Speaking to investors on a conference call following its Q1 results, EA executives revealed that its forthcoming FPS Tiberium would be delayed to fiscal 2010, and talked much more about the future of Spore, imagining a future in which the game could support a new 'Spore Label' akin to the Sims.
No further information was given on the cause or prospective release date for the Tiberium delay, instead simply saying it had been shifted into fiscal 2010 -- some time after March 31st, 2009. First announced in December of 2007, the title is a squad based first person shoot ‘em-up style game set in the Command & Conquer universe that was then expected for release in fall of 2008.
Much of the call focused on the future of EA's sports business, with sports label head Peter Moore explaining that while PC versions of its core sports properties have gone without a yearly update, the titles would return with an increased focus on community features and undetailed subscription programs, which he said would give players "greater value for their loyalty."
EA CEO John Riccitiello did make frequent mention of the company's new focus on viral, online community applications as it has briefly shown with the release of the Spore Creature Creator, but it also said that Battlefield Heroes was receiving key updates to the area.
Asked about the progress made on the forthcoming free to play product, Riccitiello said that following the product beta, EA has got "good info back," and "decided to increase its focus on some of the social networking features," applying feedback in an "intelligent and diligent way," and now expects the game to launch by the end of the calendar year.
"I think it's spectacular," said Riccitiello, calling it "very inviting," with a "good business model," and concluding that "the last thing we want to do is jam it in the marketplace."
Those same feelings were echoed regarding Spore. EA wouldn't give hard numbers on how many of the 2.5 million downloads of the Creature Creator were paid versus free, but did say that the game had a "strong pickup in North America and Europe."
Riccitiello also revealed that the game has so far seen a roughly two-thirds male versus one-third female download rate, calling the results surprising as EA had expected the game would be more strongly tilted toward males with its sci-fi focus.
He added that, as with Heroes, "job one with Spore is to make the launch successful." Speaking briefly about its long term prospects, Riccitiello said he would love to imagine a discussion a year or two in the future "whether we need a Spore Label inside EA," but added that "it's a little bit like pool -- if we spend way too much time setting up the second shot, we miss the first shot."
Riccitiello said there were "clear, obvious, and very compelling post-launch monetization opportunities," particularly with the idea of selling new creature and pieces, saying that the "parts are what make the sum work," and likening it to the Sims Store, but said ultimately that was "really not what the overwhelming part of our focus is on right now."