Posts Tagged ‘EA’

GamersFirst calls 2011: Free-to-play to become dominant play form

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

The end of the year is a great time to look back at where we’ve been, but also a time to look forward. Yesterday we talked about Screen Digest’s predictions for Move and Kinect, and today free-to-play publisher GamersFirst has published their views on the upcoming state of play. They point to the success of the free-to-play industry, but also expect the format to overtake the status quo, and become the defacto form in 2011.

Looking at a DFC report, GamersFirst points to a 35% growth rate per annum in the free-to-play sector, resulting in a massive gain in free-to-play momentum. Based on these figures, and presumably a few of their own internals., GamersFirst is predicting that the free-to-play market will overtake traditional formats in 2011. They foresee a massive onslaught of free-to-play MMO’s, but also point to the potential headache for marketers everywhere who will be competing for gamers’ attention (and hard earned dollars).

More triple A in free-to-play. As we’ve seen with Turbine, converting your AAA title to free-to-play can have significant results. Based on this strategy, GamersFirst is calling 2011 to be the year of the AAA free-to-play. They see more competitive top shelf titles to engage with players via free-to-play, and that these gamers will eventually shift away from traditional subscription and box models in favor of online and free-to-play.

Digital distribution FTW! GamersFirst acknowledges the not-so-hot sales figures coming out of the traditional retail outlets (note: the depends on who’s figures you’re looking at), they’re calling 2011 to be the year of digital distribution. Based on previous and current digital distribution figures, this one isn’t that hard to swallow, as EA’s head John Riccitiello has even gone on record stating that the company will be scaling back on boxed options.

Rise of the Niche. Rounding out their predictions, GamersFirst recognizes the growing number of small(er) and independent gaming studios popping up around the globe. To this end, they see these indy developers as a driving force in 2011. Whether it comes to mobile gaming or desktop, these developers will be pushing out deeper and deeper niche games to the point where 2011 will see “something for everyone.”

 

Second Life’s second life? Former EA exec Rod Humble takes on CEO role

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

San Francisco, CA based Linden Lab has announced the arrival of the new CEO, former EA Play label executive Rod Humble.

“Rod is a great new leader for Linden Lab,” said Philip Rosedale, Founder of Second Life. “Second Life has become a consistently large and profitable business with a thriving virtual economy built together with its passionate Resident community. This has always been a big, long-term vision, it is still early and there is enormous opportunity for growth. With Rod’s fresh insights and deep experience in creating and leading the development of fun, intuitive, immersive entertainment experiences that have attracted massive audiences of loyal users, he’s the right leader to understand what makes us special and bring the next level of growth to Second Life.”

Humble comes to Second Life with over 20 years of industry experience under his belt. He’s worked on more than 200 games, and most recently headed up the EA Play label. If the Play business unit sounds vaguely familiar, you’ll remember that EA’s best-selling PC franchise game of all time, The Sims was borne from this group. That’s not to say, however, that Humble has experience solely in the realm of life sims, as Humble was also the VP of Product Development with SOE under the EverQuest banner. And if these two accomplishments alone weren’t enough, Humble was also ranked #2 in 2009 on Edge’s “Hot 100 Game Developers.”

“Joining Linden Lab is a very exciting opportunity,” said Humble. “I have a long standing interest in the how the boundaries of society and economics change as communications evolve in new ways. Second Life is unique: it sits at the intersection of virtual worlds, avatars, and human contact. The Residents and developers of Second Life have built something very special, I am honored to join the talented team at Linden Lab to help expand this new frontier.”

An interesting move by Humble, as Second Life has surely taken a few beatings over the past few years. With his Sims experience, and a dash of EverQuest here and there, your humble author truly believes that Humble might have some interesting surprises in store for the virtual world that started it all.

 

EA scraps in-game ads in favor of microtransactions

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

EA is an interesting beast. As one of the largest and most prominent games makers on the planet, they hold their own unique space in your average gamers’ world. And while EA has been going through a revamping process for longer than I can count, EA’s General Manager of Free-to-play, Ben Cousins, has some interesting things to say about the direction of the company in an interview with Edge.

According to Cousins, EA will be moving further and further away from any in-game advertising based campaigns, focusing more on microtransactions. “We actually aren’t getting much from ad revenue at all,” says Cousins. “The in-game advertising business hasn’t grown as fast as people expected it to.” It’s not that in-game ads are to fault, but rather, Cousins points out the massive and sudden explosion of microtransaction based revenue models, as evidenced by Zynga. “If you think about how fast the virtual goods business has grown in the last year or so, it’s been much quicker and become a much more reliable source of revenue.”

