Moving to Sydney from the UK, Rob Davey took up the general manager position at Electronics Arts for Australia and New Zealand in 2011. In the role mean Davey is not only in charge of overseeing EA’s operation in two territories, but also the distribution of the publisher’s titles in physical and digital outlets. Although Davey graduated from university in the UK with a degree in Biology, he admits to a passion for the games industry dating back to the ZX Spectrum. For that reason, Davey sees the current global games market being at one of the most exciting points in its relatively short history, and is excited to be a part of its development.
Before you joined EA, where did you work?
EA A/NZ general manager, Rob Davey (RD): Prior to joining EA in the UK, I worked for 16 years in the UK beer industry for the company now known as Anheuser-Busch InBev, working initially as a front line man manager in Operations, ultimately moving into Sales.
What ultimately drew you to the games space?
RD: I grew up with gaming. As a very young lad I played Pong, one of the first videogames, before getting a 48k Spectrum that at the time was unbelievably cutting edge. I subsequently owned a Sega Mega Drive and a PlayStation 2, so whilst I would never have regarded myself as a core gamer, I’ve always had a soft spot for the category. The challenge and excitement of moving to a new, fast moving category that I could personally identify with was too great an opportunity to pass by.
Does any of what you learned at your former non-gaming jobs help you today in EA?
RD: I was fortunate enough to work for a major blue chip company in the UK that supplied fast-moving consumer goods to some of the largest retailers in the country. The greatest learning point that I took me with me into my EA career is that relationships internally and externally are paramount. Ultimately, the best result for all parties is facilitated by people wanting to work with each other, understanding each other’s targets, ambitions and working collaboratively. People make things happen.
Who is your biggest inspiration in the business world and why?
RD: I guess there would be two, James Dyson and Steve Jobs. Both created huge innovation and moved the direction of their respective categories into new space. You might even argue they created the categories they exist in today. The focus, drive and ambition required to make their creativity come alive, to overcome all of the obstacles they faced, is truly inspiring.
What is it about you that you feel most people in the industry don’t know?
RD: That at the age of 44 I play Battlefield online and can hold my own against players the same age as my two daughters. [Laughs]
Many executives in the gaming industry don’t really play games, yet some still have the knack of understanding the business and the products. Do you think that makes the job easier?
RD: For me personally, having a passion about your product is key. I simply don’t think I would have the same degree of motivation if I didn’t get excited when I see internal product presentations or walk the floor at E3. Gaming is such a deep passion for many of our consumers, that being able to appreciate the role they play in peoples’ lives is important in giving us a better opportunity to deliver what it is that consumers want.
What about other executives? Do you believe they should start gaming more?
RD: Far be it from me to advise others what they should or shouldn’t be doing. [Laughs]
Several industry pundits have been talking about the popularity of the current console generation. However, as it is at the end of its cycle, there are concerns about a lack of creativity to really spark the business. Do you agree?
RD: Well, we certainly do see a slow down in new IP releases as we approach the end of hardware cycles. The fact is that the software business as it is reported is only part of the true demand that we see as one of many publishers. Consumers today are choosing to remain engaged with fewer titles, and these are titles that delivering real quality and depth of gameplay, and have an ongoing, online component. EA, for one, has evolved from delivering a day one game launch that we put on shelves until the following year, to providing year round engagement with our players for on-going offerings, game extensions, new content and new ways to play across multiple platforms. I would suggest therefore that, whilst the sheer number of titles slows down toward the end of a console generation, innovation and creativity is alive and well, but in an increasingly diverse multi-platform gaming ecosystem.
Some are also saying the longer console cycle is not helping the industry, and are instead looking forward to new consoles coming out. What are your thoughts on this?
RD: The introduction of new hardware always brings excitement to the industry, with new offerings for consumers. When and if that will happen, only time will tell.
What would you say the proudest moment of your career at EA is?
RD: There have been many, such as joining the company in the first place, becoming sales director in the UK, taking over as general manager, and moving to Sydney would all be up there. However, the moments that sit highest with me are those when good people have told me that I made a difference to them, hopefully for the better.
What's your biggest regret?
RD: Seeing some good friends in troubled times in the UK retail environment.
EA has a good range of IP, but if you had the ability to pick any IP in the industry right now to add to EA, which would it be?
RD: EA has a great portfolio, and with the likes of Battlefield 4 and UFC in the pipeline, it’s going to get stronger. What makes the industry so exciting is the creativity that comes from so many developers, large and small, which pushes the boundaries every year. I’ve always admired Bioshock and think that Borderlands is a great addition to the category.
In your opinion, what does the future of the games industry look like?
RD: My personal opinion is that we’ll see the emergence of real brands in the market, characterised by year round relevancy, visibility and support. These will be accessible across an increasing number of devices that, rather than operating in isolation, will give gamers an increasing opportunity for gameplay across their leisure time, whether this be on their PC or console at home or when on their mobile/tablet device whilst on the move.
Where do you see free-to-play fitting into all of this?
RD: Increasingly, we’ll see free-to-play entry models into franchises, which then give consumers greater scope as to how deep their gaming experience is and how much ultimately they wish to spend on that experience. Game quality will rise and rise across all models, as consumers become increasingly demanding as to what great looks and feels like. This is a challenge that all publishers need to step up to remain successful.
Want to read other video game interviews with key figures from Sony, Microsoft and more? Then check out PC World's complete interview archive.