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EA weighs in on next-gen games and the  Battlefield 4  debacle
EA weighs in on next-gen games and the Battlefield 4 debacle
January 28, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

January 28, 2014 | By Christian Nutt
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    6 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Following its third quarter 2013 results, EA execs took to the phones for a conference call that included questions from analysts. Given that its third quarter was the final quarter of calendar 2013, ending December 31, there were two topics that stood out: How the next gen is going, and the company's ongoing struggles with its Battlefield 4 service.

Battlefield 4

If you were hoping for some dish on the Battlefield 4 question, you won't get much -- probably because of litigation pending against the company.

In his prepared statement, CEO Andrew Wilson called the five-platform launch of Battlefield 4 a "complex effort," but said that the "team acted swiftly" to fix problems, an effort that is continuing, and that EA is "confident that gamers will be playing for a long time to come."

Interestingly, chief operating officer Peter Moore said that any weakness in sales of Battlefield 4 were not "linked to any quality issues" but more to do with general player disinterest in the current generation of consoles -- something the company noted was a problem overall.

In fact, Moore is confident that EA will continue to sell the game "effectively" moving forward, despite problems.

Patrick Soderlund, executive vice president of EA Studios -- who once headed up DICE, the studio that produced the game -- answered a "lessons learned" question with what sounded like a prepared statement.

"Based on our prelaunch testing and our beta performance, we were convinced it was ready," Soderlund said. Given that it shipped on so many platforms at once, Soderlund said that it was "different than anything we've seen before with any game," and the company is "taking multiple steps to incorporate what we've learned and integrate them into future products."

In general, the company avoided answering questions on the game as much as was possible, and the analysts didn't press too hard on it, either -- though one did ask if this would mean a rocky launch for Titanfall. The answer there, of course, was "no."

Next-Gen

In its quarterly results, EA announced two interesting things: A dominant share of next-gen software sales (at 35 percent of the Western market) along with a weakness in current gen game sales -- "a much sharper decline" than anticipated, per CFO Blake Jorgensen, who said next-gen sales were "well ahead of our expectations" but still didn't make up for the shortfall.

In other words, players flocked to the new consoles, but didn't buy enough EA games to make up for those who abandoned the current gen.

"The uptake of next-gen consoles has been faster than we expected," said Wilson. "The six titles we released collectively sold above expectations and exceeded our third quarter forecasts." Moore, however, does expect next-gen console sales to eclipse 10 million by the end of March 2014.

Wilson noted that, according to NPD research, the company had a 40 percent software market share on PlayStation 4 and 30 percent on Xbox One in the U.S., with "similar" numbers in Europe.

Interestingly, Moore doesn't expect full digital downloads of next-gen games to have a significant impact on retail for some time. It's "something to look at in 12 months," he said, as "consumers have gone to retail to buy their boxes, and as a result have bought packaged versions of that software."

Digital versus packaged goods is "not a black and white issue," said Moore, but represents a "combined economy," as downloadable content and subscription revenues "springboard off of retail sales."

Despite the immediate current-gen declines, said Moore, "I think Microsoft is committed to [Xbox] 360 for a number of years." He expects both Microsoft and Sony to "get behind the consoles" and turn out 10-year console cycles in the end.

Jorgensen said that EA believes current-gen consoles "will be around for some time and a viable part of our catalogue going forward -- and it could grow if the prices come down."


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Comments


Eric Geer
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"chief operating officer Peter Moore said that any weakness in sales of Battlefield 4 were not "linked to any quality issues" but more to do with general player disinterest in the current generation of consoles -- something the company noted was a problem overall. "

Man, the people working at the top of the chain over at EA are a bunch of schmucks. BF4 shitty sales, are based not on the poor quality of BF4, but the poor quality of every EA published game before it. EA is hemorrhaging loyal customers, with every new game that gets released, there is more distrust and disgust with EA business practices. Between broken games, micro transactions, casualizing core franchises, shitty always online policies, day one DLC, online passes(thankfully have passed), as well as a slew of other shit...I'm surprised they have as many customers as they do.

If it wasn't for the IP they have their hands on, they wouldn't even be treading water. This has nothing to do with disinterest in current gen, or interest in next gen. If this was true, they would have made sure that the next gen versions of BF4 were spotless....which is unfortunately not true.

John Flush
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Couldn't agree more here. Wave after wave of bad decisions this generation and with their PC policies and required online service have encouraged me to pass on everything they make these days (unless I have no other choice - such as a golf game every 3-4 years).

Every day I look for more games to play. I'm clearly interested in new games... just not from EA.

Biff Johnson
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"Interestingly, chief operating officer Peter Moore said that any weakness in sales of Battlefield 4 were not "linked to any quality issues" but more to do with general player disinterest in the current generation of consoles "

er... I don't think they were listening to their communities through the beta releases if they genuinely believe that. I bought the game when it was on sale, but I've barely touched it. Crashing issues and rubber-banding have pretty much killed the fun in this game for me.
After 20 years of internet gaming, I'd think that the industry as a whole would get this kinda thing figured out. we started with peer2peer, went to server based games because p2p sucked so badly. (which were translations from network games of course). but now for some reason we're back to p2p with no lan support in games. I guess because lanning sucks? I don't get it. Most of it, I'm sure, is marketing and controlling/milking money out of customers. Now they're making money on us, they companies that lease out servers, and the companies that make hacks for games. (that is a whole other can of worms).

Where "Next-Gen" is concerned. meh. I don't own a console nor will I. If games are no longer made for PC's, then that will be that. Nearing 50 years of age has its advantages. ;)

Tony Dormanesh
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"Interestingly, chief operating officer Peter Moore said that any weakness in sales of Battlefield 4 were not "linked to any quality issues" but more to do with general player disinterest in the current generation of consoles -- something the company noted was a problem overall."

--- How out of touch can you be...

Merc Hoffner
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More likely his lawyer told him he has to say it. He's named in a lawsuit that alleges he and other executives used their privileged positions and insider knowledge to manipulation stocks and cheat the market.

http://gamasutra.com/view/news/207386/EA_investors_file_suit_over
_Battlefield_4.php

If he said the quality wasn't up to scratch then it'd go a long way to make the case for culpability.

Tony Dormanesh
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Good point. Trying to set themselves up for a court win. What a great game executive.


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