Electronic Arts plans to expand its sports games over the next five years, aiming to reach a global audience of 500 million players, according to EA Sports general manager Daryl Holt.
Speaking to Axios, Holt said the company plans to expand with "new business models, new geographies" as it works toward that goal. EA's plans include moving back into golf, college football, baseball, and, using recent acquisition Codemasters, to expand into Formula One. It will also continue to push its American football (Madden NFL), soccer (FIFA), hockey (NHL) and UFC titles.
Holt says EA is working on some non-mobile basketball projects, but an official return to the sport is still a ways away. The NBA Live mobile game will remain its only basketball offering for now.
One cornerstone of EA's strategy is an emphasis on the social links between players. "We're creating very much a social aspect and social networks within our games," Holt said. Specifics of that part of the plan remain under wraps.
Holt said EA's sports games will likely remain on the yearly release schedule they've employed so far, but that the company is keenly aware of the ongoing shift toward games-as-service titles.
"I think it is an evolution that is happening around the gaming industry in different ways," Holt said. "How we unlock the big beat of sports into that type of a service, I think we'll see over the course of the future."
EA has long relied on its yearly sports franchise releases as a foundation for its business, but the live service model has hastened the already growing franchise fatigue effect, and in many ways seems a better fit for a game like FIFA.
The yearly iterations of FIFA rarely make meaningful changes to the game. The most players expect year to year are slightly improved graphics, some new music, a couple of largely unimportant gameplay changes, and a stats refresh. Live service would streamline the process, making things more straightforward and accessible for new players. After all, much of FIFA's revenue comes from its already extant microtransactions. EA could easily lean into that aspect and keep its sports games alive through cards and packs.
EA has been lucky in that no one has managed to muscle into its sports territory with a strong live service offering, but that won't last forever, and EA can surely sense which way the wind blows. If a live service version of FIFA or Madden appears in the near future, don't be surprised.