New gaming consoles from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) and Sony (NYSE: SNE ) have brought tailwinds for game publishers, and Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA ) is making the most of this opportunity. Driven by a popular and diverse portfolio of games that includes Titanfall, Battlefield 4, and FIFA 14, EA has delivered substantial gains this year. The stock is already up almost 60% in 2014, and a closer look at its pipeline will indicate why it can go higher despite trading close to its 52-week highs.
A solid portfolio is driving results
EA is seeing tremendous growth across the business. In the last fiscal year, its non-GAAP net income more than doubled year-over-year on the back of robust growth in mobile gaming and console growth. The company posted record mobile revenue of nearly $460 million for the fiscal year. Additionally, FIFA 14, Titanfall, and Battlefield 4 were among three of the top five best-selling titles ranging across platforms.
According to CEO Andrew Wilson, "EA is the number one publisher on the new consoles with 40% segment share in calendar year 2014 across North America and Europe." Looking ahead, the company looks set to sustain the momentum as it rolls out new games, and provides updates to the existing ones, to keep gamers hooked.
An interesting pipeline to sustain the momentum
EA is looking to capitalize on the FIFA World Cup fever with the upcoming FIFA 15 game. The company promises that this game will deliver breakthrough innovation, and develop on the experience that the FIFA franchise has delivered to players so far. In addition, the company has high hopes from its latest launch, EA Sports UFC.
EA has leveraged the power of the EA Sports Ignite gaming engine, and the graphics capabilities of the new consoles, to deliver real life athleticism, emotion, and intensity of UFC. Moreover, the game features Bruce Lee, who is regarded as the father of martial arts, and this move has made the game popular with fans around the world. UFC has got off to a strong start, dethroning Watch Dogs from the No. 1 spot in countries like the U.K.
EA showcased a rich lineup of games at E3 this year. For example, in October, the company is set to launch Dragon Age: Inquisition. The game is based on EA's Frostbite 3 engine. It is a character-driven epic story in a visually astonishing open world. According to EA, it is the most immersive RPG created in the history of EA's BioWare studio.
In the third and the fourth quarter, the company will launch two more EA Sports titles -- NBA LIVE 15 and a new EA Sports golf game. NBA LIVE 15 is being developed by EA's Tiburon studio, where developers are now taking gamer feedback to improve the game. On the other hand, the golf game will be a first-generation release for EA, and is being created by its development team in Florida.
Another big title set for release this year is Battlefield Hardline. EA will launch this game on the PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, and PC platforms in October. The company has included new gameplay features such as additional multiplayer modes, new vehicles, new animations, new voice-overs/music, etc.
Benefiting from the console war
This cross-platform strategy should work well for EA going forward, as console sales are expected to rise at a rapid rate. According to analysts at Wedbush Morgan, sales of Sony's PS4 by the end of 2014 are expected to hit 12 million units, while Microsoft's Xbox One is expected to clock a sales figure of 9 million units. The long-term forecast also looks bright. IHS projects that Sony will end up selling close to 50 million units of the PS4 by the end of 2017.
Microsoft, meanwhile, is trying to boost Xbox One sales by promoting its gaming bundles aggressively. It is now offering a $75 credit to Xbox 360 users to encourage them to upgrade to the latest version. Microsoft is currently behind Sony in terms of console sales, and it is going on the offensive with its marketing strategies to move more units. This console war should prove beneficial for EA, as Sony and Microsoft continue pushing their hardware aggressively.
The bottom line
EA's focus on delivering cutting-edge gameplay to users has helped it perform well so far. The company is on track to sustain this momentum going forward, and the expected growth in console sales will be a key tailwind. Considering EA's prospects, there's a strong probability that it can continue rising and break beyond its 52-week high.
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