INTERVIEW PART 2: Patrick Soderlund talks mods and business models

James Cullinane
INTERVIEW PART 2: Patrick Soderlund talks mods and business models

Following on from Monday's discussion of new IP, MCV talks to Patrick Soderlund about business models and modding communities.

Paying up front for boxed product is one model, but we’re also seeing more free-to-play titles, and social and mobile are booming. Do you foresee any convergences for these models in the future?

Yes, you look at our team at Criterion: they’ve announced Cloud Compete for Need For Speed: Most Wanted, meaning they have to think about all devices. They have to this about this device [iPhone], the iPad, Vita – have you played it on Vita? Go play it, it’s a stunning game – so to them, one of the benefits of EA’s five year strategy on the transition to digital (let’s not be afraid of it, let’s go there) is really starting to bear fruit now because we are used to this. It’s almost like it’s the course of business today, you just have to do it.

Business models, over the years, have come and gone. That’s just the way it is. If you look at when we started, obviously it was packaged goods. Then it was, “PC is dying” – all of a sudden PC is back. Then it was subscriptions, and now subscriptions aren’t going to work anymore. Now packaged goods are dying and free-to-play is the thing. [Next you hear] “Social games and Facebook is the only way forward” – guess that’s not the case either. “Paid mobile games is the only way!” Then, “Free mobile games is the only way!”

It changes as you go, but it comes down to one thing: consistency. Unless you’re willing to be following the stream and continuously building great content, then you’re failing. We are a company that makes games. We make entertainment, and we’re smart enough to realise that there are different business models that will change, and we’re going to employ whatever business model makes sense for us.

The only way for us to be successful is to make great games, and continue to do that. That’s all the consumer wants. They don’t tell us, “I want this business model or nothing else.” They’re going to go where the great games are.

I don’t think all games will go free-to-play. I think for us, that’s a business model. We as game makers and business executives just need to help steer in what direction each game goes.

We’ve seen a resurgence – or at least a sharp spike in awareness – around game modding – most recently the DayZ mod for Arma II, which has seen that game appear at the top of the Steam sales charts well after release. EA has also benefitted from highly popular mods in the past, such as the Desert Combat mod for Battlefield 1942. Is more support for modding something that EA is considering?

I’m a big believer in mods, because I’ve seen the benefits of it, frankly. You mentioned Desert Combat, that was just one, then Project Reality. There have been a bunch of mods that have made our games bigger, that have made people buy more games, and I love playing some of them, you know?

Do I see the value in modding? Absolutely. If you take a wider perspective, this is a talent-driven business. All that matters is the people that make the games, and the day I go away, they’ll continue to make great games. Talent is the essence of everything, and we need new ways for talent to come into our industry. Modding is a great way for people to come into our industry, to show what they can do, and to express their creative ambitions.

My only fear with modding today is that when you have something complex, for example, Battlefield 3 and the Frostbite 2 engine, that is one complex beast to work in. We don’t wish to undermine the people out there, but we think we may need to simplify what we have for people to be able to work with it to make it accessible. At the time, we decided it wasn’t the right time to do it, but it may be in the future.

Thank you for your time!

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Tags: ea , interview , Gamescom , dayz , Patrick Soderlund

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