Andrew Wilson, Executive VP of EA Sports, still wants EA to making a surfing game.
Thirteen years ago, a young sports nut from Geelong was living a dream, working at a video games studio that was making a surfing simulation. A surfer himself - as well as a martial artist, swimmer, cyclist, and runner - he was looking forward to helping create the world's first successful surfing game.
Sadly, the dream was not to become a reality. "Back then, BMX and skating and those kinds of games were big on the charts," he told me, "and everyone was sure that surfing was going to be the next big thing."
Before his own game was completed, however, three competitors released their own surfing games, and all three of them received mediocre reviews and were sales disasters. Rather than risk similar losses, the publisher closed down his project. "My project, my surfing game, was killed. It left a hole in my soul."
The failure of Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer killed surfing games.
That young man's name was Andrew Wilson, and after this disappointment he moved on the bigger things - much bigger. He is better known these days as the Executive Vice President of EA Sports, the sporting label of international game publishing giant Electronic Arts.
I asked him how a boy from Geelong made such an incredible trek through the video gaming landscape, and he laughed. "Luck is the short answer," he said. "Then again, my dad always said that the harder you work, the luckier you get, and I've certainly worked hard. I put in thirteen years of blood, sweat, and tears in the trenches."
Whether it was primarily hard work or luck, Wilson forged an enviable career path, working on some of the biggest franchises in sports gaming. After his surfing game folded, he worked on some rugby and AFL titles, then moved to the UK. There he led the team that turned around the fortunes of the struggling FIFA football franchise, turning it into the power-house it remains today.
Now he is running the entire EA Sports brand, a publishing label worth billions, and he is still achieving milestones. At EA's pre-E3 press conference this year, Wilson took the stage to announce that EA had purchased the rights to Ultimate Fighting Championship from struggling publisher THQ. Speaking to me this week, it's clear he is thrilled.
"I've been a fan of UFC forever," he said. "Back in the early days of UFC I used to watch it on VHS tapes, so you can work out how long ago that was. I've had the great fortune to train in jujitsu with some amazing teachers, and this is a love of mine that goes to my very core."
EA has attempted to break into mixed martial arts previously, but without the official UFC licence, Wilson felt it was lacking something. "I think that was the worst feature of an otherwise good game, not having the UFC licence," he told me.
Now that EA and UFC are together, he sees it as a mutually beneficial relationship. "The UFC guys are very smart, and very passionate about the growth of their sport," he said, "so now we can come together and promote it."
After such a coup, Wilson is still looking to the future. I asked if there were any sports that are not currently included in EA's line-up that he would like to see them tackle, and his response was immediate. "Oh, a surfing game, definitely," he admitted. "I had a passion for surfing back when that game was cancelled, and I still do today, and after all these years I still dream of creating a great surfing game."
So, that "hole in his soul" is still there? "Oh yeah. I might not ever get to fill that hole, but god help me I'm going to try."
- James "DexX" Dominguez
DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez