@ Media & Money: EA’s Riccitiello: Last Year For ‘Offline-Only’ Games

imageThe growth of online gaming make this the last year that Electronic Arts (NSDQ: ERTS) will produce offline-only games, said CEO John Riccitiello, speaking in a Q&A at the Dow Jones/Nielsen Media and Money Conference. He sees the growth of gaming constrained mostly by piracy and the difficulties in getting in-game ads right. “Those areas have a lot of hurdles and they aren’t small hurdles either.”

On DRM: In September, EA lifted some of the DRM protections on its popular release Spore after players began posting complaints on Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) and other sites. Riccitiello said he felt the controversy was blown out of proportion, but he does acknowledge the inconvenience to users that DRM creates. “We’re still working out the kinks. We implemented a form of DRM and it’s something that 99.8 percent of users wouldn’t notice. But for the other .2 percent, it became an issue and a number of them launched a cabal online to protest against it. I personally don’t like DRM. It interrupts the user experience. We would like to get around that. But there is this problem called piracy out there.”

On in-game ads: Asked what sort of advertisers EA likes to work with for its in-game ads, Riccitiello said, “We would partner with anyone who writes a check.” But in-game ads, while lucrative, still represents relatively small portion of non-traditional marketing dollars. “And there are large hurdles to doing it successfully. Some companies don’t recognize that consumers paid $60 for a game. That said, we believe in in-game ads. We just ran one for Barack Obama’s campaign, not the typical sort of ad for a game.” And with Google (NSDQ: GOOG) expanding the test of the In-Game AdSense system earlier this month, would EA be interested in participating in some way? “I always pay attention to what Google is doing. Right now, the In-Game AdSense initiative isn’t something that large. But when they want to take a meeting, we’ll be willing to listen.”

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