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Electronic Arts talks DRM, used games and canceling online pass (correction)

At E3 today, Polygon sat down with Electronic Arts' chief operating officer Peter Moore, to ask him about the company's plans for potentially monetizing used game sales, as outlined through Microsoft's controversial opt-in system, or through Sony's statement that third-party publishers are free to choose whatever DRM systems they see fit, and which are technically feasible.

Polygon: A lot of people are talking about DRM and used games for the next-generation. You guys have been watching what has been going on with Sony and Microsoft in the last few days. First of all, what is the EA official line right now?

Peter Moore: "We're focused at this point in time in new games and our official position is, 'I'll get back to you'. Sony have announced what they are going to do which is, y'know, business as usual, and then Microsoft are looking at allowing a publisher to opt-in, should they choose to do so. But if we opt in, do [third-party publishers] charge a fee, and if so, how much? We have not internally even begun to sit down and answer those questions."

The narrative I've heard is that EA lobbied hard to have the hardware companies come up with a solution so you guys are not faffing around with online passes and you're not losing potential used game profits to retailers.

Moore: "Absolutely incorrect. As the guy who is the chief operating officer of Electronic Arts I can tell you that EA did not aggressively lobby for the platform holders to put some gating function in there to allow or disallow used games. I am on record as being a proponent of used games. I like the ecosystem. I like the fact that it's kept pricing at a good level for eight years. I like the fact that someone can buy a physical game and see some equity in that game. That keeps GameStop vibrant and they are a great launch and marketing partner for us.

"EA has never had a conversation, and I have been present at all of them, with all of the manufacturers, saying you must put a system in place that allows us to take a piece of the action or even stop it. Absolutely incorrect."

Can I take from that, that EA would be happy for the status quo to continue, as we have seen in the past generation?

Moore: "We will figure out what we need to do. I'm not trying to back-pedal but this thing just happened and we need to reconvene and hear what people think and talk to our retail partners and our first party partners. We had no idea what Sony was going to announce. We'll reconvene next week and figure it all out.

So you have never had a conversation with Jack [Tretton] where he said, 'look Peter, we're not going to do this DRM thing'. That came as much as a surprise to you as to the rest of us?

Moore: "They reserve the right, and rightly so, that they will do what they need to do. I have run two hardware launches in the Dreamcast and the Xbox 360. There's a game that goes on where you are watching what the other guy does and you move, counter-move and figure it.

"But we are completely focused on getting our games right here, watching new Battlefield 4 builds come in and getting that right and getting FIFA right and getting Madden to the next gen level and figuring out what to do with Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare and we're focused on E3."

I understand and we want to talk about the games too. But here we are at this palace of entertainment, with all these new games, and yet the conversation that is going on is about consumer rights. It's about my right to own and to resell the games that I buy.

Moore: "I think that is deep in our world. I think the broader world is saying, 'it's E3, let's see some games' and 'why should I buy a new console. Show me.' I went to see the [EA] booth and it is chaos down there and I am so proud to see 64-player Battlefield down there and a line that stretches to the back of the convention centre."

OK, but let me ask one more question on this subject...

Moore: "Go ahead, you can try it Col."

You had the Online Pass and now it's gone. The view is that you made that call because either the Online Pass was commercially marginal or you have got something else waiting to take its place.

Moore: "We cancelled Online Pass. I was at the meeting. It just wasn't resonating with the consumer. It just wasn't consumer friendly. It was hard work and it was as much work for the guy who would never trade his game in, even though we gave him some digital content, because you're punching numbers in. We just made a decision. I was the chair at the meeting. We said enough of Online Pass. Not saying, you know, it was Austin Powers type meeting of Doctor Evils saying [places pinkie finger on eyetooth, Dr. Evil-style] 'we know we can get it back down the road'. No. That was not the meeting I was in. Online Pass was more trouble to the consumer than it was worth. It was a mistake. The consumer's feedback was that this thing gets in the way of a good experience so let's get rid of it."

Correction: In a previous version of this story, at the end of Moore's answer to the first question Polygon attributed Moore's word "they" to mean Microsoft. He says he was referring to third party publishers.