway hit "Wii Fit," primarily because he characterizes "Wii Fit" as espousing a more balance-oriented fitness routine compared to EA's emphasis on heart-pumping physicality. What was most striking in his presentation was Moore's declaration that fitness games are the next big market, the new hot genre following the rise of the music game category exploding with "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band."
How could he say fitness games are the new music games? Moore feels it in his resume. He was a physical education teacher 30 years ago and then worked for nearly two decades at Reebok. Fitness, he said, is what people want.
"There are a huge number of people that need to work out, that want to work out, that recognize that they have some health challenges but are not comfortable, don't like running, don't want to go outside, are perhaps not comfortable in the gym and perhaps most importantly, don't have time," he said. "We looked at some stats: 61 percent of the U.S. population is overweight; 89 percent of all women in surveys say they need to lose weight. Whether they need to or not, their perception is they need to lose weight. We're also looking at time compression. We're looking at the cost of working out. Gym memberships and things of that nature. And then when you look at how many Wiis are embedded in homes around the world, and you do the correlation, it's a strong business opportunity."
But really, are these the new "Guitar Hero"s? "I'm bullish," he said. "Do I have any basis for knowing what this market is? I really don't. My only basis is having been involved with this market for 30 years in one way or the other. Seeing the innovation. We have driven this hard for the past 12 months."
In our survey of highlights and trends, Moore also said he was proud of his division's attempts to try new intellectual property this year, despite what he called "mixed results in some cases."
So EA Sports sounds like a different division than the "Madden" factory some casual observers might take it to be. Is it a division headed in the right direction? Moore's highlights, if nothing else, shows the track they're running on.