EA's Less-Than-Thrilling Gameplay

Video game stocks tend to be cyclical, enjoying occasional booms on the rising edge of the console upgrade cycle. But Electronic Arts' (Nasdaq: ERTS  ) recent results suggest that it's fallen through a time warp, landing right in the doldrums of that cycle. EA investors seem to have little reason to say "w00t."

EA's quarterly earnings release boasted of the largest revenue in its history, but obviously, all the sales in the world wouldn't have helped. Its third-quarter loss was $33 million, or $0.10 per share, compared to a profit of $160 million, or $0.50 per share, this time last year. That aforementioned revenue increased 17% to $1.5 billion.

EA noted that on a non-GAAP basis, net income increased more than 40%; that doesn't excite me, since I'm not interested in how profitable it would have been had a formidable list of items been backed out. (Most of the numerous items in EA's non-GAAP reconciliation seem to appear quarter after quarter.) Meanwhile, EA lowered the high end of its guidance range for fiscal 2008; it now expects revenue of $3.46 billion to $3.59 billion, and a loss of between $1.67 per share and $1.48 per share. It previously issued revenue guidance ranging from $3.35 billion to $3.65 billion, and predicted a loss between $1.60 per share and $0.91 per share.

Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK), Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) , and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) may all have popular, recently upgraded video game consoles, and there have been plenty of bullish signs for the industry, but it almost seems as if Electronic Arts is stuck in another time and place. Perhaps it's playing Pong.

EA may be taking fantasy warfare to Taiwan, but in another notable piece of news, EA said the long-long-long-awaited game Spore, from the creator of The Sims, will release before the next holiday season. Industry watchers had expected it to ship in the spring.

I generally feel more optimistic about Electronic Arts and Activision (Nasdaq: ATVI  ) , since they've traditionally shown the sort of leadership that's arguably lacking in companies like Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO  ) and THQ  (Nasdaq: THQI  ) . However, I'm baffled by Electronic Arts' seeming inability to gain much traction in a vibrant video game space. At the moment, I don't see any reason to press "start" on EA.

Grab your controller and check out some recent EA news:


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