Shares of video game maker Electronic Arts (EA) ended the week up over 6% on the back of a strong first quarter earnings report. Year to date, shares of Electronic Arts are up 77%. Despite the nice increase in the company's share price, two upcoming games could power shares much higher.
The biggest news of the week was Electronic Art's partnership with Tencent (TCEHY.PK). Tencent, the leading internet service provider in China will bring "FIFA Online 3" to the Chinese market. This is a huge accomplishment from EA as it partners the bestselling sports video game franchise of all time with the most populous nation in the world. "FIFA Online 3" will enter testing in the fourth quarter of 2013, with a likely 2014 release.
EA is no stranger to international sales of its FIFA franchise. In the United Kingdom, "FIFA '13" sold 1.2 million copies in two days. The game became only the fourth video game in the country to sell one million copies in a day. This is an impressive feat considering the other three titles to do so were part of the "Call of Duty" franchise. The game is licensed in the Korean market, where it was recently the second most played PC game (according to Gametricks). The game will also enter the Vietnam and Thailand markets soon.
The FIFA series of video games from Electronic Arts is the bestselling sports franchise in history. The series has over 100 million units sold. This even outranks the popular "Madden" franchise which will hit 100 million with its newest release.
In the first quarter, "FIFA Online 3" digital net revenue grew 88% compared to FIFA Online 2. "FIFA '13" digital revenue hit $70 million, a 92% increase from "FIFA '12". The "FIFA '13" video game sold 14.5 million units in fiscal 2013, representing an increase of 30% from the previous game in the series. Total FIFA digital revenue hit $350 million in fiscal 2013, representing almost 10% of total revenue. "FIFA '14" will be released in September of 2013. The game makes up part of the company's second quarter, which represents 24% of expected annual revenue.
The other catalyst that will drive Electronic Arts going forward is its new relationship with Disney (DIS). After acquiring Star Wars maker Lucasfilm in a $4.05 billion acquisition, Disney decided to pass the video game rights to Electronic Arts. In return, EA will make mobile, PC, and console games based on the popular Star Wars franchise. Disney will still create online and mobile games around the franchise.
Electronic Arts was the studio behind "Star Wars: The Old Republic". The MMO from EA was the fastest selling MMO at the time of its release. The game saw over 1 million subscriptions in the first three days of release. At its peak, the game had 1.7 million monthly subscribers. This is a far cry from the double digits that Blizzard's "World of Warcraft" has seen for years.
However, EA has adapted a new expansion pack plan that could rejuvenate the series. After deciding to make the game free to play to certain levels, EA had to come up with a way to gain additional revenue. A new "Rise of the Hutt" expansion was available for $9.95 to current subscribers and $19.95 to new players. The expansion had new plot details, new characters, and similar to WOW expansions also increased players level cap.
Now imagine the possibility of expansion packs for "The Old Republic" with a new Star Wars movie coming every year starting in 2015. EA will be able to release new expansions annually and could see a rejuvenation to this once popular franchise.
Aside from "The Old Republic", EA has a new dedicated studio working on Star Wars video games. With the new trilogy creating a new plot and new characters, EA should be able to see strong sales of games with fans of the series looking to play along.
Electronic Arts remains a strong franchise year after year with its sports titles (Madden, NBA Live, NHL, NCAA, FIFA) and popular brands (The Sims, Need for Speed, Battlefield, Plants vs. Zombies). However, going forward, strong international growth and digital sales from FIFA, along with the new "Star Wars" games could be the break shareholders have been waiting on.
Shares of Electronic Arts hit their fifty two week high this week. I became bullish on the video game maker after its UFC agreement and first quarter earnings beat in August of 2012. Since that last article, shares are up 121%. I would wait for a pullback below $24 before buying. Hold shares for the long run on this popular video game maker.