Electronic Arts reported earnings for the third fiscal quarter ended December 31 that missed the company’s and Wall Street’s expectations. This comes on the heels of launching a new battle royale that dominated online discussion Monday.
Analysts expected EA to post earnings per share of $1.94 on revenue of $1.75 billion on a non-GAAP basis. But the results fell short of that and EA’s stock price fell 17 percent in after-hours trading to $76.40 a share.
On a GAAP basis, EA reported earnings per share of 86 cents on revenue of $1.29 billion. On a non-GAAP basis, EA reported $1.93 a share. In the quarter, EA’s big game, Battlefield V, faced serious competition from rival games such as Fortnite, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, and Red Dead Redemption 2.
The results came a day after EA reported a surprise game, the launch of Respawn Entertainment’s free-to-play battle royale shooter Apex Legends. EA bought Titanfall maker Respawn for $455 million in 2017. While the game got a million downloads in eight hours, some players expressed disappointment that Respawn said it is not yet making Titanfall 3 — though it appears it’s claiming more Titanfall is coming.
“The video game industry continues to grow through a year of intense competition and transformational change,” said CEO Andrew Wilson, in a statement. “Q3 was a difficult quarter for Electronic Arts and we did not perform to our expectations. We are now applying the strengths of our company to sharpen our execution and focus on delivering great new games and long-term live services for our players. We’re very excited about Apex Legends, the upcoming launch of Anthem, and a deep line-up of new experiences that we’ll bring to our global communities next fiscal year.”
During the third fiscal quarter, EA launched Battlefield V, which was one of the top five holiday titles in the U.S.
“Monday’s announcement of a ‘battle royale’ game was not a major surprise, although the lack of a Titanfall III launch would be a disappointment,” wrote Colin Sebastian, analyst at Baird Equity Research, in a report issued before the earnings. “We note increasing speculation that management will provide some framework for fiscal year 2020 earnings, although without Titanfall we believe earnings growth may be a stretch.”
Sebastian said he expected that the performance of EA Sports games was a “lingering question.” He noted that player feedback from Anthem, which launches on February 22, has been mixed, though it’s unclear if that was due to technical problems in BioWare’s recent public beta test.
“FIFA stands out as a robust franchise through a tumultuous year in the video game industry,” said Blake Jorgensen, chief financial officer, in a statement. “Elsewhere in the business, we’re making adjustments to improve execution and we’re refocusing R&D. Looking forward, we’re delighted to launch Anthem, our new IP, to grow Apex Legends and related Titanfall experiences, to deliver new Plants vs. Zombies and Need for Speed titles, and to add Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order to our sports titles in the fall.”
Digital net bookings for the trailing twelve months was $3.57 billion, up 6 percent from the same quarter a year earlier, and it represents 74 percent of total net bookings.
During the quarter, launched Battlefield V and Command & Conquer: Rivals. FIFA Ultimate Team matches played increased 15 percent from a year earlier. And last year, FIFA 19 was the highest-selling console game in Europe.
For the fourth fiscal quarter ending March 31, EA said it expects GAAP earnings of 56 cents a share and revenues of $1.16 billion. For the full fiscal year, earnings per share is expected to be $3.20 a share on revenue of $4.875 billion.
“They missed badly on revenue, $1.61 billion vs. $1.725 billion guide,” said Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities, in an email.
He added, “The fiscal year guide is even worse. They’re now expecting $4.75 billion vs. $5.20 billion prior. This is after taking the guide down from $5.55 billion at the beginning of the year, so an $800 million decline from last May. EPS to be $3.85, down a lot from $4.50 guide last quarter and $4.85 at the beginning of the year.”
Pachter also said, “The ‘bright’ spot was that live services was flat year-over-year, $784 million vs. $787 million a year ago. That’s the part that includes FIFA Ultimate Team. It also includes EA Origin Access, the $99 subscription that gives you all their games. They amortize that ratably, so every million members gets them only $25 million per quarter, but they forego game sales that would have been recognized during the quarter.”
And he concluded, “It looks like Battlefield missed completely; mobile got crushed, coming in down year-over-year and was supposed to be up $100 million originally; and EA Origin Access subscription service is cannibalizing game sales. My guess is that people who would have bought Battlefield are subscribing instead, and that caused a huge chunk of the miss.”