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Social compulsion loops = big bucks

Put control in the hands of the consumer, says EA’s Andrew Wilson.
You need to embrace change and keep up with the needs of the consumers, EA Sports Senior VP Andrew Wilson told games developers at Evolve in Brighton today. Wilson stated that, because EA had kept speed with a changing marketplace, they are well on the way to realising their 3-year plan to become the leading provider of digital games.
Currently EA are the number one publisher (by sales) on mobile and tablet devices, number one in social PC gaming (thanks to the success of their Pogo platform) and they are number two in social gaming (Wilson said that their purchase of PopCap should help push them to number one).
By comparing EA’s outlook to the constantly evolving business plans of Netflix and Amazon, Wilson explained that it’s vital for digital games should exist on ‘multiple platforms’, they should be ‘socially engaging’ and they should be ‘persistant and have a strong presense.’ 
Wilson went on to highlight examples from the EA Sports catalogue that hit the above three points. Madden for example, is available on almost all platforms, it’s socially engaging through its multiplayer and it has a persistant presence thanks to the use of a single EA id across all games and all platforms; allowing players you to track stats, friends etc.
The conversation moved on to FIFA 12’s new EA Sports Football Club feature and how it will enhance, diversify and improve the social experience by ramping up the ‘persistant’ features by taking advantage of the ‘fastest growing sector in gaming’ namely, DLC.
Apparently, by having these ‘live’ experiences that track themselves across all platforms via the same identity, something called a’social compulsion loop’ is created, says Wilson. This is the latest buzz-phrase to be associated with the fact that many players of socially complex games feel a need (rather than a want) to display their progress and compare it against their friends.
Cue a lot of talk about how EA Sports Football Club creates this loop and a video for ‘EA Sports EXP’ – a system that tracks your achievements and level across all EA Sports games. It actually looked rather cool.
“Unless you use technology to take the consumer with you, the consumer will use the technology against you,” said Wilson. Amen to that. Someone should have warned Sony…
Finally, Wilson said that these changes have happened and are continuing to happen so developers need to design games with these things in mind right now, taking it into account tomorrow will be too late. Tomorrow they’ll be a new buzz-phrase to try and capture.
So, there you have it. Focus on social elements and DLC and you’ve got a winner.
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