Oct. 18, 2013, 11:15 AM
- Thanks to Grand Theft Auto V's (TTWO -0.6%) blockbuster launch, U.S. retail physical video game sales rose 52% Y/Y in September to $754M, per NPD (or +40% if one includes PC game sales). Sales were up 21% in August after falling 19% in July.
- GTA V, whose global retail sales topped $1B within three days of its Sep. 17 launch, single-handedly accounted for over half of NPD's September figure. Electronic Arts' (EA +0.6%) Madden NFL 25 was #2 on NPD's bestseller list after coming in first in August, and FIFA 14 was #5. Take-Two's NBA 2K14 was #3, and Activision's (ATVI -1.1%) Diablo III was #4.
- Hardware sales -13% Y/Y to just $183M ahead of the Xbox One/PS4 launches. Accessories +2% to $142M. GameStop (GME +1.5%) is higher after initially trading near breakeven.
- NPD also reports U.S. digital game revenue rose 6% Y/Y to $970M, albeit with a mix shift away from traditional fare. Downloadable content sales for console-type games fell 23% to $198M, and subscription MMOs (such as Activision's World of Warcraft) lost 300K subs.
- However, mobile game sales rose 14% to $266M, social games rose 16% to $176M, and free-to-play MMOs such as EA's Star Wars: The Old Republic added 700K users. That first two figures spell bigger addressable markets for Zynga (ZNGA +1.8%) and Glu (GLUU +4.1%), respectively; each has lost some share this year.
Sep. 27, 2013, 4:58 PM
- An attorney representing student athletes who sued Electronic Arts (EA -0.8%) and the Collegiate Licensing Co. (handles trademark licensing for individual colleges) has confirmed the companies will pay $40M to make an antitrust suit over the use of athlete likenesses in EA games (without compensation) go away.
- News of the settlement figure comes a day after EA announced it won't release a college football game next year, and is evaluating its plans for the franchise's future.
Sep. 27, 2013, 10:13 AM
- China's State Council says gaming consoles, banned since 2000, will be allowed for sale provided they're approved by the Ministry of Culture. The decision opens the door for Microsoft (MSFT +1.1%), Sony (SNE -0.7%), and Nintendo (NTDOY.PK) to begin officially selling their hardware in the Middle Kingdom.
- Unofficially, the hardware hasn't been hard to find on the black market, with sellers typically hawking modified systems that support pirated games. However, the government's decision should open the door for console makers and game developers (EA, ATVI, TTWO) to formally market their wares, replete with Chinese-language translations.
- Aside from piracy, China's well-established online gaming scene will serve as a challenge for console makers and game developers. Some of the online gaming firms they'll be competing against: TCEHY.PK, NTES, GA, GAME, PWRD, CYOU.
- Microsoft just formed a 49:51 console JV with local firm BesTV.
- Previous: Chinese government reportedly planning to end console ban
Sep. 26, 2013, 5:00 PM
- "Today I am sad to announce that we will not be publishing a new college football game next year, and we are evaluating our plan for the future of the franchise," says Cam Weber, the GM for Electronic Arts' (EA -1.7%) NCAA Football and Madden franchises.
- Not surprisingly, the ongoing legal battle between the NCAA and ex-student athletes demanding compensation for the use of their likenesses is blamed. EA previously said it plans to keep making college football games, even if it could no longer use the NCAA's name and logo.
- Meanwhile, EA Mobile chief Frank Gibeau ignited an uproar by stating Apple "gave [EA] a truckload of money to delay the Android version" of the recently-launched Plants vs. Zombies 2.
- Both EA and Apple have since denied any payment was made, but gaming site Giant Bomb, which reported Gibeau's comments, does think Apple is promoting Plants vs. Zombies 2 in the App Store in exchange for a delayed Android release.
- More than a month after its launch, the game is still #22 on App Annie's top U.S. iPhone free download chart, and #36 on its chart of top-grossing apps.
Sep. 25, 2013, 10:53 AM
- Glu (GLUU +10.1%) announces Deer Hunter 2014, which the company launched on iOS last week, has been ranked the top free game in the App Store in 78 countries, and has been ranked the top free overall app in 19. (PR)
- Glu adds Deer Hunter 2014 saw 5M+ downloads in its first 7 days of availability, and recorded 18M+ gameplay sessions in a single day. Both are new records for the game developer.
