Growing up in England, Matt Bilbey had "football" (soccer) in his DNA. While still studying for a diploma in international marketing, he got a summer job working for Electronic Arts' London operations in sales. He even got to test some of EA's sports games – a pretty sweet gig for an 18-year-old football fan.
He worked his way up to product manager for EA's FIFA franchise, which is made in EA's Burnaby studio. In 2001, he was asked to move to Vancouver.
"Electronic Arts had asked me to move to Vancouver to help set up the FIFA team," he said. "They wanted to inject it with European football knowledge."
Since he knew no one in Vancouver, it was a tough decision to move.
"It's picking up on your own, no family or friends," he said.
Since moving to Vancouver, he has moved up the ranks to become senior vice-president of a division with more than 1,200 employees worldwide – 800 of them in EA's Burnaby studios – and is one of the company's youngest executives.
Last year, EA hit a major milestone: $1 billion in sales, just on the FIFA game franchise.
"When I took over as general manager of the FIFA business, we were about a $600 million business," Bilbey said. "We put together a three-year vision to take the business to $1 billion over five years, and we achieved it in two.
"The quality of the game that the team developed, it made it bigger than just a sports game. Certainly in the North American market, the FIFA soccer game was such high quality, with such high innovation, it drew people that weren't even interested in the sport of soccer."
While hockey doesn't have anywhere near soccer's global popularity, EA's NHL franchise is one of the highest-rated games in the console game industry, with annual sales of $200 million.
"Even despite last year's lockout, our hockey business grew," Bilbey said.
Although EA is best known for its sports console games, it also makes the popular Battlefield series, as well as mobile, handheld and Facebook games.
EA is the world's second-largest console game maker, with $4 billion to $5 billion in global sales.
"The FIFA business – our Burnaby campus – is responsible for over $1 billion of that," Bilbey said.