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Live Services Fuel Electronic Arts' Third Quarter

By Joe Tenebruso - Feb 1, 2018 at 1:00PM

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The game maker expects to deliver $1.6 billion in operating cash flow in fiscal 2018.

Electronic Arts (EA 0.96%) reported fiscal 2018 third-quarter  financial results on Jan. 30. One of its major titles fell short of expectations, but the video game maker remains on track to hit its full-year cash flow target.

Electronic Arts results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q3 2018

Q3 2017

Year-Over-Year Change

Net revenue

$1.160 billion

$1.149 billion

1%

Net loss

($186 million)

($1 million)

N/A

Loss per share

($0.60)

($0.00)

N/A

Data source: Electronic Arts Q3 2018 earnings release.

What happened with Electronic Arts this quarter?

Digital net bookings -- essentially, the number of products and services EA sold via digital channels -- rose 12% year over year to a record $1.23 billion. Digital bookings now represent 67% of EA's business on a trailing-12-month basis, up from 60%  in the prior year.

Electronic Arts' live services, which deliver game experiences that update and evolve, helped to fuel this growth. Live services' net bookings surged 39% to $787 million, driven by strong growth in FIFA Ultimate Team and The Sims 4. The FIFA Ultimate Team player base grew 12% year over year, while The Sims 4 player base swelled more than 35%.

Meanwhile, mobile net bookings increased 5% to $183 million,  as FIFA Mobile added 26 million players to its total player base in the third quarter. However, net bookings from full-game PC and console downloads fell 27%, to $260 million.  The decline was mainly due to differing results between Star Wars: Battlefront 2 compared to Battlefield 1 last year.

"Sales of Star Wars Battlefront II underperformed our expectations, but event-driven live services significantly exceeded them," CFO Blake Jorgensen said during a conference call  with analysts. "This speaks to the stability of a business as diverse as ours with its broad portfolio of titles and mix of business models."

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 character Captain Phasma

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 may be a great-looking game, but sales of the long-awaited title fell short in the third quarter. Image source: Electronic Arts. 

Despite the lackluster sales performance of Battlefront 2, Electronic Arts continues to generate copious amounts of cash flow. Operating and free cash flow were $849 and $825 million, respectively, in the third quarter. Better still, EA remains on pace to deliver record operating cash flow of $1.6 billion in fiscal 2018.

Looking forward

For the fourth quarter, Electronic Arts anticipates net bookings of approximately $1.225 billion and net revenue of $1.532 billion. The company also expects to generate net income of $579 million, or $1.86 per share.

"Players enjoyed hundreds of millions of hours in our games across console, mobile, and PC during the holiday quarter, and we're thrilled to see our titles driving excitement for more fans around the world," CEO Andrew Wilson said in a press release. "We're expanding the reach of our top franchises across more geographies, our competitions are growing in participation and viewership, and we're continuing to grow our network with more amazing games and content coming this quarter and beyond."

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