While a lot of gaming companies, such as Microsoft, are reporting good financial earnings for the last quarter, not every company is doing so well. Electronic Arts has instead reported their last financial quarter was "difficult", and EA CEO Andrew Wilson stated their games "did not perform to our expectations" during a "highly competitive year". What went wrong, and will Anthem and Apex Legends manage to drag them out of the slump?
The biggest release of the quarter was undoubtedly Battlefield V. However, the last minute delay pushed it into "a competitive holiday window where heavy price discounting was a big factor". They also chose to delay the Battle Royale mode in favour of the single-player campaign, something that later turned out to be a mistake due to the game mode's meteoric rise in popularity. Sales expectations weren't met, but with the aforementioned Battle Royale mode being released in March, as well as the "third chapter of updates in the game", they're hoping to convert more players to the game.
The mobile market is also becoming "increasingly challenging". They've found that the "average age of Top 20 titles is greater than three years, and that it’s harder than ever for new games to break through". For example, Command & Conquer: Rivals did well in soft launch but not as well globally. They also suffered reduced revenue from Madden Mobile after making changes that reduced monetisation, while FIFA Online 4 isn't doing as well in the usually lucrative Asian market.
It wasn't all bad for the company, though. FIFA 19 became the "highest-selling console game in Europe", and they sold "an additional 2.4 million units of FIFA 18 throughout the year" solely because of the free World Cup expansion. Ultimate Team matches have increased by 15% year-on-year, and the franchise as a whole welcomed four million new players on console and PC. Despite these impressive numbers, the number of players who have made the leap from from older titles to FIFA 19 hasn't been as big as they had hoped, meaning FIFA 19 has performed "slightly below our expectations" according to EA's CFO Blake Jorgensen.
The future isn't looking quite so bleak though, even if EA is expecting that "these challenges will continue to impact our performance in Q4". First there was the surprise launch of Apex Legends this week, where the company "deliberately chose a different go-to-market strategy to surprise and delight players around the world". Obviously the long-term results of this approach aren't known, but it turned out to be the company's biggest ever reveal. Not only that, there will be "a premium game this year that is a new twist on the Titanfall universe". EA seems to be placing a lot of hope on this to raise their fortunes for the next financial quarter.
Anthem also releases next week, and "the excitement in retail and digital channels [is] reaching higher-than-expected levels". Between the alphas and betas, millions of players have put more than 40 million playing hours into the game so far. The company is expecting to sell between 5-6 million copies of the game before the end of the financial year on March 31st. Looking further ahead, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will be released this fall. Andrew Wilson was particularly excited about this title:
It’s very far along in development, and having spent time with it recently myself, it plays spectacularly well. This game truly captures the fantasy of becoming a Jedi, and we will have a lot more to share soon. Finally, there will be new instalments in the Madden NFL, NHL, and NBA LIVE franchises, as well as the obligatory FIFA 20. Outside of sports titles, there will be new Need for Speed and Plants vs. Zombies titles, as well as new DLC expansions for The Sims 4. Only time will tell whether these new releases manage to turn EA's fortunes around.