Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson credited his company’s record fiscal year results to live operations of games that are run as services, rather than just one-time purchases.
That means that EA is doing better at keeping players engaged with its games for a long time, and it is making money from ongoing purchases made by those people rather than simply relying on new game sales. The idea is to grow audience for games over time, increasing their engagement and keeping them away from competitive products year round.
“EA’s games today are live services — amazing experiences that we update and evolve to deliver ongoing fun that keeps players engaged, connects them to friends, brings them more content and grows our network,” said Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA, during an analyst conference call today. “This strategy has been at the core of our digital transformation, and today our live services are some of the strongest and most vibrant in the industry.”
“We saw more of our players go deeper,” Wilson said, pointing to the fact that FIFA Ultimate Team players were up 13 percent by the end of the fourth fiscal quarter ended March 31.” More than 10 million players competed in competitive matches in the first year of tournaments.
EA said that Battlefield 1 had more than 19 million players through the end of March 31, while FIFA 17 had more than 21 million players.
FIFA Mobile also had its best month since its launch in October.
Average time played per day increased to 162 minutes for the Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, which is a free-to-play mobile game that brings players back through live services such as tournaments. EA’s mobile games were up 10 percent from a year ago.That wasn’t impressive, but EA has new games coming, like a new Sims offering.
The Sims 4 also had seven updates during the year, and its monthly active users rose 33 percent in the past year.
As for upcoming games, Wilson said he had high hopes for Madden NFL 18, which will use the same Frostbite game engine as the Battlefield series. And he said FIFA 18 will expand on the Journey (a new story mode in the game) and Ultimate Team. It will also debut on the Nintendo Switch (Nintendo’s new console, which launched in March) for the first time, too. The Wii U struggled, but the Switch is selling well, and it’s still getting strong word-of-mouth thanks to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Live services also includes esports competitions.
“Competitive gaming and esports will be a key growth vector for us throughout (fiscal year 2018) FY18 as we expand the ways that fans can play and watch. Year two of our FIFA and Madden NFL championships will kick off this fall, featuring millions of competitive games through Ultimate Team, deeper partnerships with leagues and teams that add new dimensions to the tournaments, and new venues for our major global championships,” Wilson said. “Later this year, we’ll launch our first Battlefield 1 competitions, unlocking the competitive spirit that runs deep in our Battlefield community. We are also continuing to expand our broadcast reach and content portfolio for our growing spectator audience.”
Star Wars Battlefront II will debut later this year as a joint product of EA’s DICE, Motive, and Criterion studios. It will also have a live service plan that will add to the fun. The official trailer has had more than 16 million views on YouTube since it debuted. The previous Battlefront game sold 14 million units, and EA is estimating it can at least match that for Battlefront II, said Blake Jorgensen, chief financial officer at EA, during the call.
Battlefield 1 will have a total of three updates, with new maps, armies, and regions coming. EA will have a Need for Speed title with a live open world where players can race in a variety of places.
Wilson said that EA’s BioWare division is working on a new intellectual property, but it would take longer than expected. So the game is being pushed out beyond March 2018. That game will be part of an ongoing live service, and EA is delaying it in part to add “disruptive new social designs for our players,” Wilson said.
EA expects $5.1 billion in revenue for the next fiscal year.
“We’re at a powerful point in EA’s journey,” Wilson said.