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EA:  NBA Elite 11  Canceled, Personnel Restructuring 'Relatively Small'

EA: NBA Elite 11 Canceled, Personnel Restructuring 'Relatively Small'

November 2, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

November 2, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

Electronic Arts' previously-announced delay of NBA Elite 11 is turning out to be a permanent one -- company CFO Eric Brown confirmed today on the company's call to investors that the game is actually canceled, although the publisher doesn't plan to terminate the franchise.

Instead, it'll be moving development of the brand from EA Black Box to its Florida-based Tiburon studio, as part of a wider reorganization of some of its key franchises' development with the aim of cost-efficiency.

EA talked to Gamasutra about its global development strategy under the Visceral brand umbrella, and the company said today it's going to revisit some of its licenses and development agreements that are no longer working.

Brown clarified that the "restructuring" mentioned in a SEC filing alongside its results refer primarily to "setting aside rights we won't be using... we are addressing structural issues on contracts that were signed years ago under significantly different market conditions," he said on the call.

Following the announcement of "seasonal roll-offs" lately, EA also sought to clarify the impact of the restructuring on its staff.

Brown emphasized that layoffs will affect "a relatively small number" of staff, "not a major personnel reorganization." In fact, he says the company is continuing to hire, and plans to raise overall EA headcount through year's end.

The first question analysts had of EA was regarding Medal of Honor, the publisher's aim for the FPS category crown that, with somewhat middling ratings, doesn't seem poised to unseat the Call of Duty brand this iteration.

The company asserts that it's pleased with the game's performance: "The game is rated mid-70s [on average]," said CEO John Riccitiello on the call. "[It has] almost 20 ratings 90 or above... mid-70s is generally perceived to be pretty good," he added.

In his view, it's the especially particular core gamer who was unsatisfied by the title: "The game appeals really well to a mass market," he suggested. "There's a small minority of folks, sometimes well-represented by core game reviewers... where, best I can tell, they spend 80, 90 hours a week playing first-person shooter [games]. They are very core to that segment, and some of them didn't like the title."

But by Electronic Arts' count, the title's doing better than the company planned, he says. "So far, the title has outperformed some of our sales expectations, and continues to outperform in week 3 [of its sales, not captured by the current fiscal quarter]."

Largely, however, the analysts who quizzed EA on the call seemed satisfied with the company's performance, congratulating the executives on a quarter that beat most of their forecasts. The U.S. stock market was a little ambivalent, however, with shares down 30c to $15.90 in after-hours trading.

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