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EA Sports VP: FIFA 12 is our crown jewel

Wilson says company's zillion-selling football game is "pioneering new ground"

Time was if you asked an EA Sports exec what the main game in his portfolio was, you'd get a nervous smile and an on-the-fence answer along the lines of "all of them".

Not senior VP of worldwide development Andrew Wilson, however, who's confirmed to CVG that "if we look to the future the one thing that absolutely drives us forward is FIFA".

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"I love all of our children, and you're not allowed to have any favourites as a parent," elaborated the man also in direct charge of franchises like Madden, NHL, Tiger Woods and Fight Night, "but what [EA Canada] doing with controls, and with physics, and with tactics, is amazing.

"Then when you look at the way users watch media together, interact with each other on Facebook, and across platforms, FIFA is leading the charge there as well. I don't think our other games are far behind, but FIFA is certainly pioneering a lot of new ground for us."

One of those methods of pioneering is EA Sports Football Club, a new online means of keeping FIFA players connected to those on their friends list - and fans of the same real-life football team - 24/7, to share achievements and set up matches. It seems to be a natural fit for the oft-rumoured but as yet unconfirmed EA subscription service, and while it'll be a free extension to FIFA 12, Wilson doesn't rule out the idea of a paid-for alternative further ahead:

"As you'll have seen at the press conference, our focus this year is to turn every game that we make into a live service. We want to move away from the idea that what you get on the disc is what you play for an entire year, because our gamers are saying is "we want more of this great experience". What you saw with EA Sports Football Club is delivering a live service, a connection to your club, a connection to the game, a level that you build around yourself based on [all that]. Once we get that then we can start to think about the future."

Again with an eye on the future, Wilson is more committal on the possibility of a return of more casual games to the EA Sports range - perhaps even a comeback for FIFA Street or NFL Arcade. "We just did some great stuff with NBA Jam and that was very well received, and there's absolutely a place in our portfolio for those types of products. We're at a point where we have a much more direct relationship with our consumer than ever before, and we work very closely with them on what they want to play. So we'll talk to them about whether it makes sense for an arcade soccer or (American) football title, because there's absolutely a place for them in our portfolio - at the point that people want to play them."

And yes, after many years away, there may yet be a place for the return of rugby or cricket to EA's sporting empire - but only if the company can get recreate those sports in virtual form to the same level of authenticity as FIFA and Madden. "I've been on this rugby and cricket journey for the 11 years I've worked at EA, and in all honesty I actually think things are starting to shift," reveals Wilson. "I built the early rugby and cricket games with about $200,000 total development budget - some would argue they could tell! - because I wanted to build rugby and cricket games for an audience of my friends who wanted to play them. But I think the expectations are much higher today, and rightly so. We want to make sure we can deliver great games, and I just don't think we're in the right place for that today."

The message then: by all means be hopeful, but don't hold your breath.

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