Today should have been a good day for Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS ) .
Its anxiously anticipated Medal of Honor video game hits retailers this morning, and the early buzz was positive. Two weeks ago, EA reported that the game had the highest pre-sales in the franchise's 11-year history.
Now that the battlefield is real -- and professional reviewers have kicked the jeep tires -- the prognosis for EA's war shooter isn't as cheery.
- "With serious stability and performance issues on console, level design that tends more toward turkey shoot than firefight, and a story and characters that stumble in their attempts at relevance and pathos, Medal of Honor walks into a quagmire it never really escapes from," writes IGN, before giving it an unimpressive 6.0 out of 10.0 rating.
- "Medal of Honour [sic] is a game that struggles with identity," claims PC Gamer.
- "Medal of Honor's campaign is an exceptional experience, but the total package simply doesn't beat Call of Duty," opines Joystiq, referring to the success of Activision Blizzard's (Nasdaq: ATVI ) rival -- and more popular -- franchise.
- "It's no secret that the franchise has lost its way over the years, and it has the declining review scores to show for it," Game Informer writes.
In sum, the pros either don't like it or feel that it doesn't raise the bar in the genre. The early word from consumers is even uglier. Just a handful of gamer reviews had trickled into Amazon.com as of last night, and more than half of them pelted the Xbox 360 version with the lowest 1-star rating.
When diehard gamers vent, investors start to notice. Shares of EA tumbled 6% yesterday, after Cowen & Co.'s analyst alerted his clients about the disappointing reviews.
This doesn't mean that Medal of Honor is toast. Even the scathing IGN review praises the game's multiplayer mode -- the way that many gamers are enjoying their historical battle shootouts these days. However, it's unlikely to be the hit that EA needs.
The industry itself has been smarting since early last year. There are the occasional welcome surprises. Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO ) posted an unexpected profit in its latest quarter, fueled by the sleeper hit Red Dead Redemption. Leading niche retailer GameStop (NYSE: GME ) has managed to outrun the sector's fading ways. However, the battlefront shooter genre has been one of the few bright spots in the industry -- and EA needs to make sure that it doesn't fire blanks this week.
Did you pick up a copy of EA's new game? Share your thoughts -- and shots -- in the comment box below.