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Gaming is Entertainment: CEO of EA Denies Game-Making is a Data-Driven or Social Business

As the first in a series of keynote speakers at GMIC SV John Riccitiello, CEO of Electronics Arts, took some time to set the record straight on the direction and evolution of the gaming industry. The EA front man stressed the importance of quality gaming experiences serving as the core from which games themselves can grow. He mentioned that as social experiences on the web continue to intertwine, we mustn’t push aside the actual gaming experience, the cornerstone of any successful game. “Great gaming starts with a great gaming experience and if you lose sight of that then you will ultimately not have a business,” said Riccitiello.

Naturally, as more users log on to these social gaming networks, more and more data reaches the desks and hard drives of marketing professionals. Although Riccitiello fully understands and appreciates the importance of such analytics, he warned that certain companies had taken to building their games around said analytics. “Be very suspicious of entertainment companies that start to talk about themselves on the basis of the number of TB of data they’re moving over the internet or data driven marketing analytics”. This approach has created a distinct trait to products within the social gaming arena, a “social grinding mechanism” as Riccitiello put it. Unfortunately, we are too familiar with the concept. “Grinding for 30 minutes and then spamming 500 of your friends was never a good idea and will never be entertaining” admitted Riccitiello. Zynga, are you catching any of this? Riccitiello believes that such a method takes away from the most important feature of a game, the experience.

Riccitiello has noticed three traits that truly great gaming experiences are sharing: strong branding, minute to minute attention to detail, and no grinding mechanisms. This is the basis by which great games are beginning to really differentiate themselves. The connections made within the game are important, but shouldn’t be leaned on to drive the actual experience. “The gaming industry is, at its core, an entertainment business. It’s not a data business, its not an analytics business, its not a physics business and it’s certainly not a social viral business,” Riccitiello preached. Among other examples, Riccitiello highlighted and praised the uber-popular Simpsons TapOut game for good gameplay. More specifically, the game was driven by IP, not mobile game mechanics.

Riccitiello was adamant in saying that games should serve to entertain and not feed viral social-grind mechanics because that is not entertainment and you shouldn’t call it a game. It would seem that EA’s top executive has put his faith in end-users. Ricciciello didn’t sugar coat his words. “Consumers won’t pay for crap. Bad entertainment simply will not prevail”.

Only time will tell about social games, but in the meantime, I personally agree and would like to stop receiving Vampire requests on Facebook. Although some press outlets have dubbed this the end of an era, Ricciciello concluded by saying “the gaming industry is alive and well. It’s growing, it’s expanding everyday”.


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