Wilson said on the call that EA had decided to postpone its NBA Live game for the fiscal year that ends March 31, 2020. Instead, EA is working with the NBA and NBA Players Association to create a game for the new video game consoles in the year ending March 31, 2021.
He also said that it will not ship a new Battlefield game in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, and that title will ship in fiscal year 2022, meaning by March 31, 2022. That was the first time EA mentioned a new Battlefield game, but judging from the reaction, outside observers apparently expected such a game to come sooner.
These announcements evidently led the stock price to slide in after-hours trading. After initially rising after earnings came out, EA’s share price fell 3.6% to $91 a share in after-hours trading.
Apex Legends plans
Instead of shipping Battlefield, EA will focus on investments in the free-to-play Apex Legends game from EA’s Respawn Entertainment studio. That game is showing renewed strength and EA is viewing that game as its “shooter for next year,” said Blake Jorgensen, chief financial officer, in the earnings call.
Apex Legends has 70 million players, EA reported today, and the new Season 3 map and Halloween event are proving to be very popular. Average weekly player peaks are significantly above Season 2 in Season 3 of Apex Legends. Both Apex Legends and The Sims 4 are modeled for sales of $300 million to $400 million for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020, Jorgensen said.
“In Apex Legends, we continue to deepen our long-term investment in the game and its community,” Wilson said. “With each successive season of new content, we are building, adding to the experience, and learning. … Weekly average player peaks in Season Three are significantly above our Season Two peaks, and we’re continuing to bring more new players into the game. Apex Legends is a major long-term franchise for us.”
Wilson said EA is expanding Apex Legends onto mobile, new platforms, and new geographies, as well as launching an Apex competitive gaming program.
Quarterly growth for sports
In the third quarter ended September 30, Madden NFL 20 unique players were up 12%, and Madden Ultimate players were up nearly 20% from a year ago. FIFA 20 total players were up 15%. FIFA unique players were up 22%. In-game matches were up 30% from a year ago, and new-to-franchise players grew 7%. FIFA mobile has been downloaded 250 million times to date.
EA will create a 9 month-long esports series for FIFA 20. Last year, that competition drew 800 million views and EA is hoping to increase that in the coming year, Wilson said.
“We continued a strong FY20 with an excellent second quarter. Our latest EA Sports titles are captivating a growing global player base, and deep engagement in these titles and our ongoing live services fueled our continued momentum through Q2,” Wilson said. “As a result, our revenue and earnings per share exceeded our expectations for Q2, and we are raising our full-year guidance today.”
He added, “At Electronic Arts, we are focused on creating amazing new games and content, offering live services that extend and enhance the experience, and reaching more players when and where they want to play. I’ll share a few highlights here of how we delivered against these focus areas during Q2.”
Jorgensen said mobile games in the third quarter were $122 million, down 20% from a year ago, due to aging titles. But Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes was strong, as was FIFA Mobile China and FIFA Online 4 Mobile.
Big holiday this year
EA has also launched Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and will soon launch Need for Speed: Heat on November 8. Need for Speed: Heat is expected to generate 3 million-to-4 million copies sold.
And EA will launched its much-anticipated Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, on November 15. Battlefield V will see an expansion into the Pacific theater of World War II.
Jorgensen said that EA was modeling sales of 6 million-to-8 million copies for Fallen Order. Wilson said that the “game is coming to market at such an amazing time for Star Wars fans,” as hundreds of millions of people are getting excited about the launch of Star Wars: The Mandalorian TV show, the launch of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge lands in Disney theme parks, and the December 20 launch of Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.
“The one fantasy that many of those fans have been telling us they want is to experience the journey of becoming a Jedi — and we’re set to deliver that with Jedi: Fallen Order,” Wilson said. “The Respawn team have been pouring their passion into creating this new game in partnership with Lucasfilm, with characters old and new, and a story that is now an authentic part of the Star Wars universe. It’s going to be a thrilling adventure to play, and with more than 140 million views to date of trailers and videos for the game, the community is eager to jump into Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order in just a few more weeks.”
The years ahead
Besides the NBA Live title, Wilson said that EA is working on a brand new opportunity for EA Sports. That title will expand EA’s line-up of annual EA Sports titles.
Wilson also said that Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, a virtual reality title for the Oculus Rift, will no longer ship in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020. That title will now ship in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021.
EA will also expand its live services for games like Apex Legends and The Sims 4.
“We also have plans for new experiences that we’ve not yet announced for next year,” Wilson said. “New titles and new IP for multiple platforms. Introducing new games will always be at our core, and we look forward to exciting players with unexpected new titles in FY21.”
EA also has two new EA Partners titles coming, as well as other unannounced titles in the works.