EA studios 'hunger' to start using generative AI 'as quickly as possible,' says CEO

 Image of a soldier in Battlefield 2042.
(Image credit: EA)

A month ago we reported that EA CEO Andrew Wilson is champing at the bit to increase the efficiency of EA's studios using generative AI tools, and he returned to the topic this week on a call with investors, saying that EA's developers themselves have a "hunger" to put AI to work on their projects.

"We've done analysis across all of our development processes, and right now, based on our early assessment, we believe that more than 50% of our development processes will be positively impacted by the advances in generative AI," said Wilson in response to a question about the technology. "And we've got teams across the company really looking to execute against that."

Wilson thinks that, with 40 years worth of proprietary data to "feed into" generative AI models (in some unspecified way), EA will increase efficiency over the next three years, and within five years or sooner, take things further by using AI and those efficiency gains to build "bigger worlds with more characters and more interesting storylines."

"And I would tell you, there's a real hunger amongst our developers to get to this as quickly as possible," said Wilson, "because, again, the holy grail for us is to build bigger, more innovative, more creative, more fun games more quickly so that we can entertain more people around the world on a global basis at a faster rate."

It was, of course, just a couple years ago that we were hearing from games industry execs about the great potential of the blockchain and the "metaverse"—not so much anymore. For his part, Wilson didn't go as all-in on crypto as some of his peers, calling NFTs "an important part of the future of our industry" and then later saying that "collectibility" in general is what's important. Still, it bears repeating that executives are prone to overexcitement about tech they can hold up as a new magic bullet—or "holy grail," as Wilson put it.

Generative AI use genuinely is spreading through the games industry, though. Earlier this year, the Game Developers Conference published the results of a survey which indicated that 31% of game developers already use generative AI. AI tools are mostly used for business, marketing, and management purposes, but 25% said their studios involved generative AI in programming, and 21% said it was used in game design at their company.

Despite its growing acceptance by studio managers, most individual game developers are concerned about the ethics of using generative AI: 42% of the GDC survey's respondents said they were  "very concerned" about the issue, another 42% said they were "somewhat concerned," and only 12% said they weren't concerned at all.

To some degree, Wilson is probably referring to AI tools that are less sensational and controversial than voice and image generators, which have been accused of simultaneously stealing from and replacing or devaluing creative work. Some developers are, for instance, using AI to automate more tedious tasks like rigging 3D models. His predictions go far beyond efficiency gains, though: Wilson said last month that he foresees generative AI not just being an internal development tool, but also something that'll be used by "three billion players around the world" to create their own EA game content. He restated that outlook this week.

"And perhaps on a five-year-plus time horizon," said Wilson, "we think about how do we take all of those tools we create and offer those to the community at large so that we can actually get new and interesting and innovative and different types of game experiences, again, not to replace what we do but to augment, enhance, extend, expand the nature of what interactive entertainment can be in much the way YouTube did for traditional film and television."

I think machine learning does have more transformative potential than the blockchain stuff ever did, but I don't have the confidence a games industry exec does to claim to know when and in what way it'll bear out. One thing I wonder is how much joy players will actually find in using or interacting with generative AI. Already, it seems like the novelty has worn off AI image generators: You don't see so many 'I asked an AI what such-and-such looks like' posts going viral anymore. Now it seems like they're just being used to cut corners, make propaganda photos, and trick Facebook scrollers into saying "wow!" under fake interior design pictures.

In related news, Wilson also said during this week's investors call that the next Battlefield game will be a "tremendous live service." 

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.