Exclusive: A Frank chat with EA's Gibeau

The publisher's Labels president looks to the future...

Electronic Arts Labels boss Frank Gibeau has command over some of the most lucrative and popular games franchises in the world.

EA's Frank Gibeau

But as he explained in our extensive E3 2012 interview, he has to be selective about which ones he chooses to revive and which classics need to stay in the vault for a bit longer.

EA's showcase at E3 was short on big surprises, with the publisher instead highlighting its roster of trusted franchises - and the likes of Medal of Honor: Warfighter, Need for Speed Most Wanted and Dead Space 3 will likely be high up many of the CVG readers' wish lists.

Gibeau met with CVG to explain further the publisher's wider platform and software strategies. Part one of our interview is found below, with the second half arriving in the coming days.

How would you best describe EA's 2012 line-up?Our line-up this fall is built around some big blockbusters. The first one I'd like to talk about is FIFA 13. Obviously we had a great year last year and now we're going to top that by bringing out even more connected gameplay with other devices. Within the game we're remaking a lot of gameplay components like how you space attacks and lots of different AI.

Dead Space 3

So we're very excited with FIFA and Madden Football for the American market is getting a total makeover in terms of its physics. We're taking a lot of learning from FIFA actually and applying it to Madden. In Sports we also announced the licensing with the UFC. There's no product for this fall but we're very excited - that's big news for us. Obviously hockey and other sports are also going to be very good this year.

On the Games side we're very excited about Criterion's take on Need for Speed Most Wanted. It's totally online designed and takes Autolog, which we introduced in Hot Pursuit a few years ago, to a new level. Criterion makes spectacular driving games thanks to their Burnout heritage, and they've brought all that goodness to Need for Speed.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter is our big shooter this fall. It's really a different take on the category than what you've seen in Battlefield. It's basically built in conjunction with SAS and Navy Seal guys, so it's probably the most authentic shooter ever made. It really puts you into the situations that they find themselves in and its whole point is to try and get across that authenticity. It's got nice presentation and is positioning against where Call of Duty's going and where Halo is right now.

Sim City in Q4 is a big launch for us, along with Dead Space 3 and Crysis 3. So it's a pretty broad line-up on the console side and of course we have our social and mobile businesses, plus our play for free businesses on PC which are growing.

It's a robust line-up and in our opinion reflective of the prominence of third-party games this year over platform holder exclusives. Do you think it's fair to say the spotlight's moved in 2012 to highlight publishers such as yourselves?I think there's a lot of diversity coming from third-parties right now. When you get this far into a cycle - and we're in our sixth year - there's a lot of innovation that's happening within franchises. There aren't as many new IP releases just because of the nature of the market right now - it's much more about the big brands.

But in general I think Ubisoft's had a good E3 - they're showing some interesting and really innovative stuff and I think we've had a good show too. First-party is focussed on some hardware stuff that's going on right now like the Wii U, plus some other stuff that isn't being talked about at the show coming from the other guys.

But in general Halo 4 is a big release from Microsoft - that's big news for them. But I really like what our line-up is doing this year.

Has this been an E3 very much representative of a console cycle coming to an end?

Criterion's NFS Most Wanted

It's fairly natural, like with the PS2 to PS3 transition, and PSOne to PS2, that year before the big change. And the Wii U is really just the first opening act of the next-gen cycle shift. It doesn't mean the PS3 or 360 are going away; they're going to do really nice business because there's tens of millions of customers playing these things.

You're only really getting half a show this year. You're getting Wii U but you're not getting the other half of the story so it's a bit awkward. Within that context I think a lot of the third-parties definitely stand out and command more of the spotlight because it's a clear and more broad-based message.

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