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NPD: Behind the Numbers, November 2008
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NPD: Behind the Numbers, November 2008

December 15, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 7 Next

Electronic Arts, In-Depth

Recently Electronic Arts announced that sales in the United States and Europe were not in line with its previous estimates, and therefore it would not meet its expectations for its fiscal year ending 31 March 2009. As a result, the company would enact several cost-cutting measures, including consolidation of its workforce and elimination of some planned titles.

Electronic Arts had previously professed its faith in the creative process and the potential profit to be found in new properties. Titles like Mirror's Edge and Dead Space, both completely new material, were key to the company's end-of-year strategy.

To get an idea of EA's position, it is instructive to consider the following data, provided to Gamasutra by the NPD Group. The figure below shows the life-to-date (LTD) sales figures for four key EA properties: Madden NFL 09, Burnout Paradise, Dead Space, and Mirror's Edge.

Selected EA Titles

(Only Dead Space is currently available for Windows PC as well as consoles, so the data above includes all of those platforms. Data for the other three games includes only console and handheld versions.)

Not pictured, but worth mentioning, is Spore -- available for Windows PC, MacOS, and the Nintendo DS -- which has sold in excess of 2 million units since its launch.

What should EA make of these results? Its biggest annual software release, Madden NFL, is still doing quite well, although it is not growing its installed base as it has in the past. EA's high-profile designer, Will Wright, delivered a multi-million seller with Spore, but we have yet to see whether EA can successfully exploit it with add-ons as it had previously done with Wright's earlier game, The Sims.

To these successes we add Burnout Paradise, the latest iteration of the well-regarded Burnout series and the first on current generation consoles. It moved around 230,000 units (for the Xbox 360 and PS3 combined) when it launched in January of this year, yet the game is just now reaching 600,000 units LTD, even with heavily promoted gratis downloadable content. It goes without saying that Burnout Paradise probably has not lived up to the company's expectations. (It should be noted here that the complete PlayStation 3 game is available for download from Sony's PlayStation Store and sales figures for that version have not been released by either Sony or Electronic Arts.)

The two new creative ventures, Mirror's Edge and Dead Space, have both failed miserably. This is in spite of lengthy and extensive marketing for each game, including a series of graphic novel-style backstory trailers for Dead Space released over several months.

The brightest spot in EA's line-up turns out to be Left 4 Dead, a cooperative shooter developed by Valve and published by EA. The Xbox 360 console exclusive was 8th for the month of November with sales of 410,000 units. (It is also available for Windows PC, both as a boxed product and through Valve's own distribution platform, Steam.) The challenge for EA is generating those kinds of hit titles with the studios it owns.

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Rick Carr
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Question: Do your estimates for December 2008 sales take into account the fact that there were seven fewer post-thanksgiving days in November in 08 compared to 07, as NPD's Anita Frazier noted? It would seem that December 08 will benefit compared to December 07 by these additional post-Thanksgiving shopping days. Could you please tell us if you take that into account in your forecast? Thank you for an excellent article.

Stephen Panagiotis
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A quick comment at EA's new 'creative approach'. I think its very safe to say that those types of new games will end up being high type of sellers. The reason those were "miserable" sales was their release dating, they were up against high-profile games and sequels such as Gears Of War 2, GH:WT, and COD:5. A single person only has x amount of dollars to spend, and presented with ALL those choices for the holiday season, they're going to go for a sure fire hit.

If they release a Dead Space 2 or Mirror's Edge 2 they would do better durring a more lax shopping period. I for one hope they do not can those titles for future development. ME was a such a fresh game to the Halo, Half Life, and Gears sequels.

Also the report does a good job of saying "what if" we wernt in the economic crisis? I know I'd have a few more bucks to shell out for some games. My list itself is 7 titles long and growing!

Henry Kessay
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Well, my guess is that the lack of hit titles, lack of product direction, and lack of knowing your target audience helped the PS3 fall. I've been saying that the PS3 was a bad idea when the old Sony prez said the new console was going to cost 500 bucks.

Getting your consoles sold numbers up the first couple years is key to success. Not making those numbers means publishers need an extremely high attachment rate to your actual customers. No customers, no money. Could selling the PS3 at a much higher cost loss to Sony have helped them move consoles, yeah, probably.

