Electronic Arts COO Laura Miele on Gaming’s Big Moment: ‘We Have Significant Runway Ahead of Us’

Laura Miele Electronic Arts
Courtesy of Electronic Arts / Carol Lynn Shoaff

Laura Miele knows that video gaming is having a big moment.

The industry veteran, who was named chief operating officer of gaming giant Electronic Arts in September, also knows that well-heeled competitors are ready to barrel into the sector that is becoming ever-more intertwined with Hollywood’s core businesses.

On the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Miele says EA is fortified for heightened competition from streaming platforms by its 40-year history of creating game franchises ranging from “The Sims” to “Madden NFL” to its partnership with Lucasfilm on “Star Wars” titles. (And this conversation was held before Microsoft unveiled its blockbuster $69 billion bid on Jan. 17 to acquire EA’s biggest rival, Activision Blizzard.)

In fact, EA has been preparing for some time for streaming giants and Silicon Valley to dive deeper into the gaming marketplace, which Miele pegs as a $180 billion business worldwide. Netflix, for one, is taking steps to integrate game offerings into its basic subscription.

“We are going to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon for people’s time and people’s engagement. I love our position that games have — it’s incredibly engaging. It is interactive. And it’s very social,” she says. “I genuinely believe that even though we are the largest form of entertainment, we have a significant runway ahead of us still.”

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Miele, who previously ran the EA Studios unit housing its many game development labels, emphasizes that making a successful video game is no easy feat, even for experienced content creators.

“We’ve been making games for 40 years,” she says. “And I’ve seen a lot of very large tech companies spend a lot of money and try to be in gaming. Our history is littered with large tech companies trying to make that work. We will remain in a really strong position to compete in this area. We’ve spent billions of dollars on technology and perfecting and improving, incrementally, how we create games. It is it is probably one of the most sophisticated, complicated forms of media to create. And it is not to be underestimated.”

In the conversation, Miele also details how the era of digital disruption has benefited gaming and EA in particular though its subscription products. She notes with pride that despite the challenge of pandemic conditions, the company released 13 new titles in 2021 and some 400 live service updates for its subscription services.

The COVID-19 pandemic and work-from-home mandates added up to a huge increase in the number of people who spent time with games and other interactive entertainment products. That set the stage perfectly for future growth outside of gaming’s traditional young male demographics.

“We were able to really show up in the world and for our consumers in a way that I think was really meaningful to them,” Miele says.

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.