For EA, Nintendo's Wii U just isn't a priority

While EA says it maintains a "great relationship" with Nintendo, the company has opted to focus on the other next-generation consoles at this year's E3.

EA's E3 press conference at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Josh Miller/CNET

LOS ANGELES -- To Electronic Arts, Nintendo's Wii U console plays second fiddle to some of the faster-growing areas in the video game business.

That includes the other next-generation consoles, Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4, as well as the current-generation systems and mobile devices, according to Frank Gibeau, head of labels at EA.

"I think it's fair to characterize that Xbox One, PS4, and mobile are the highest growth platforms that we're looking at right now," Gibeau said in an interview with CNET on Monday.

EA would rather invest in those faster-growing areas than on the Wii U.

"We really have finite sources for talent," he said.

Nintendo has a bad run, with poor sales, slumping profits, and a lackluster reaction to the Wii U, a "next-generation console" that has so far disappointed consumers and investors alike.

Gibeau did tout the four titles EA has previously launched for the Wii U, including Mass Effect 3, Fifa, Madden, and Need for Speed, which was released in the first quarter.

EA isn't the only company to ease off its support for Nintendo's latest console. Take Two's 2K Sports confirmed that its latest NBA game, the well-regarded NBA 2K14, wouldn't be coming to the Wii U . The company said it has opted to skip the console this year.

Gibeau declined to comment on recent issues regarding the potential venue and schedule changes says, saying that the company would wait for Microsoft and Sony to set the law down. Microsoft has gotten into hot water by mandating an online connection once a day, and has given little clarity about used games, throwing the blame back at the publishers.

Following the interview, Sony said at its E3 press conference that it wouldn't restrict used games and wouldn't require an Internet connection for the console.

Frank Gibeau, head of EA's label business. Josh Miller/CNET

Gibeau also addressed the continued animosity over Origin, noting that the company views it as a success, with 25 million to 30 million installations.

"It's definitely a strong and growing PC platform," he said.

Gibeau, however, conceded there were mistakes in early in the life of Origin, but a lot of that has faded.

"Do we think we have the perfect user experience with Origin? No," Gibeau said. "But we're always going to listen to the customer, and the beauty is we can constantly improve it."

EA has also spent the last few years trimming down its new game releases in a strategy Gibeau called "Fewer, bigger, better." The result is a top-tier game like "Titanfall," a futuristic shooter that has the makings of becoming a hit. The company also introduced "Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare," a dead-on parody of the "Call of Duty" franchise.

EA's Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. Josh Miller/CNET

One franchise EA is getting back into is professional basketball. The company had pulled its NBA Live game a few years back when it would look like Take-Two's NBA 2K series would dominate. The game was critically praised and sold extremely well, which made it tough for Gibeau and his team.

"There is a competitor there we respect greatly in 2K Sports," he said. "If you're going to take on a 900-pound gorilla like that, you better have a really good product and a really good idea for how to be different and fresh."

The move to next-generation gaming gives EA the opportunity to get the NBA Live franchise up and running again.

When discussing next-generation games, EA, like many in the industry, wanted to move away from talking about superior graphics. Instead, the company focused on creating more lively environments, allowing for the better use of peripheral devices such as the tablet, and making use of the connected vehicle. Gibeau said the changes add to the game depth.

"It's not about better graphics -- that's definitely going to be there -- but about richer, more alive worlds," he said.

 

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