- Deer Hunter 2014 is currently at #2 on App Annie's U.S. iPhone free download chart ranks, trailing only Electronic Arts' (EA +0.1%) just-launched FIFA 14. On the iPad, Deer Hunter 2014 is #5, and FIFA 14 is #6.
Sep. 24, 2013, 6:07 PM
- Electronic Arts' (EA +1.4%) FIFA 14 became available in North America today. Selling points include improved game physics and AI, and new team and multi-player modes. Like Madden NFL 25, the mobile versions of the game are being offered on a free-to-play basis.
- The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of FIFA 14 respectively have Metacritic scores of 85/100 and 86/100.
- Joystiq: "[FIFA 14] is a more deliberate, challenging game with less forgiveness, though it still mostly resembles the FIFA we're used to. It's better in some ways, especially with the fresh menu system and added strategic depth in both manager career mode and Ultimate Team."
- The franchise's online services have become a big money-maker for EA, especially in international markets. Total FIFA digital net revenue was close to $350M in FY13.
Sep. 17, 2013, 4:40 PM
- Andrew Wilson, who has been running the very successful EA Sports unit, has been named Electronic Arts' (EA) new CEO.
- While the performance of several other EA divisions has been volatile, EA Sports has continued to fare well, thanks in large part to the strength of the Madden and FIFA franchises.
- Wilson's appointment comes 6 months after John Riccitiello, who held the top job for 6 years, resigned to the approval of investors. Chairman Lawrence Probst carried out multiple job cuts during his time as interim CEO.
- EA +0.5% AH.
Sep. 13, 2013, 12:25 PM
- NPD estimates U.S. physical retail video game sales rose 21% Y/Y, reversing July's 19% decline as new titles stoked demand ahead of this fall's console refreshes. Games launched in August accounted for over half of all sales, and their high price tags resulted in ASPs rising 25%.
- GameStop (GME +5%) investors are pleased with the numbers. So are Electronic Arts (EA +2.7%), and Take-Two (TTWO +3%) investors; while still important, NPD's figures matter a little less than they used to for game developers, thanks to a shift towards digital revenue streams.
- Not surprisingly, hardware sales fell 40% Y/Y (worse than July's 34% drop), as gamers wait for the chance to buy a PS4 or Xbox One. Sales of accessories, including Skylanders (ATVI +0.6%) toys, rose 7% after falling 3% in July. Nintendo's (NTDOY.PK) 3DS was the best-selling console; 6.47M units of the handheld console have been sold in the U.S. in 2013.
- Though its first-week sales disappointed, EA's Madden NFL 25 was the month's best-selling title. Take-Two's anticipated Grand Theft Auto V launches on Tuesday.
- Analysts expect GTA V to pull in $1B+ in sales in Take-Two's FY14 (ends March '14). Pac Crest downgraded Take-Two earlier this week, arguing (among other things) the company has an "empty pipeline" and that there's "potential for changes" in Take-Two's relationship with GTA franchise developer Rockstar Games.
Sep. 5, 2013, 6:10 PM
- Electronic Arts (EA) estimates first-week (Aug. 27-Sep. 2) retail Madden NFL 25 unit sales topped 1M. Though that figure makes the latest update to the marquee football game franchise "the highest selling game in North America in August," it's also down from the 1.65M first-week sales reported for Madden NFL 13 a year ago.
- Two contributing factors: 1) Madden NFL 13 was viewed as a bigger update, thanks to its new animation engine. 2) Some gamers are likely waiting for the Xbox One/PS4 versions, which arrive after the next-gen consoles launch in November.
- Also: Users of the iOS version of Madden NFL 25, which is offered on a free-to-play basis, have given the game a rating of only 3/5 stars. Many of them complain about the need to spend heavily on in-app purchases to accomplish much of anything.
- EA -1.3% AH after falling 1.1% in regular trading.
Aug. 27, 2013, 4:09 PM
- Electronic Arts (EA -3.1%) has launched Madden NFL 25 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and iPhone/iPad. Interestingly, the iOS apps are offered on a free-to-play basis (i.e. monetized via in-app purchases). (PR)
- Strong in-app purchase activity for two other free-to-play EA mobile titles - The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Real Racing 3 - fueled a 33% Y/Y jump in the company's June quarter mobile revenue to $104M (21% of total revenue).
- Last week, EA announced strong early traction for Plants vs. Zombies 2 (also free-to-play), and in May, the company noted it's working on a mobile version of its advanced Frostbite game engine.