Cousins isn’t simply making numbers and figures up. You’ll remember when EA jumped into the free-to-play pool, they did so with Battlefield Heroes, which was supported through a mixture of (presumably tested and re-tested) in-game advertising slots and microtransactions. “We hedged our bets,” he said. “we thought we’d do in-game advertising and virtual goods sales, and one of those took off really fast and the other hasn’t really taken off at all.”

The interview with Edge arrives just ahead of EA’s newest iteration of a free-to-play Battlefield title hits the streets, Battlefield: Play4Free. He doesn’t quite see this shift at EA as the final nail in the coffin for IGA, but he does note that publishers need to up the bar in the creativity department for the model to be truly compelling, i.e. generate significant revenues.

“We did a deal with Dr Pepper for Battlefield Heroes, where if you buy a bottle and scan in the code you get an exclusive outfit. That kind of deep integration will work, I think, but I’m not convinced that we’ll have billboards in games and things like that. Maybe those days are over.”

Over the course of the year, we’ve seen a massive uptake in microtransactions, while the world of in-game advertising has already said goodbye to one of it’s major players. If Cousins’ is on the right track, could we see another IGA-based shop shutter it’s doors in 2011? Or…will advertisers take Cousins’ and others’ comments to heart and give a serious retooling to their methods?

 

EA laying off the boxes, focusing on the digital

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

EA CEO John Riccitiello recently commented at the Reuters Global Media Summit that the Redwood City, CA based gaming giant would cut its slate of titles by as much as 40 percent in 2011. EA is now looking at putting out 35 traditional boxed games this fiscal year, down from 50 last year. And according to Riccitiello, that number will continue to drop year after year to, “some number probably between the low 20s and the high 20s that’s right.”

EA’s traditional bread and butter, boxed, in-store retail games, which account for 75 percent of EA’s revenues has continued it’s downward spiral, and clearly Riccitiello has seen the writing on the wall. Or at least, heard what investors have had to say. As Reuters reports, EA’s shares, as well as those of other video game publishers have seen some tough times over the past year, mostly incited by pessimism about the overall direction of the video game industry.

“I think we’re at the classic hump where we’ve told people where we’re going. There’s evidence we’re going to get there, but Vegas isn’t putting money on it because we’re only in the fourth inning,” Riccitiello said.

With that said, it may look like EA’s long-running turnaround is starting to pay off. In addition to cutting costs across the board, reducing the number of employees, and issuing more conservative financial forecasts, investor excitement is starting to build around the upcoming BioWare developed Star Wars: The Old Republic, which EA hopes will give Activision’s World of Warcraft a run for it’s money. However, a new report issued by Gamasutra, places SWTOR’s release date “sometime” in EA’s 2012 fiscal year, which starts in April 2011. Read:Christmas 2011.

When it comes down to the 1’s and 0’s, EA has seen a healthy 30 percent increase in revenues derived from digital, downloadable, and mobile content over the course of this past year, totaling $570 million, or, roughly 15 percent of EA’s total revenue stream. Riccitiello and company are projecting a modest 30 percent increase on these numbers this year.

EA is currently the highest ranked games publisher on Apple’s App Store, thanks in part to their Playfish acquisition. Likewise, EA’s clearly serious about keeping this top slot, as earlier last month, they snatched up iPhone games developer Chillingo.

If the Playfish and Chillingo acquisitions weren’t enough, Reuters also reports that EA is currently spending around $1 billion per year on research and development, with half of this budget dedicated solely to non-traditional games and gaming.

At the end of the day, it seems as though the giant that is EA has caught on to what smaller, more agile gaming companies have known for a while – boxes are dinosaurs, and mobile and online is where it’s at. And now that that sleeping giant has been awoken … let’s see what kind of havoc (in the best possible ways) it can wreak.

via Reuters

 

EA announces new Battlefield Play4Free (or Heroes take two?)

Monday, November 8th, 2010

When EA and DICE set off to experiment in the free-to-play world a while back, gamers’ response to their free-to-play Battlefield Heroes was mixed. Some (myself included) loved the cartoonish take on a not-always-fun topic, while others snubbed the title for the same attributes, or, not realistic enough. Well it seems like EA has listened to user feedback, and is now bringing forth a new free-to-play, or play4free as EA refers to it, in a much more “traditional” sense.

