CEO of Electronic Arts, Andrew Wilson, has joined CNBC business news program, Squawk Alley on 13 October to discuss the company’s latest games and increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CNBC host, Julia Boorstin has asked Andrew some questions regarding the EA games and the FIFA franchise. Here we have the interview video and the transcript.
Julia Boorstin: So Andrew, you just launched FIFA 21, a record of 3.6 million players at launch, that was on Friday, give us an update on how the game has done since launch, where are you now?
Andrew Wilson: Well, let me tell you, I think that the the game is doing really well, I continue to be amazed by what our teams are able to do during this lockdown. You know through the last six months we’ve launched UFC, Madden, Star Wars Squadrons, 200 live updates to our live services nearly doubled our esports programming and now we’ve launched FIFA 21 and the team has done a spectacular job with the game and as you just said, demand coming out of the gate was really really strong and continues to be really high. We are reaching daily active user records and engagement with the game overall, so I’m really proud of what the team has done and really excited to see people using games to kind of come together at this time, where they are still for the most part around the world apart.
Julia Boorstin: But any specific updates on FIFA’s numbers in those first five days or so?
Andrew Wilson: Well, I mean you talked about the ones out of the gate and I would tell you that engagement is up nearly 20% year over year across the board. We are reaching daily active user records and feeling really good about where the game is going.
Julia Boorstin: Tell me how much you think these trends you’re seeing are a result of COVID-19. How much has user engagement changed over the past six months and how much do you think these trends are sustainable?
Andrew Wilson: Well, I think before COVID pandemic, we’d seen two fundamental secular trends, one was that social interaction was moving from physical to digital and two the consumption of sport and entertainment was moving from linear to interactive so we’d already started to see those trends and what we’ve seen is COVID accelerate them and more people have come into our games more and more people are using our games to connect more and more people are using our games to enjoy the things they love like sport at a time where some of those things in their traditional forms weren’t available as we look at where we’re at, now again you I talk about how many games we’ve launched and the lift that we’ve had tens of millions of people kind of come into our network during COVID-19.
That adds to the hundreds of millions of people that we already had and we’re seeing them engage deeply in the new games that we’re playing even as parts of the world are kind of moving past COVID right now. So our expectation is that this growth wasn’t unnatural but really just an acceleration of a trend that we had already started to see pre-COVID and we are excited by what we’re gonna be able to do for players you know as we move through this.
Julia Boorstin: But Andrew, as you look at this granular data from countries around the world in the markets where things are starting to go to open up as people start to have live sports to watch and as people can leave the house more to go out to restaurants and do other things, are you seeing that engagement drop or is this a permanent addition of new users or is this more of a fluctuation due to the fact that people were stuck at home?
Andrew Wilson: I think it’s still early for us to tell because we are in this very acute phase of the transition from a kind of a total and complete lockdown to kind of a varied lockdown rate in different parts of the world, but again I would point to what’s happened with our games that the the last season of Apex Legends was the biggest season since launch. Madden last year had a record year the biggest year ever in the Madden franchise was last year’s Madden and we are up 20% year over year this year. FIFA last year was a record and we were up across the board in engagement in that game. UFC that we launched you know even as the UFC was you know back holding events both in Vegas and Fight Island, they were doing a great job of delivering sports to fans. You know we saw our UFC game respond significantly better than the last game and both unit sales and engagement were up versus where we were in the last game. So our anticipation now is that what’s happened is that games are even more becoming an essential point of people’s digital lives, they become a central point of how they connect with their friends and they’re becoming a central point of how they consume sports more broadly um and that we believe will continue to grow even as sports come back online.