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EA chief lays out three-year plan, wants a 'player-first culture'

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Next week, Andrew Wilson will celebrate his first year as CEO of Electronic Arts, the company where he has worked for 14 years. So, how's he doing?

"I still have a job," he jokes. "Which is an accomplishment in itself."

Speaking at the GamesBeat Conference in San Francisco this morning, Wilson told an assembly of business-orientated attendees about the changes he says he's bringing to EA, a company that has dominated third party video games publishing for years, and which attracts no shortage of critics among games players.

Wilson talks in video game industry-ese, a language peculiar to execs and analysts. Phrases like "the modalities of play" and "immersion is the real delivery" abound. Still, it's obvious that he has a plan, which he said comes down to three things, which he plans to see come into fruition over a three-year period.

Dragon Age Inquisition Image: BioWare/EA

"The first is to re-establish a player-first culture in the company," he said, suggesting that it was something EA has lost over the years. "The focus is on the player and the people enjoying the entertainment you produce. That is the most important thing and I want to get back to that."

He said the second prong is digital, which will surprise few people, as his company watches traditional retail revenues tail off, while sales — particularly DLC sales through stuff like Ultimate Teams — soars.

Lastly, there's an internal matter. EA is a big company, traditionally divided according to expertise such as development, sales and marketing. He says that he wants to strip down the silos. "Every person at EA has to accept responsibility for deepening and nurturing the relationship with the player."

Wilson talked about the importance of originality in creating games. "The first question we ask is 'What are we doing that is new?'" He said that Battlefield: Hardline was delayed in order to create something in the game that innovated on its basic premise, armed cops and robbers fighting in urban environments.

He added that "polish" is also a factor in achieving the company's goals for providing games that hit high review marks. "Polish is the absence of things that might detract from a good experience," he said, adding that Dragon Age: Inquisition had been delayed for a few weeks, earlier this year, in order to iron out bugs.

Wilson said that consumers can only be happy if they receive more than they pay for. "When they give you $20 for something, they expect something that is worth more than $20 in return. You always have to get to the point where they feel like what they get in return is greater than what they put in."