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EA’s plan with AI: Will players in FC 30 help develop it themselves?

EA CEO Andrew Wilson has presented a three-stage plan for dealing with artificial intelligence (AI). In a few years, the community should also be able to give free rein to their creativity in the games

Why develop a video game by hand when you can use AI?

EA CEO Andrew Wilson spoke about the future use of artificial intelligence at Electronic Arts as part of the latest quarterly report. He revealed a three-step plan: The first step outlines increasing efficiency in the game development process – and is already underway. In EA SPORTS FC, the creators are now able to “create virtual stadiums in six weeks instead of six months”.

The CEO expects the AI speed to be increased even further in this respect. But time is not the only factor: in FIFA 23, the digital players still moved in 36 “running cycles” according to Wilson – in FC 24, however, it is already 1,200. This leap contributes massively to the fact that fans of soccer simulations feel “greater immersion” – although the variety of animations in FC 24 also repeatedly leads to bugs and glitches.

The partial automation also means that developers can focus on more creative processes. However, a possible negative consequence of the piecemeal AI takeover could also be new waves of redundancies at EA. As recently as February, around 670 jobs were cut worldwide. Wilson gives the increase in efficiency using AI “the next one to three years”.

“Transformation” to community participation

The second step in the three-stage plan for AI utilization is expansion: “Larger worlds with more characters and more interesting storylines” is what the CEO has in mind. All of this is intended to help EA’s blockbuster experiences and online communities, which we have already reported on, continue to grow. “Global engagement” is the keyword for Wilson – a logical goal given the decline in players in FC 24. He sets the time horizon for step two at three to five years

The next step will be a “transformation”: the AI tools created in-house will be passed on to the community. “So that we actually get new, interesting and innovative types of gaming experience,” explains Wilson. It is therefore not only artificial intelligence that is used for further development – the players themselves can and should also play their part.

Share buyback as a sign of strength

As usual, the EA CEO is optimistic about the future, which is probably also due to the strong financial year 2024. Once again, the video game giant posted record figures – despite a weaker final quarter. EA’s comfortable financial situation is also underlined by a planned share buyback program. “Returning capital to our shareholders is a major priority for us,” says CFO Stuart Canfield.

The Board of Directors has therefore authorized the buyback of shares worth five billion US dollars over the next three years. 1.5 billion is to flow back to shareholders in the current financial year 2025

When a company buys back shares, this indicates a lot of surplus cash that is not needed for current or future projects. In the short term, a buyback program can drive up the share price, but another factor is likely to be relevant for share owners: the dividend. If there are fewer shares, the share of the company’s profit is distributed to fewer shareholders. So everyone gets more.

With five billion euros, EA could buy back 41 million shares at the current share price. Of course, the money could also have been invested in the salaries of the redundant employees.

All in all, the process testifies to EA’s economic creativity and stability – and can be interpreted as a sign of strength

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