Following an hour-long talk at the TV Connect conference in the United Kingdom, EA (opens in new tab) CCO Richard Hilleman gave his audience a lot to think about, as noted by GamesIndustry (opens in new tab) . Opining that and opined that "gaming isn't mass market yet," Hilleman outlined the concerns that need to be addressed before connected TVs can, in his mind, be seen as a top-tier gaming platform.
"We have to make sure that game companies know what a mass market really is. We're not one yet," Hilleman said in an interview after his speech. "The closest thing we've had to a mass market, frankly, has been the social and mobile spaces. From my perspective, television is the mass market and we're the fringe. The challenge in front of us is, does the customer think about it that way? Do they see us as so distinct we can't merge those two experiences?"
Hilleman stated that the gaming industry divides its markets too finely and has the tendency to "segment them into groups that are too small to be relevant." Such a division is where EA would like to step in, as television is where those customers go when they put down their phones and tablets, the gateway to vast swathes of potential new customers.
EA has recently entered the connected TV platform and begun to offer app-based content for LG and Samsung's connected TVs. "To a great extent, this has been a business where we've been watching the pieces develop," said Hilleman, citing the company's interest in the connected TV market—which could become the most valuable platform after consoles as well as an easier market to develop for than tablets and smartphones.
Hilleman also expressed mixed feelings about the idea of a subscription model and EA's involvement in such a structure. "Any subscription model that puts us in a bundle with 700 games means that we're doing all the heavy lifting," he said. "If we do a great product, and then others do 55 mediocre ones and we're all stuffed into the same bundle, good for them, but not good for me. They've cheapened my product by comparison, they've reduced the expectation of greatness in the customer, and they haven't allowed me to create unique value for that customer."
"There are places where subscriptions make sense—I'm not gonna say we'll never do that—but most of the aggregation you see today is, frankly, dumping," said Hilleman. "It's a bunch of crap... In some cases it's spectacular, but in most cases it's not."
Even with the fragmentation of the markets and the difficulties that come with this, EA does see something worth chasing. During the interview, Hilleman cited that 170 million connected televisions will be sold in China this year, roughly equivalent, he claims, to the entire installed base of the United States. "That scale has its own significance," he says. "It allows those markets to really accelerate in a way that other places can't."