The social games explosion caught many in the industry off-guard, with many traditional games publishers still trying to crack that nut. EA's efforts, which included the recent purchase of PopCap Games, has secured a number two position for the company. However, while CEO John Riccitiello admits they're still lagging behind the market leader, he also criticizes their data-driven, versus entertainment-driven, focus.
"The companies that are focused exclusively on social games think of themselves as data companies, analytics companies," he said. "They're not really in the entertainment business.
"When it comes to Facebook, we're number two. I'd say we're a distant number two," Riccitiello admitted to NPR. "I mean, the other guys have lapped us three times."
It's not exactly a secret that "the other guys" in this case refers to Zynga, a company that has disrupted the industry. Zynga engineers its games based on the stats it receives, and Riccitiello seems particularly critical of that approach, saying it won't work in the long-run. "I think that will eventually die. Consumers want to be entertained, they don't want to be data managed."
EA itself is investing in more engineers and data management too. The report notes that these efforts are attempting to create predictive AI that can understand what players want next from their games. Riccitiello wants EA to focus more on using these tools to hone experiences, but it does make his company share some traits with the social publishers he criticized.