No direction. Yes, I said no direction. Oh, the cell processor... hmm, the teenage kid yelling at the screen because he just fragged you 20 times more than likely doesn't care about that. Yes, there quite a few of those teenagers setting up networks, building their own PCs, but making a system designed for games, but also much more, does kill who runs the show. It slices, it dices.... so what? Game much? With over 23 years of gaming experience, my agenda is still the same; to have fun. Sony's recent direction is to market the fact the PS3 is not just for games. This statement pretty much tells PS3 gamers, hey, the PS3 wasn't just for you. Please sit down and have a seat, it's time to bring the movie fans forward. I, personally, can think of way more better ways to use 500 bucks to get a decent movie experience. Just imagine when Blu-Ray movies get set for downloads: "Only another week before I finish grabbing Speed Racer!". No thank you. Digital downloads have been catching on and until the physical cable wire technology evolves for us to send/receive terabytes, no Blu-Ray downloads for you. But please enjoy your non Blu-Ray movies on your 500 dollar HD system, until such time. Gamers? Oh we didn't forget about you. Please wait until the movie goers save us with our bailout and we might consider PS3 game development again. Man, playing movies with a cell processor is just too much. LOL, I can't wait till I need like two separate PC's to run a game. Then I can use one for gaming and the other's optical drive as a cup holder...(oh, nice one; make it a feature)

Not *knowing* your target audience kills me everytime too. It hurts personally because those gamers getting taken for a ride are my friends and family as well. Why is it at every big family function, the 360, Wii and PS2(two, not three) comes out for fun? I have one nephew and niece that got a PS3. The niece is the teenager and she chats online. Her parents won't get her a laptop since they believe that's all she will do. Lucky for her, she now has a 500 buck internet browser. Good for her since, it's not just for games. The nephew, well, he's not so lucky. All he does is game, so he might not be playing it too often if his sister has her way with it. But gaming, in this purchase choice, was the secondary feature, not the selling point. So no clear customer focus, no clear customer demands, how do you market your machine? Is it for expensive gaming, expensive movie watching, expensive all of the above? Sony being a company and not an emotional bag of carbon like ourselves will make decisions based on what is best for the company. If the gaming department doesn't pull it's share, believe they will take another spin on the PS3. Remember the PS2 hard drive? PS3 gaming might end up the same way if they can't save it. Maybe they'll just yank out the cell processor and all those other parts for gaming and just remake the PS3 as a cheaper Blu-Ray player. Either way, Sony has continued to make mistake after mistake and has turned their die hard customer's willingness to 'take one for the team' into a market strategy. Make some software sales Sony. Keep your developers alive. If you can't, the 360 dev kit I'm sure will start to look a whole lot better to the company that likes to make PROFIT.

Whew, thanks for the read of the wall of text. :)

gstarr W
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one thing i can say, if these analysis articles were 30 pages long, I'd still read them till the end!!

I feel bad for Sony. They have made the classic real estate mistake. Don't embellish your home too far beyond the other homes in your neighborhood. you may have put $300k into your home you paid $100k for. but if all the other homes in your neighborhood are selling for $120k, you will NEVER sell yours for the $400k you need to recoup your investment. Hello Sony,the average person doesn't care about your technical stats. They just wanna have FUN.

Going out to a fancy restaurant with my wife is cool. The chef's special will be spectacular. Having our friends over for beers and steaks on the grill is cheaper, done more often, and just as much fun.

that's the difference between the HD systems and the Wii.

Bob McIntyre
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The Wii is like a private playground where you can only play with your close, personal friends and you can only play a small selection of games and they largely don't work well. The HD systems let you play a wide variety of games with whoever you want, whenever you want, including strangers in a pickup game or friends who can't physically come into your house in order to play. Also, the HD systems can actually play new, creative/innovative games like Spore, whereas the Wii can't. That's also a difference.

The real difference is that Nintendo marketed and advertised the Wii so well that it deserves to be called the iConsole. And Sony took every opportunity to alienate their customer base.

Roberto Alfonso
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Basically, the HD systems do what the PC has been able to do since almost twenty years ago.

Frank D'Agostino
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We have two Xbox 360s in my house, both of which have Live Gold accounts--no Wii or PS3, though. I don't want the unresponsive Wiimote and I'm not replacing my DVD collection anytime soon, so I bought the system for "hardcore" gaming, the 360.

Wii appeals to casual gamers and the 360 appeals to dedicated ones. Who wants a PS3…especially at the current price?

Alan Rimkeit
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Roberto Alfonso

Basically, the HD systems do what the PC has been able to do since almost twenty years ago. -------------

PC's? 20 years ago? How old are you? 20 years ago was 1988. The PS1 was doing better then PC's at the time when it came out back in 1994. PC's 20 years ago were cool for the time, but if you showed a PS3 or a 360 to people from 20 years ago they would drop their jaws to the floor.

As for the sales numbers I say Sony needs to get bake to reality. Games, games and more games. Oh, and a huge price drop down to $249.99. That should do it. At least they can make it so their last place achievement is not so bad. I do love my PS3, but Sony needs to get their heads out of the clouds and get their feet back on the ground.