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Classic Interview: Paul Jackson (Electronic Arts)

This interview appeared in the January 1994 issue of the Spanish magazine TodoSega. The conversation with Electronic Arts Vice President and Managing Director Paul Jackson centered on upcoming sports titles and the next generation of consoles.

Paul Jackson joined Electronic Arts in 1988 and opened its British office in 1993. For the next 13 years, he managed the company’s products in Europe, including the immensely popular Sims franchise. His efforts won him the 1999 Industry Achievement Award for services to the video game industry. Jackson also served on the board of the ELSPA (Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association) for 12 years, including three as its chairman. He departed Electronic Arts in 2006 to run the organization.

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Electronic Arts is one of the companies that best knows how to work with Sega. That fact, along with his research in the field of “games” and his new projects, are some of the things that have prompted us to chat with Paul Jackson, the strong man of EA.

TodoSega: Will you continue to produce cartridges for four players? Are there any basketball games under development?

Paul Jackson: Yes, now that we have launched our 4-Way Play adapter we are willing to release more titles to support this new product… including a basketball game! NBA ’94 is scheduled for March of next year.

TodoSega: How well has General Chaos been received?

Paul Jackson: General Chaos appears to have been a big hit. It appeared in best-sellers lists right away and received favorable reviews in the gaming press. I think the multiplayer option has been a decisive factor in pushing the sales of this game, as it’s more fun to play against someone or even four people.

TodoSega: What is the reason for the continuous interest in releasing updates to each cartridge? Won’t Madden ’94 eclipse Madden ’93, for example?

Paul Jackson: We always try to update the statistics in the sports games that we release for the North American market. Just take a look at any sports highlight show on American television and you’ll see their obsession with statistics! Of course, we know that aspect is much more important for an American gamer than for a European one, but these games are meant for those that have just arrived in Sega’s world. If someone bought a Mega Drive last year, they likely didn’t buy the first Madden game that came out in 1990. Madden ’93 has been a fantastic update to that American football game. Now, if the question is, Will Madden ’94 be better than Madden ’93? then the answer is yes since the new installment incorporates new technology and is also compatible with the 4-Way Play adapter for simultaneous play.

TodoSega: What’s the reason for us not enjoying EA games on the Mega CD? Do you have some project in development that we don’t know about?

Paul Jackson: The reason why you can’t play any Electronic Arts games on the Mega CD… is because we haven’t released any, but we’re just about ready to do so. NHL ’94, Bill Walsh College Football, and Powermonger will be our first releases for the platform. Each one of them will be substantially different from its cartridge counterpart, with digitized video sequences and CD-quality audio. For example, Powermonger has a completely retooled main screen, with a 30% larger window, new animated sequences, and a new 3D vision of the objective territories.

TodoSega: Which has more weight: EA Soccer or Zool? A sports game or an arcade platformer?

Paul Jackson: I don’t think there can be any doubt about EA Soccer (or FIFA International Soccer, as it’s now called since we now have a license from soccer’s biggest league) is going to be better than Zool. Sports games are enormously popular and seem predestined to last a long time after release. FIFA is new and thrilling. Zool, despite being a great game (it got excellent reviews on both the Amiga and Atari ST), might lack that appeal since the public is more familiar with those other versions. Moreover, there are so many excellent platforming games for Mega Drive that any new game in that genre has to be truly special to stand out.

TodoSega: How does EA plan to face the release of new machines like the 3D0, Jaguar, and Saturn on the market?

Paul Jackson: Electronic Arts is always watchful of new technologies. We have a firm commitment to the 3D0, for which we’re developing at least 10 titles including versions of our Mega Drive “classics” Road Rash and John Madden, along with some original games like Twisted and Shockwave. The 3D0 has generated great enthusiasm and we don’t want to fail to live up to those expectations.

TodoSega: Finally, how do you see the console software market in Spain?

Paul Jackson: The Spanish console market has been affected by the economic recession but becomes more important for us all the time.

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