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EA seeks gaming ubiquity across models and platforms

Electronic Arts, the 30-year old company that made its name on console games before entering the more modern, hot selling mobile gaming market, feels it makes sense to keep fielding games across all platforms and business models.  To be sure, Nick Earl, the senior vice president in charge of EA’s Global Mobile and Social Studios group, is himself partial to mobile, but he won’t write off the good, old-fashioned console games that some of us cut our teeth on either.

“I think people will snack all day [on mobile or social games] and have a full meal on the console at night,” Earl said at GigaOM’s Mobilize 2012 Conference on Thursday.  EA, in case you’re not a gamer, offers such games as Madden NFL, Resident Evil, SIMs3, and FIFA 2013.

With upwards of $4 billion in revenue, EA is in position to place many bets. But he also acknowledged that size and installed base have their downsides. For example, it took the company a long time to come around on the freemium game question. The company watched freemium model unfold for some time before making its move. “An aircraft carrier takes a long time to turn,” he said. “We were a little hesitant to wean ourselves off a great business and cut over to a new model. Face it, it’s scary.”

But the advantage can be huge. Freemium games — where people play for free and then may or may not update to paid versions or buy virtual items in the game — attract droves of new users.  And once they’re interested,  “you can monetize them from a penny a head to $10,000, $20,000, $30,000. Yes. We do have whales,” he said. Just like Las Vegas.

He remains on the fence on the value of HTML5 as a platform for gaming compared to native apps, but again, he hasn’t written it off.

It will take 12 to 18 months for HTML5 performance to get up to snuff for games in terms of performance, he said.  “Will there be a holy war between web-based gaming and mobile apps? Maybe,” he said. But again, he placed his chips on all the slots; “Maybe but we’re preparing for both.”

Check out the rest of our Mobilize 2012 coverage here, and the live stream can be found here.