Todd Sitrin – EA Competitive Gaming – Our games should be as fun to watch as they are to play

Todd Sitrin, EA

Todd Sitrin is the SVP and GM of the EA Competitive Gaming Division. An advisor to the upcoming Esports BAR (February 12-14 2018), the ‘World’s Esports Business Arena’ in Cannes of which we’re a Key Content Partner, we caught up with him to discuss this, as well as plans for the new seasons for both FIFA 18 and Madden NFL 18. 

Esports Insider: The format for FIFA esports’ main competition has been changed for this coming season, with the introduction of the FIFA eWorld Cup. What was the thinking behind this?

Todd Sitrin: We fostered incredible competition with the FIFA 17 Ultimate Team Championship Series last year as millions competed in pursuit of the FIFA Interactive World Cup. It was a landmark achievement for a competitive gaming ecosystem in its first year.

“Unifying all football competitions under one global series was key to our strategy”

Entering year two, it is our top priority to exponentially expand the global competitive ecosystem to reach even more players. Unifying all football competitions under one global series was key to our strategy.  Through our intrinsic partnership with FIFA the organization, the EA SPORTS FIFA 18 Global Series will enable millions to join The Road to the eWorld Cup. This global ecosystem is comparable in scale to the top MOBAs in esports and it is the logical next step for moving competitive FIFA into the mainstream.

Considering this is a World Cup year, the time to rapidly accelerate is now.  

ESI: Can you reveal any more about the ‘league partner’ and qualifying competitions, and the licensed qualifying competitions, or when can we expect to learn more about these?

Todd: One outcome of our last year’s competitive series is that we received a tremendous number of requests from football leagues and other 3rd parties to partner on FIFA 18 tournaments this year.

Partners want to get in early on the fast-growing FIFA competitive gaming ecosystem and to be part of the world’s most popular sport.  We will be announcing the official league partner competitions as well as 3rd party competitions that feed into the global EA SPORTS FIFA 18 Global Series very soon.

ESI: Away from FIFA, and over to Madden. With NBA 2K making a big splash with its inaugural league and reportedly lots of plans for brand activations, how will you be competing with the Madden 18 Championship Series?

Todd: Firstly, we’re looking forward to seeing the NBA 2K eLeague. Success across the industry is beneficial for all players.

“We received a tremendous number of requests from football leagues and other 3rd parties to partner on FIFA 18 tournaments this year”

In August we announced the first-ever Madden NFL 18 Club Championship in close partnership with the NFL. This landmark competitive gaming event is underway now and involves the entire NFL – all 32 team – as millions compete to be the official representative of their favorite club.

No traditional North American sports league has ever committed all franchises to competitive gaming in this capacity and if you’re a NFL fan, you now have a new way to root for, support and connect with your favorite team. The Madden NFL 18 Club Championship is poised to quickly grow the community by connecting NFL fans to Madden through this uniquely engaging experience.  

After months of competition to locate the official 32 representatives, the Madden NFL Club Championship will pit the players, one per team, against each other at the NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando this January. From there, the final four will advance to compete at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis – there, one will lead their favorite NFL team to a championship through Madden NFL.

ESI: With the Olympics being mentioned in connection with esports a lot lately, what are your thoughts here? After all sports simulation games are perhaps a more natural fit for the IOC…

Todd: The mere fact that we are talking about the Olympics and competitive gaming is a great sign of how far the industry has come.

“We’re watching closely and would love to see competitive gaming featured at the Olympics”

We’re watching closely and would love to see competitive gaming featured at the Olympics. We are also heavily intrigued by the medal competitions at the 2022 Asian Games and believe global competitions on the world stage moves the industry forward.

ESI: Have things changed much at EA Sports since Peter Moore’s departure? What are the objectives for the remainder of 2018?

Todd: Our vision has remained since we founded the EA Competitive Gaming Division (CGD) in December 2015. That vision is to ‘Make Stars of All Our Players’ by creating a global ecosystem of competitive gaming accessible to as many players as possible.

“For spectators, we are focused on building a more watchable broadcast that more deeply engages viewers. Our games should be as fun to watch as they are to play”

In 2018 we accelerate our efforts to deliver on this vision.  We want to further our engagement with both game players and spectators.  This means turning more people into game players and having them play our games longer. For spectators, we are focused on building a more watchable broadcast that more deeply engages viewers.  Our games should be as fun to watch as they are to play.  

And we want to get that broadcast in front of as many people as we can via both digital and linear TV distribution deals.  2018 will also be the year we introduce our Battlefield Competitive Gaming, our first non-sports competitive product.

ESI: You’re on the board of advisors for the Esports BAR which is stepping it up a gear for its events in 2018. Can you tell us why you’re involved and what you’re looking forward to at the February Cannes edition?

Todd: The esports industry is rapidly expanding with new entrants joining every few months.

“The Esports BAR is a catalyst to creating these crucial partnerships”

Esports will grow faster through partnerships.  The Esports BAR is a catalyst to creating these crucial partnerships.  I joined the board of advisors because I’m committed to helping the industry grow.  In February, I’m most excited to meet new companies and explore ways in which we can partner to bring esports to a mass audience.

Disclaimer: Esports Insider is a Key Content Partner of the Esports BAR Cannes