Electronic Arts is already one of the largest publishers in the world, but EA CEO Andrew Wilson believes the company still has the potential for start-up-like growth ahead of it.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia + Technology Conference today, Wilson detailed the company’s strategy for achieving this, and it starts with its big franchises getting bigger.
“If you fast forward ten years, there’s probably going to be – I don’t know, a dozen, maybe two dozen of these massive communities,” Wilson said. “They’re 100 or 200 million-plus communities; there can only be so many.
“We are very blessed in that we have FC, we have Madden, we have Battlefield, we have The Sims, we have Apex, we’re building out Skate. So we’re going to disproportionately invest in IP as a platform and really creating the new world that is the flywheel of engagement. 50 years ago, it was about cruise lines and hotels. Today it’s about Play, Watch, Create, Connect around these massive online communities in the context of these extraordinary IP.”
“50 years ago, it was about cruise lines and hotels. Today it’s about Play, Watch, Create, Connect around these massive online communities in the context of these extraordinary IP”
Wilson was particularly upbeat about the potential for the FIFA franchise as it switches over to new branding with the launch of EA Sports FC 24 later this month, a switch he expects won’t even interrupt the series’ stride.
“It doesn’t take anything away from the game,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t take anything away from the community, but it actually allows us to do more in the game, both in the game and beyond the game. It allows us to work with more commercial partners, both in the game and beyond the game. It allows us to branch into things that aren’t even game-related but are tied to football fandom globally. And it allows us to move unbelievably fast.
“Not to say anything about the previous name and the purveyors of that name, but it just moves slow. Anyone that’s worked with sports governing bodies knows that sometimes it can go really slow. And there’s good reasons for it; everyone’s protecting brands and names and what have you. But we wanted to move fast.”
As for how a franchise as big as FIFA can be expected to grow larger still, Wilson noted that FIFA 23 grew the franchise in North America by 50%. He also noted the arrival of star player Lionel Messi in the US-based MLS last month and North America hosting the 2026 World Cup.
“The opportunity just in this country for football is extraordinary,” Wilson said. “Then you think about what’s happening in the Middle East, and what’s happening in Asia around football.
“Even if we had zero growth anywhere else in our business, that business – which has been growing at 20% year-over-year – I think is poised to accelerate well beyond it. That business could very well double in the next five years without too much work from us just because of the momentum we have, the market share we have, and the growth and passion of that sport.”
“[EA Sports FC] could very well double in the next five years without too much work from us…”
He added that the publisher is spending more on marketing EA Sports FC this year than it normally would – more than he believes it needs to, in fact – just because they didn’t want to take any risks with the brand change-over.
“The engagement in FIFA 23 has been off the charts,” Wilson added. “So our ability to speak to them and work with them and communicate with them about what’s coming is greater than it’s ever been because the engagement is higher than it’s ever been. We’ve sold more of FIFA 23 than any other FIFA before, and they’re playing for longer and more deeply than they ever have before.”
As for American football, Wilson noted the company’s forthcoming return to college football games could help bolster the community around the sport.
“Anybody who follows football in this country knows the power of the NFL and college football together is incredible,” Wilson said. “And the fact that we can feed fandom from one into the other and vice versa, and build a global community around that.”
He was similarly optimistic for other “core offerings” like The Sims, Apex Legends, and Battlefield, which EA plans to relaunch soon.
“We employed a leadership group from our competitor who had basically rearchitected how that competitor went to market and they’re rebuilding Battlefield for the future,” Wilson said. “I’m unbelievably excited for that.”
Supplementing those will be a group of “blockbuster storytelling” efforts like Dragon Age and the company’s games based on Marvel and Star Wars.
“I think the combination of existing live services growth, some new product offerings in the context of blockbuster storytelling and how we reinvent blockbuster storytelling for this new audience, and how we harness and amplify and monetize the value of that engagement beyond the bounds of our games, we think we’re in incredible position to grow in the long term,” Wilson said.
“I do think the likes of The Sims and Apex and Battlefield will spawn universes and ecosystems in the same way Star Wars and Marvel have”
When asked about the “duration” of these franchises, Wilson suggested that they don’t need the same kind of rest that even popular film franchises like James Bond or Mission Impossible seem to benefit from.
“What we’re discovering is the combination of interactivity and social interaction means this becomes – I don’t want to say a utility in people’s lives – but it is the central strand of DNA of how they fulfill their entertainment needs and how they engage most deeply with their friends and family, whether they live in the same house or live across the world,” Wilson said. “And as yet, we haven’t even reached close to what we think is the end of these incredible IP. And as we think about building these out over time and expanding what they do for people and what they mean for people, we think there’s exponential growth opportunity for us as a result of that.
“We’ve been in football now for 30 years. We’ll be in it for another 30 at least. I do think the likes of The Sims and Apex and Battlefield will spawn universes and ecosystems in the same way Star Wars and Marvel have. I do believe that’s going to happen, and it’s not hard to get there when you think there’s 170 or 200 million people engaging with it daily.”
While Wilson was unreservedly upbeat about most of the business, he did acknowledge the company’s mobile acquisitions hadn’t gone exactly according to plan.
“We feel good about those acquisitions,” he said. “I don’t think they’ve worked out as well as we would have hoped. Some things happened in the mobile ecosystem that changed our [outlook] on that a bit.”
Even so, he did believe that Glu Mobile added to the company’s “lifestyle community” presence that it had thanks to The Sims, while the acquisition of Golf Clash studio Playdemic is expected to provide value over time.
Similarly, both deals brought “analytics and ad monetization stuff” EA had previously lacked that will likewise surface value over the long run.