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INTERVIEW: FIFA Producer Garreth Reeder on data analytics in games

INTERVIEW: FIFA Producer Garreth Reeder on data analytics in games

As the marketing for FIFA ramps up, EA rented out a skybox at the Allianz stadium for one more event.

MCV took the opportunity to speak to Garreth Reeder, Producer on FIFA 13 about the under-the-hood aspects of developing the yearly franchise.

You joined FIFA two years ago, coming from over six years in other EA Sports games. What was it like jumping into the franchise at that late stage?

When I came in at the beginning of FIFA 12, FIFA 11 was a huge game and a huge success. There was me and a few other people that came in. We saw that success, but we also saw a lot of room for improvement with features, content etc, and saw 12 as the first all-encompassing game which had the gameplay and all the online features, and was just starting to get that real-world connection with live updates for challenges and scenarios. This year, everything’s just at that next level.

But for me, coming into FIFA, what was great was that they really pioneered a lot of the things you see in big games now in terms of having a dedicated team to manage live issues as they’re happening in the real world, managing the community feedback, and there’s a separate group which is just looking at the FIFA servers and maintaining that all the time. Meanwhile, there’s another group which is just doing the data collection on the players, who’s in form, who’s out of form etc.

How has game development in general changed since you started working on making them?

In the past, when I started making games, you’d have your producers and your engineers and your artists and you’d make a game and then be done, then make another game and be done. Now it’s more like a service model; you’ve got groups that work on FIFA that didn’t have anything to do with the code that’s on the disk – they’re just making sure that the content and the quality is dynamic and is meeting expectations, that things that are happening in the real world are affecting the game properly.

So it’s this whole enterprise of groups and people that are making FIFA what it is year-on-year.

Does it seem antiquated, the way things used to be done?

The games I’ve been on before FIFA didn’t have all these different teams, we were just sort of learning by trial and error almost. Leadership within FIFA, if they feel like we should have an experienced person that understands a certain aspect or a certain role, we bring those people in.

We were the first to pioneer getting business analytics people to come in and look at player data.

Has social media shaped the way you use data?

We always had an understanding through our marketing departments of social media, who’s out there and how they’re responding. But now, we’ve got more data on who’s out there, what they like to play, when people buy more items, what stages of the year are more important and when we do special offers and how people are responding to those.

It’s sort of just maturing our industry from being game designers and artists and programmers into that plus analysts, server people, and just generally having more knowledge about how the game is consumed by people, and how we can do it better.

Do you think a franchise which didn’t have that year-on-year guaranteed fan base could’ve pioneered these analytics, or was that a necessary prerequisite?

I think Battlefield gets into that as well in terms of their user base and needing to respond to issues and changes all the way through the year. Any time you’re dealing with a game which migh t have DLC or expansion packs down the road, you need to put a lot of thought into what people want, how they’re using the game, what we need to focus on.

So we started doing a lot of stuff, then other teams within EA started asking us how we were doing it, who we were working with etc.

Within EA Sports or EA Games?

Both. So definitely with the Mass Effect and Battlefield teams, we’re all talking to each other about what makes sense, what’s working or not, and definitely on a sports level as well. Over the years that I’ve worked there, there’s grown a lot more cross-pollination between games and between franchises than I’ve ever seen before.

Thank you for your time.


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