Shares in Electronic Arts were down nearly six percent today as lower than expected reviews for the company's Medal of Honor franchise reboot dampened shareholder enthusiasm for the game's release.
The Wall Street Journal (registration required) notes that the company's stock had risen over 15 percent in the last six weeks on expectations that the game's strong pre-orders would lead to strong holiday sales.
But that stock rally seems to have turned around on today's release of largely middling reviews for the new title, the first in the franchise since 2007's Medal of Honor: Heroes 2.
The game's 22 reviews currently average out to a Metascore of 74 on popular aggregator Metacritic, which is similar to the score for some recent games in the series but well below the widespread critical praise for last year's top-selling Modern Warfare 2 from Activision.
Analysts were ambivalent on the reason behind stock drop, with Lazard Capital Markets' Colin Sebastian telling the Journal the market may simply be using the news as an excuse to lock-in recent gains, and MKM's Eric Handler saying the game could still be a hit for EA.
"This is a high-profile game where EA owns the [intellectual property], which can result in above-average margins as no license fee or royalty has to be paid to another entity," Handler told the paper. "As such, I think it's a situation where some of the air is being let out of the balloon following a nice run in the shares and high expectations for the Medal of Honor reboot."
Despite a heavy marketing campaign that began nearly a year ago with a reveal at the Spike TV Video Game Awards, analysts recently warned Medal of Honor needed more buzz to take on next month's release of Call of Duty: Black Ops.
[UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times cites an EA statement which downplays the importance of today's Medal of Honor reviews for the game's sales success.
"The game had the highest pre-orders in the 11-year history of the Medal of Honor franchise," the company said. "This is an essentially big achievement considering Medal of Honor has been dormant for several years. This is the first year in rebooting the franchise."
"Medal of Honor is part of a larger EA strategy to take share in the shooter category," the statement continues. "This is a marathon not a sprint -– today’s Medal of Honor launch represents a step forward in that race."]