Sony's press conference trouncing of rival Microsoft was a gift to the news media and to anyone who enjoys high drama. But for third party publishers like Electronic Arts, the balance of power between console manufacturers is something worth preserving.
We can't be an industry that is dominated by one manufacturer.
According to EA chief operating office Peter Moore, an overly dominant first-party power would be "terrible news for the industry". For EA, it's not enough that many consoles are bought and sold, they need to come from more than one company. Rivalry between Sony, Microsoft and (to a lesser extent) Nintendo confers power to its own bargaining position.
"The idea of two incredibly powerful and talented companies like Sony and Microsoft ... for them not to be in the boxing ring with each other slugging it out while the rest of us benefit, it's going to be bad. We can't be an industry that is simply dominated by one particular manufacturer," said Moore.
"It keeps them focused. They have to outdo each other. The amount of investment they make in our industry is important. If it's true that Microsoft has some catching up to do, having spent a lot of time in Redmond, Washington, I know what will happen up there. I can guarantee you that [Xbox supremo] Don Mattrick has the resources corralled to make that happen. [Microsoft boss] Steve Ballmer will be driving that hard from the top."
Moore speaks from experience. He launched Sega Dreamcast in the United States back in 1999, now considered by many to be a heroic failure against the immense power of Sony's PlayStation brand. And he launched Xbox 360, which vastly increased Microsoft's share of the console market, following the previously unspectacular performance of the original Xbox.
Moore told Polygon that he believes there's a long way to go before winners and losers can be declared in the next generation console race. "The dust will settle on E3." he said. "People like [the press] are going to declare winners and losers. It's just the nature of the beast. Then you have the critical period, which I've run twice. E3 is over. Now it's launch minus 122 days."
He said that first and third parties have a few months to get the launch games right, and so tempt early adopters. "It's less about what you see at first blush at E3, where you're still working in a lot of instances with alpha software, or even pre-alpha. What you're going to see at Gamescom, which I think is going to be a very important show this year. Late August, if you're not cranking on next gen in late August and that stuff isn't looking truly next gen, then you have a real issue you have to be able to deal with."
Moore said that Microsoft would draw a line under E3, and would seek to learn lessons. "Both companies are very good at reaching out to us and saying, 'What did you think?' Jack [Tretton] does that very well. Don Mattrick does that very well. We're a major third-party publisher and we're a partner. We've been around the block a lot longer, in a lot of instances, than their teams have. We've seen it from both sides. They will, I think, represent our opinion on things very aggressively in their meetings. They'll be interested in what we have to say. That'll add to their data."
I'm digging it, because now it's like, game on.
He said the console companies would look at reactions from the media, retailers, third-parties, investors and gamers. "They have to get all that data in and figure out where they go from here. That's pretty standard operating procedure when you go post-E3. You don't spend the money and not have a full official debrief when you get back. What have we learned, what do we need to do, and when do we need to do it so we get our launch right?
So, what will Moore be saying to Microsoft on Monday morning?
"Well," he said. "I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to say to Don because I can see that headline. 'Moore Says - Don, Get Your Shit Together'. That's not what I'm going to say. But I was in Don's position. They will do what they need to do. It's a very talented group of people."
He added, "I'm digging it, because now it's like, game on ... I'm a great friend and fan of what Jack does. You've got Andy House. You've got Kaz [Hirai]. That's a lot of experience at the corporate level. The same thing applies to Microsoft. You've got Don, who's been around for many years on both sides of the equation. You've got the likes of a Marc Whitten, one of the more talented individuals I've ever met in my life, doing the platform. Aaron Greenberg is their chief of staff. They've got a good group as well. I think it's great for us, quite frankly. You've got two very motivated, large, multinational, global corporations saying, 'We've gotta get this right. What is it going to take financially?' It feels good if you're sat in the middle of that."
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