EA is the biggest developer and publisher of video games in the world. At the recent EA Experience held at the Hilton Towers in South Mumbai, GameGuru.in (GG) had a chat with Ajay Khanna (AK), who is the general manager for Electronic Arts (EA) in India. Here is the entire conversation:
We have also uploaded the video interview of Mr. Khanna. Make sure you check it out!
GG: Can you tell us something about yourself and EA?
AK: Hi, I am Ajay Khanna, General Manager for Electronic Arts in India. I set up the Indian wing of the company, just over a year ago and we are here to support you guys and give you more games to play. EA is actually the first Indian publisher to set up office in India. As of now, we are the only ones here and we had our games available in India for more than ten years, but with us setting up direct operations in India with a small team to provide marketing and distribution support to our partners. We hope to give you better service.
GG: That’s on the corporate side. You do have a base in Hyderabad. Do you make mobile games or are you making PC and console games. What kind of games are you developing over there, India-specific or games for the whole world.
AK: We have a mobile testing facility in Hyderabad and we started mobile game development also in the past year. But that is all they do there. We develop games for worldwide content there.
GG: Which are the best-selling PC and consoles games in India,?
AK: If you look at genres, categories, the number one genre that people play is racing games. So these are the more popular games in India. The second most popular games are casual and sports games. The third most popular games genre is first person shooters. So if you look at the games, EA makes award-winning franchises. Need for Speed is the number one racing game in India. We have a great line-up of sports games and have FIFA soccer. We have NBA Live 08, Tiger Woods, other casual games like SKATE along with the Battlefield and the Crysis franchise in first person shooters. So we do pretty well in India. We are the number one publisher here.
GG: NFS Carbon was a disaster. Critics loved it but gamers did have a different opinion. What do you have to say about that? What lessons have you learnt?
AK: Well, I think, obviously the critics have their own way of looking at games. The fact is that the games hold really well, we had a very good response from it. So from our perspective, it was a commercial success, both worldwide as well as in India. Obviously we take feedbacks seriously. So some of the comments will go back, as always, into making the next version of the game better and we take that on. I can’t tell you specifically what lessons are, but our studios basically take feedbacks from every country as to what were the pros and cons of the game. We try to incorporate some of those features into the next game.
GG: Battlefield 2142 was an excellent game but gamers had one complain. They had to go online for the campaign mode, especially gamers from countries like India, where the broadband infrastructure is not that good, would find this difficult? Will all future EA games come like that?
AK: The game was developed for the worldwide audience. So obviously, if you look at the North American market or the European market or the global market in many countries, the people actually ask for the online features and that is in fact something that gamers want more and more. So I know that in India, because of connectivity people have problems. I think it is just part of the transition. Generally speaking, you will find in all EA games, there is definitely a trend more towards having more capability, whether it is having, for example, the photo face feature, where you can create some thing and then upload it to the net or it is for example in Battlefield, where to have campaign mode or multiplayer mode, you need to go online. That is the way the trend is. So, we will follow that and hopefully we will cover the infrastructure issues.
GG: India has a lot of talent in the animation and gaming space. How come EA does not have a presence in India? You do have a presence in Canada, US and the UK.
AK: EA obviously has various global development studios. They look at various countries, where they set up studios. India clearly is one of the countries that is being studied for future potential to set up a studio. As of now, we don’t have any firm plans, but when we do have, they will have an announcement.
GG: How come EA has not come up with a console? Have you ever toyed with that idea?
AK: I guess that’s part of the business strategy that EA has had over the last fifteen years. We have always been the leading independent publisher. So we don’t make games only for one platform, we make games across platforms. In a way, it helps us to satisfy our consumers need, because whether you play on the PC, whether you play on the PlayStation or the Xbox or on the mobile phone, you can play it your way. So we are completely platform agnostic. We support all platforms. I think at this point of time we don’t have any time to build a console.
GG: What can gamers expect in the future from EA?
AK: What you have seen today is a very exciting line up of ten games that have either just been released or are in the process of being released over this festive season. This is one of our strongest lineups in many, many years. We have got four of our core franchises, Need for Speed, FIFA, NBA and Tiger Woods. We have got the Medal of Honor franchise with a new game. We have got four completely new IPs, which are SKATE, Army of Two, The Simpsons Game and Crysis and then we’ve got The Orange Box for Valve. We have got a great mix of games, casual games, we have got sporting games and we have got hardcore games from Valve like Half Life 2. We have got games for the PC platform, for the Xbox 360 platform, PS3, PS2 and the PSP. So again you have a complete choice!
GG: How come EA has not developed India specific content. Any India-based IPs in the future?
AK: Obviously we are very fortunate that the IPs that we have globally sell very well in India, because it is relevant. So you know, Need for Speed car racing is relevant to India and people love to play it. Cricket is relevant to India; soccer is relevant to India, so we are fortunate. Obviously, as we go forward in the next few years, we will try to localize the content. We don’t have any announcements at this point of time, but it is definitely an area that we will be looking at.
GG: Any festive offers by EA for the Indian gamers?
AK: We don’t have any specific promotions at this point of time. Again the fact is that over the last few weeks and in the next few weeks, you will have ten new games available. So if you are a gamer, you actually will find lots of games out there from EA that you would just love to pick up and play.
GG: Will EA be sponsoring any gaming clans in India?
AK: We have tied up to launch the FIFA Interactive World Cup, which will be coming to India in January 08. FIFA Interactive World Cup is actually the only officially sponsored FIFA acknowledged interactive gaming tournament in the world and Sony Computer Entertainment and EA will be bringing it globally as well as to India. We will be bringing it on FIFA Soccer 08 and on the PlayStation 3. The tournaments will start the Indian leg in January of 2008 and it will be run in various cities across India and from there we will be selecting one person who will be representing India at the Finals in Berlin in May 2008.
GG: Any more tournaments related to other EA games? Why hasn’t EA come up with any interactive cricket tournaments in India?
AK: We are working on a variety of plans. We don’t have any specific announcements for you at this point of time but we are looking at various things we want to do to build the excitement around gaming in India.
GG: So gamers in India can expect a cricket tournament in India?
AK: Well, I can’t commit any thing but yes we’d certainly take that.
GG: Has EA been involved with the Indian gamer community?
AK: Again what has happened is that over the last one year, since we have set up our office in India, we have really started to pick up our marketing and distribution activities. So we expanded our distribution in the last one year and three strategic partners, Excel, Milestone and Redington. We have actually started to increase our marketing activities. For example the EA Experience event is the first one that we have held in India. We will be holding a series of local marketing events as well as the FIFA Interactive World Cup, which will start in January. We are just about to start increasing the involvement we have here and I think we will see a lot more of EA in the next few months.
GG: What kind of a gamer are you?
AK: I love first person shooters. So my favorite is actually Medal of Honor. I played both on the X360 as well as the PSP handheld. So those are my two favorite platforms. I think I really love the look of Crysis, which is coming and in fact, Crysis to me is probably the reason, why I am going to go out and buy a real souped up high tech PC, with Windows Vista, the latest Core Duo chipset and a NVIDIA graphics card because that game is super.
GG: What non-EA games do you like?
AK: Ummm… What non-EA games do I like? I think, let me just think about this. I like flying games. Again, if you think of flight simulator, those are my kind of favorite games, F-22 Raptor, yeah.
GG: Thank you so much. We wish EA all the best!
AK: OK. Thank you!