Electronic Arts Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wilson engaged in a candid conversation with students of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Monday night about the future of the gaming industry and the executive’s rise to the top. The event took place in the Interactive Media Building during Professor Robert Nashak’s Business and Management of Games (CTIN 458) class, with Nashak giving Wison a brief introduction.
The Australian-born Wilson was appointed CEO of EA in September 2013 after being asked to lead the resurrection of the FIFA soccer franchise in 2006. Sales of FIFA at EA had been lagging compared to its competition and market share continued to drop until Wilson took over and implemented a new strategy.
Wilson looked for designers and developers who were passionate about soccer and the sport’s influential role internationally in order to create a game with greater value. The result was a game that has transcended the entire sports gaming industry and along the way allowed EA to obtain 95 percent market share and create 1 billion dollars a year in business for the company.
The conversation also touched on what Wilson described as the four pillars of creative leadership: having an affinity for an idea, forming a strong opinion on that idea, having the ability to turn that opinion into a vision for a better world and engaging people who will both create and buy the idea.
“If you’re unable to take the opinion and turn it into a vision for greatness, then your career will stop there,” Wilson said.
The CEO also spoke on his philosophical viewpoints of the world today which drew important parallels to not just the gaming industry but also entertainment as a whole.
“We are currently in a creative phase of humanity, where people are taking skills and utilizing them to bend rules and get outside of the parameters of what we are used to,” Wilson said. “Those who have creative sensibilities are changing the world that we live in today, for the better.”
Wilson used the WhatsApp founders and Uber’s on-demand taxi service as examples outside of gaming in which apps were created to disrupt old industries with new, creative ideas while also allowing their owners to monetize the business in the process.
Wilson also said that he sees the free-to-play gaming model as a part of the future of the industry in the United States, with this model already being utilized successfully in Korea at gaming company Nexon.
When further questioned on the business model of providing something of value for free, he noted the importance of spending time over spending money for the product.
“You will definitely need those who spend their money, but without a doubt also those who don’t spend their money [and] more importantly [spend] their time,” he said.
Though preoccupied with the responsibilities of being a CEO and the father of a 2-year-old daughter, Wilson noted he still manages to play video games once a week on a console and a mobile device to keep up with industry trends.
Nashak noted Wilson’s discussion was an influential experience for the students in attendance.
“He gave a practical and inspirational talk to our students on the future of the gaming industry,” Nashak said. “He also discussed ways games will be distributed and consumed in the future via mobile phones, laptops, traditional consoles and tablets. Students were told by a top gaming CEO to take the skills they are learning from school and enter into the gaming industry by becoming a disruptive force with fundamentally innovative ideas.”