Video-game industry headlines have been dominated lately by Take-Two Interactive's (NASDAQ: TTWO ) new Grand Theft Auto release. And for good reason. GTA V pulled in more than $1 billion of revenue in its first three days of availability, smashing entertainment records along the way.
But this coming week should see sliding tackles replace carjacking on top of the video-game world, as Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA ) launches FIFA 14 globally. If history is any guide, that sports title will set some records of its own in the next few days.
An assist from the past
Last year's installment of the FIFA franchise was a major global hit. FIFA Soccer 13 sold 4.5 million units in its first five days to become one of the biggest game launches of 2012. It pulled that success from a wide geography, too. FIFA was the best-selling game in at least 40 countries around the world.
It did so well, in fact, that the title accounted for 17% of EA's total revenue for the year. That's actually continuing a trend we've seen for a few years. The FIFA Soccer brand is spiking in importance to EA's top line.
With such a big chunk of its business results tied to this one title, it's a sure thing that EA won't leave much to chance with this week's launch.
With major support for the launch
That's why the company isn't just relying on the strength of the brand to carry this year's game. It's supporting the launch with a huge marketing budget that includes a 60-second TV commercial, which has already racked up 5 million views on YouTube.
EA has also been busy building up a large base of customers that stand ready to shell out for the title. The demo version of FIFA 14 had 5 million players take part, or 7% better than in 2012. And EA's pre-launch team building app attracted 1.35 million gamers, almost double last year's tally.
Foolish bottom line
FIFA 14 launched in North America early last week, and we should get some indication from EA over the next few days on just how well the title sold. But this game is more of a global story, so the worldwide launch will be much more important.
The game boasts some of the advantages that helped push GTA V into the record books -- namely, a powerhouse brand and a massive installed base of consoles to target. It's also highly rated among critics, notching more than 30 review scores of 9 out of 10, or better.
However, FIFA 14 has one major weakness compared with GTA: It's on an annual release schedule. GTA, meanwhile, enjoyed plenty of pent-up demand from its five-year break between titles. That's why I'm expecting FIFA 14 to do extremely well this year, but not nearly as well as Grand Theft Auto V.
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