- Reviews for the home console versions of Madden NFL 25 are solid: Metacritic gives the game a score of 81/100. A new running system and physics engine are generally praised, though some reviewers don't consider gameplay much-improved from Madden NFL 13.
Aug. 22, 2013, 10:49 AM
- Game developers Electronic Arts (EA +2.8%), Activision (ATVI +1.4%), and Take-Two (TTWO +2.4%) are all outperforming after GameStop beat Q2 estimates, issued a strong Q3 same-store sales outlook, and made upbeat comments about holiday season demand.
- EA and Take-Two are both near their 52-week highs.
- GameStop's numbers come shortly after Microsoft and Sony announced holiday season game lineups for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, prior to the start of the Gamescom conference. Sony also boasted PS4 pre-orders have topped 1M.
- EA made several game-related announcements on Tuesday.
Aug. 20, 2013, 2:04 PM
- 23 titles have been lined up thus far for the Xbox One's (MSFT +0.9%) Nov. launch. They include several games from popular Electronic Arts (EA +2.6%) franchises, including Battlefield 4, Madden NFL 25, Need for Speed: Rivals, and FIFA 14, and (as expected) a number of Microsoft Studios titles.
- Activision's (ATVI -0.3%) Call of Duty: Ghosts and Skylanders: Swap Force will also be available at launch time.
- Microsoft states 38% of the titles (presumably including all of the Microsoft Studios titles) are exclusive to the One, 37% are brand-new, and 44% will include "timed or exclusive content."
- After going through the titles, Forbes' Paul Tassi thinks "Microsoft has a pretty solid line-up," even if many of the most popular titles won't be exclusives.
- Microsoft has also announced a platform that will allow "qualified" indie developers to self-publish titles via Xbox Live.
- The software giant is still smarting a bit from the backlash triggered by planned used game restrictions and online verification requirements for the One, even though its about-face on the matter did much to calm tensions.
Aug. 20, 2013, 1:21 PM
- Ahead of the Aug. 21-25 Gamescom conference, Electronic Arts (EA +3.3%) has made a slew of announcements. Among other things, EA has:
- Boasted Plants vs. Zombies 2, launched last Thursday on iOS, has already seen over 16M downloads, which leads the company to call it "the most successful mobile game launch in EA's history." The title topped App Store game download charts in 137 countries, and has an average rating of 4.5/5 stars.
- Revealed details about Battlefield 4 Premium, the $50 service attached to the next release for EA's top first-person shooter franchise (due Oct. 29). 5 digital expansion packs and 12 "battlepacks" are provided with a subscription.
- Announced FIFA 14 (due Sep. 24-27) will include a new online mode and various Latin American clubs not previously covered. The FIFA franchise has been one of EA's biggest international successes.
- Released a gameplay trailer (video) for The Sims 4 (due in 2014).
- Shares have made new 52-week highs, and are up 47% since John Riccitiello's resignation was announced on March 18.
Jul. 31, 2013, 6:10 PM
- The court affirms a ruling by a district judge that the use of ex-athletes' likenesses in Electronic Arts' (EA) NCAA football and basketball games isn't protected as free expression by the 1st Amendment.
- The ruling upholds a suit filed by 9 former NCAA athletes demanding compensation for EA's use of their images/likenesses.
- An antitrust suit filed by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon also remains outstanding.
- Earlier this month, the NCAA opted not to renew its licensing deal with EA. But while EA will no longer make use of the NCAA's name and logo, it plans to continue making college football games, courtesy of a deal with the Collegiate Licensing Company.
Jul. 24, 2013, 2:51 PMElectronic Arts (EA +8.2%) has soared to new 52-week highs following its big FQ1 beat and in-line FY14 guidance; Activision (ATVI +1.1%) and Take-Two (TTWO +1%) are up moderately. EA managed to grow its Battlefield 3 Premium sub base by 500K Q/Q to 4M+, and mobile revenue rose 33% Y/Y to $104M (21% of total) thanks to in-app purchases for The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Real Racing 3. Home console ($191M) and PC ($175M) revenue both fell 6% Y/Y. While total revenue rose 1% Y/Y, opex fell 3% thanks to recent job cuts. Also: EA has announced it's partnering with Chinese gaming giant Tencent (TCEHY.PK) to bring FIFA Online 3 to China. Wedbush is pulling EA from its Best Ideas list, arguing a lot of good news is priced in, but maintaining an Outperform. (transcript) | Comment!
Jul. 24, 2013, 9:16 AM
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