Founded in California in 1982, Electronic Arts was a pioneer of early home computer games, notable for acknowledging the designers and programmers behind them. Today it is one of world’s largest gaming companies, posting a net revenue (in 2014) of $3.6 billion, and is recognised for blockbuster franchises such as Battlefield, Madden NFL and FIFA.
EA’s Amsterdam office was opened in 2002. Resisting the lure of the city centre’s historic canal belt – for business purposes at least – the company settled in Schiphol-Rijk, a ten-minute bus ride from Schiphol Airport. “The main responsibility of this office is marketing and selling our games,” says Dirk Scholing, Sales Director Benelux. “We have several board meetings a year and hold regular PR events here, so it’s important for us to be close to a big airport where employees from our other European offices, clients and journalists can easily reach us.”
He continues: “We have sales agreements with local retailers such as Bart Smit, Media Markt and bol.com, but we also ensure the visibility of our products in their stores and run campaigns to target the right customers at the right moment.” He gives FIFA as an example. “FIFA is the most popular game in the Benelux. With global attention focused on football in the months around last year’s World Cup in Brazil, and a new features added to the FIFA 15 release, interest in the game surged, resulting in sales of more than 500,000 units in six weeks in 2014.
“FIFA is sold under licence. That means we are permitted to use the FIFA name but can also take advantage of the names of real clubs and players. We have an official partnership with Lionel Messi and work with him both on social initiatives, such as refurbishing street football pitches in urban communities, and promotional activities. When Messi sends a message to 75 million followers on social media and it’s about FIFA, you can’t get a better campaign.”
It is this continuous investment in promotion, as well as a commitment to quality and the ability to adapt to market trends, that Scholing believes has kept EA on top in a highly competitive industry. Thirteen years on, EA is firmly established in Amsterdam but has stayed in touch with amsterdam inbusiness, although sometimes in indirect ways. “A few years ago another gaming-related company approached us. They had an office in Switzerland and wanted to launch in the Netherlands. We gave them the name of our contact at amsterdam inbusiness. It’s good to have a network of people you know and who can help, especially when you are completely new. If you can create that supportive environment, it pays off; there’s a knock-on effect in attracting other companies to the city.”