EA Poised To Rise On Merger Of Social, Mobile And Casual Gaming

| About: Electronic Arts (EA)

Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) is already taking its second stab of the year at its 52-week low, and the bears are circling.

Why look at these nasty free cash flow trends, writes The Motley Fool. Shorts at AOL's The Daily Finance see signs that, since what it's owed is growing faster than revenue, another leg down might be coming.

No company that's near a yearly low is pumping on all cylinders, and any video game company like EA is going to go through rough patches, when it's signing talent for its next (presumed) blockbuster, pushing the new year's titles or investing in a new online franchise.

You can easily become accustomed to treating gaming companies like movie studios, and EA as the old MGM, complete with Oscar talk.

But that would be a mistake, because while movies are always designed for movie screens, then ancillary screens, game companies are always chasing gamers' hunger for new platforms.

For EA, that means moving into online gaming, even social gaming, becoming more like Google or (more appropriately) the old AOL. EA brought in $1 billion in online revenue last year - one game alone did $100 million - and while it hasn't made every trick it's been agile enough to build executive talent both Zynga and Polycom have found worth poaching.

The hiring away of Barry Cottle, who headed EA Interactive, led the company to fold it into the main tent, and that's really where its future lies, according to COO Peter Moore. Origin, the $100 million online game from last year, is becoming a platform, with EA going directly to consumers (cutting out middlemen) and taking add-ons from outside developers (taking an Apple-sized cut of their action).

Social gaming, mobile gaming, and casual gaming are merging, the thinking goes and by investing heavily in that merger now EA can build franchises rather than titles, with subscription revenues rather than sales, and ancillary income as well.

If you buy their ability to execute on that vision, EA is a screaming buy. If you don't - and there is always a risk that they won't - then you might even sell them short.

Ready to play the game? Place your bets. Mine is long. What's yours?

Disclosure: I am long EA.