Announced this past Friday, EA’s Battlefield Play4Free is arguably a complete antithesis to Heroes, featuring photo-realistic characters, environments, weapons and maps. Clearly, EA is targeting a very different audience with their newest offering. Billed as a deep PC shooter, Battlefield Play4Free incorporates a number of traditional Battlefield series notables including vehicle warfare, sandbox gameplay, and 32 player online shoot’em down goodness.

“We broke new ground in 2009 with the launch of Battlefield Heroes; a game that has 6M registered players worldwide. Now we are complementing that arcade shooter with a core, realistic Battlefield shooter experience that fans have been clamoring for,” said James Salt, Senior Producer, Battlefield Play4Free. “Battlefield Play4Free is for serious shooter fans who are looking for a premium – but free – experience that rivals top console titles.”

And if EA has anything to say about it, Battlefield P4F will take on those console titles via it’s advanced graphics, production vales, and incredible depth and realism – again, an almost 180 degree turn from Heroes’ modus operandi. Battlefield P4F pulls elements from Battlefield 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, providing players with the most popular maps, classes, and weapons from the two titles, offering players up to 16 different vehicle choices.

This newest iteration in the Battlefield franchise is a clear indication that EA is now taking free-to-play quite seriously. Remember, when Battlefield Heroes launched, EA and DICE were bravely taking the plunge in a still-to-be-proven market (i.e. North America). Since garnering over 6 million players, and learning quite a few valuable lessons along the way, it’s clear that EA now feels as though the timing is right to launch a “serious, hardcore” free-to-play title, and see how the market responds. My guess? Well, let’s hope those Play4Free servers are up to the challenge, as I suspect that even non-shooter fans like myself won’t pass up a moment (or 100) to go give this one a try.

The Battlefield play4free official launch is scheduled for Spring 2011, but trigger happy applicants can sign up to be included in EA’s closed beta of the project, which kicks off November 30th, at battlefield.play4free.com.

 

EA signs exclusive 5 year deal with Facebook Credits

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Electronic Arts has recently announced that they’ve signed an exclusive 5 year deal with social networking platform Facebook to solely use Facebook Credits as it’s payment method.

You’ll remember that as part of the Playfish acquisition, EA now counts “Pet Society” and “Restaurant City” in it’s storehouse of games. These two rank in the top 10 games played on a daily basis on Facebook. EA has more recently launched popular football and soccer themed titles, and intentionally or not, Playfish COO Sebastien De Halleux casually mentioned that the timeless classic, “Monopoly” would soon receive the social treatment.

“Since gaming has emerged as the most popular category of applications on Facebook, the natural next step is for EA to broaden our relationship with Facebook and its 500 million users,” comments Barry Cottle, EA Interactive’s senior vice president and general manager. “Our goal is to make the best games tailored specifically to the platforms on which people want to play.”

According to the terms of the agreement, and similar to many other microtransactions based agreements today, EA will receive 70 percent of all sales, with Facebook taking home 30 percent. Considering the recent words from Facebook, and their push to make the platform more “developer friendly,”it looks like EA could be on the winning side of this agreement. Now, as long as they can avoid getting caught passing UID information along, they should remain in Facebook’s favor.

“We are pleased to enter into this long-term partnership with EA to make it easier for people to purchase virtual goods across some of the most popular games on Facebook,” Dan Rose, Facebook’s vice president of partnerships and platform marketing, said in the release. “Playfish has a great reputation for building high-quality games on Facebook, and we look forward to working even more closely with them and the larger team at EA.”

 

Windows Phone 7 receives vote of confidence from EA Mobile

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

While the smartphone community at large has been rather “meh” about Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone 7 program (see HP as an example), EA has given the software manufacturer a strong vote of confidence yesterday, announcing that they’ll join the launch lineup with a number of Xbox LIVE enabled mobile games later this autumn.

screenshot_01The first round of EA titles headed for Windows Phone 7 are:

