The current CEO and President of Electronic Arts is Andrew Wilson, who took the top job in September of 2013. Wilson is the first person to lead EA who comes from a modern game development background. Though EA founder Trip Hawkins dabbled in some game programming, he never did release a game that EA published and he basically worked by himself, which is a far cry from today’s hundred+ development teams. Wilson had several roles on the FIFA development team in the last decade, including executive producer.
Wilson spent about five years at EA Canada and if you ask him, he’ll be the first to admit he learned a ton about game development and the business behind it while in Burnaby. In my opinion, it’s very cool that out of all the EA studios around the world, EAC was the one that helped shaped the first “home-grown” CEO of the company. Now I’m not saying that just because he worked out of Burnaby, he became CEO material. There’s no doubt that leaders of billion dollar companies have talent and gifts that would be recognized anywhere. Since Wilson worked at EAC for a decent amount of time, there are still many people on the FIFA team who remember him as a co-worker or at least one of the people on the team. I’m friends with a few FIFA folks, so recently I had lunch with one of them. One of the topics that came up was Wilson’s time in Canada.
My friend told me that Wilson was and still is incredibly driven and focused on attaining goals; goals for himself, his team, and the company. He also said that Wilson was a charismatic and effective communicator, great at presentations and convincing you of anything he said. Here he is at this year’s E3 press conference. This probably isn’t a shocking revelation as these are traits held by many business leaders. My friend then relayed a story which illustrated some of these traits. At least once a year, most major EA studios will get a visit from some executives who fly in from HQ at Redwood Shores. They want to see how things are proceeding and how your game is looking. Usually, a small group of higher-ups on a development team will make a presentation to the execs. In a large studios, the execs might see several presentations during the day as many teams take their turn showing off their latest. My friend mentioned that when it came to the FIFA presentations, Wilson insisted on having the first slot of the day. He didn’t want to present before lunch when the execs would be hungry and he didn’t want the slot at the end of the day when the execs would tired and wanting to go home. His goal was to make his presentation the most effective and memorable, and at the end of the day, the execs would be thinking about FIFA and nothing else. He left nothing to chance and gave himself every opportunity to succeed.
That’s a small anecdote of course but it shows you some of the little things that people do to be successful. I will end this with my own Andrew Wilson anecdote. On my first week back at EAC in March, I almost ran into Wilson in the cafeteria. He and many other EA execs were visiting the studio. I was walking back to my desk with my plate of food and I think he might have been getting some more napkins. We both stopped in our tracks for a moment, made eye contact and we stepped around each other. I know, cool story bro.