  • “Need for Speed™ Undercover.” Power 20 of the world’s hottest high-performance cars through 24 undercover missions and eight challenging modes of thrilling action. Customize your vehicle and earn performance upgrades as you race head-to-head, earn achievements and track leaderboards.
  • “Tetris®.” Play the best-selling blockbuster, all new for Windows Phone 7. Play up to 12 challenging variants and become a “Tetris” master, or enjoy the timeless fun of Marathon mode, loved by hundreds of millions worldwide. Challenge your Xbox LIVE friends to beat your top score in single-player Marathon mode, the variant that made the “Tetris” game a phenomenon.
  • “The Sims™ 3.” Savor hours of entertainment with this award-winning experience of the No. 1 best-selling PC franchise of all time. Choose from dozens of personality traits and make your Sims characters neurotic, funny or shy while drawing from a wide array of built-in theme sets to bring your Sims to life with any appearance, clothing, and accessories you choose. Complete goals, wishes and personal goals while unlocking achievements and scoring Gamerscore points.
  • “MONOPOLY.” Fans will enjoy classic “MONOPOLY” play in the 75-year tradition of the world’s favorite family game brand,* under license from Hasbro Inc. Take a ride on the Reading Railroad or buy Boardwalk as you collect achievements and climb the leaderboards. From Marvin Gardens and Water Works to Park Place, own and manage the famous holdings of the “MONOPOLY” game board, which comes to life with animated tokens and interactive features for Windows Phone 7.

“Our collaboration with Microsoft brings EA’s world-class catalog of global game franchises to Windows Phone 7, offering a unique set of gaming features perfectly suited to the deep, innovative experiences we value at EA,” said Travis Boatman, vice president of Worldwide Studios for EA Mobile. “We see consumers deeply integrating devices into their lives and entertainment in new ways every day. Challenging your Xbox LIVE friends to an EA game from the phone in your pocket keeps you connected and having fun no matter where you are.”

Again, while a number of hardware manufacturers are either not interested in what Microsoft is selling, or far to invested and focused on their own smartphone operating system, one of Windows Phone 7’s primary draws is the deep integration with Xbox LIVE, a factor that’s sure to appeal to console owners. EA’s, as well as other games providers’ titles will offer the ability to track and share scores with leaderboards, unlock Xbox LIVE achievements, add to a Gamerscore, and communicate with other Xbox LIVE friends – a feature unique to Windows Phone 7. While Apple’s been dishing out bits and pieces of a gamer v. gamer service, they simply don’t have the console draw that’s sure to interest many a hardcore Xbox player.

EA now joins the ranks of Gameloft, Konami, Namco Bandai, PopCap, and THQ on opening day for Windows Phone 7. Microsoft promises new titles to be released for Windows Phone 7 on a weekly basis, including trial demos, and asynchronous turn-based gameplay.

“Together EA and Microsoft have created some of the definitive console games of this generation, and we’re excited to bring that powerful alliance to Windows Phone 7,” said Ron Pessner, general manager of Xbox LIVE mobile, Microsoft. “This is a new and major games platform for Microsoft, and we look forward to the amazing games EA will deliver over the coming years.”

 

EA: in game ads raise real world sales

Monday, September 20th, 2010

EA has recently announced the results of a study conducted by The Nielsen Company which demonstrates the effectiveness of in-game advertising. More specifically, the study illustrates just how effective in game ads can be at raising real world sales. Commissioned by EA on behalf of Gatorade, an in game advertising client, the study found that households that were exposed to in-game adverts of Gatorade increased their spending on said product by 24%, or an ROI of $3.11.

285240-ea_sports_logo_largeAnd this isn’t pre/post roll ads were talking about here. Gatorade’s ads ran as arena signs, player’s water bottles, score updates and other call outs (verbal) – actions that only mirror a real-world sporting event. The Nielsen study targeted NHL ’09 and’10, NBA Live ’07, ’08. ’09, and NBA Street Homecourt, all EA titles.

“Video games are a deeply engaging consumer experience,” added Gerardo Guzman, Director, Media Product Leadership for The Nielsen Company. “Bringing our industry accepted ad effectiveness understanding to video games is another way to help marketers understand how consumers respond to advertising across different environments. This should help optimize the impact of and derive a return on media investments. In this case the story is simple — dollars put into video game product placement result in more retail dollars.”

100,000 households were surveyed, accessed by Nielsen’s US Homescan panel. The Homescan panel represents the average US population, and this study included homes that scanned video game UPC barcodes. These barcodes were then in turn cross references with a database of over 14,000 video game titles, thus ensuring accuracy. Nielsen then compared this data with homes that purchased on of the selected titles both before and after the Gatorade ads were inserted – vs. the households that hadn’t purchased one of the titles, i.e. the control group.

What makes this study noteworthy, beyond it’s factual statistics, is that it’s the first time that this form of measurement of in-game advertising’s effectiveness has been measured by these standards. We’ve all seen, thought, or heard of IGA’s reach and sales driven motivation, but until now, no one had broad reaching numbers. Obviously, part of this study was to put this stamp on the industry, but also a nice push for EA, and the video games industry as a whole, stating, ‘We’ve got the space, technology, and platform – and now the proof that the method works!’

“Nielsen’s study is a milestone for interactive entertainment,” said Elizabeth Harz, Senior Vice President of Global Media Sales at EA. “For the first time, advertisers are able to link the value of their in-game marketing or sponsorship to actual sales. Now brands can feel confident adding gaming as a core media channel for their advertising.”

 

Quickhit takes it to the RedZone with NFL License

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Massachusetts based social football coaching game Quickhit has recently been granted the coveted “seal of approval” from the National Football League via a licensing agreement. The license now allows Quickhit to use the league’s 32 professional teams, uniforms, logos, and stadiums in their free-to-play game.

quickhitNFL

Notably, this license is the first and only one of it’s kind outside of the EA deal, which was inked in 2004. It’s a bit of a loophole, but the EA agreement with the NFL is limited to PC and Console platforms, including multiplayer online play, as well as hand-held games, but does not have any clauses directed at purely internet based games.

While former Turbine CEO and EA employee, Quickhit chief Jeff Anderson could not comment on the negotiations, he did say that he was very excited about getting NFL teams into Quickhit.

“I was at EA and saw the value and the power of the franchise. It is the most popular sport out there. Having the NFL and getting that validation is an incredible opportunity to bring in new users and expand our content.”

And although the licensing might be seen as a direct shot across the bow at EA’s Madden franchise, Quickhit design director Brandon Justice stresses that Quickhit is focused on attracting a different type of player, one that may not be attracted to console games or put off by the complex interface. As Justice puts it, “Quickhit aims to be more of a sports RPG than a sports action game.”

With fantasy football leagues starting to grind to life, the Quickhit/NFL deal couldn’t have come at a better time. Instead of directly targeting Madden fans, Quickhit has an entirely separate demographic to go after, as Quickhit could very easily become a coaching tool/simulator for fantasy football fans. And now that they’ve signed the NFL, how long do you think it will take ESPN to sign on the dotted line, making Quickhit the fantasy football, free-to-play of choice?

Formerly known as Play Hard, Quickhit launched their debut title, Quickhit Football during the 2009 NFL season, and now has over 1 million players. In late January 2009, they added the voice of former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher to the game. The new, NFL licensed content is expected to be released in time for the 2010 football season.

 

EA plans Masters release of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

EA Sports announced yesterday, in conjunction with Tiger Woods’ return to golf statement, that the full commercial version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online will go live on or around the time of this years’ upcoming Masters golf tournament.

Tiger WoodsEA’s Peter Moore revealed at the IMG World Congress of Sports in Los Angeles that the launch of the browser based, free-to-play title will coincide with consumers peak interest in the golfing world. “It’s more than serendipity. That’s when people start thinking golf. It’s the first major,” comments Moore.

Moore also revealed that current beta testers are playing around 40,000 rounds of golf a day. The final version of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online will remain free-to-play, but will also feature subscriptions, microtransactions, advertising, and possible downloads. Moore declined to comment on any of the pricing structures.

Adding to the Tigermania, EA Sports, which generates approximately 30 percent of EA’s overall income reports that they’re still on track with their planned June release of the console version of the Tiger Woods franchise which will be available for the wii, Xbox 360, PS3, and iPhone.

Clearly, EA is capitalizing on Tiger Woods’ recent announcement that he’ll be returning to the golf tour this coming April in Augusta, Georgia. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, we all know the trouble surrounding Tiger’s personal life as of late. As a result, Woods has seen a fair share of sponsors either distance themselves from, or drop completely, Tiger’s endorsement deals. Accenture PLC, AT&T Inc., and PepsiCo Inc’s Gatorade all backed out on their sponsorship deals. On the other side of the coin, both Nike Inc. and EA Sports have stood strong behind their golfer of choice.

A quick look at what Tiger’s announcement has done to the golf world may bode extremely well for those that decided to stay behind Tiger. Normally selling for around $200 a ticket, post Tiger’s entry announcement, ticket outlet StubHub reports prices averaging around $500. The site reported seeing 5 times the normal activity on Tuesday, and pages where Masters tickets could be purchased experiences a 70 percent surge in traffic. Granted, these are only ticket prices, and have no direct connection to how well the online game will perform, but….if this data is an indication of things to come, EA’s ‘stand by your man’ policy could reap rewards tenfold.

The EA Sports/Tiger Woods deal was inked back in 1997, and 12 versions of the console game have borne Woods’ name. It’s estimated that the Tiger Woods titles sell around 2 million copies annually, generating around $80 million in net revenue.