Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) investors are in for a volatile trading week. The video game giant is set to announce its fiscal fourth-quarter results on Tuesday, May 11. And while EA is likely to show solid growth metrics thanks to its growing game portfolio and continued interest in at-home entertainment, Wall Street is focused on a potential slowdown ahead in fiscal 2022.
Let's look at the main metrics current and potential investors should be following on Tuesday.
1. Audience size
Like its rival Activision Blizzard, EA took full advantage of the booming demand for electronic entertainment during the pandemic. It released four games last quarter, and 10 in fiscal 2021, along with a steady stream of fresh content in established franchises like FIFA, The Sims, and Madden.
This approach helped EA capture $5.9 billion of net bookings (a measure of sales) over the past year compared to $5.5 billion a year earlier. Wall Street is expecting an even stronger showing this week, with sales rising 15% to $1.4 billion to push net bookings to $6 billion for the year.
Look for CEO Andrew Wilson and his team to credit its live services division for keeping gamers engaged, and spending money, across its sports, casual gaming, and shooter titles.
2. Slowing growth
The big question heading into Tuesday's report is whether EA is seeing a pullback from its pandemic-influenced growth spike over the past year. Netflix told investors last month that a big portion of its record user gains in 2020 involved pulling growth forward from 2021. EA might suffer through a similar downtrend heading into its new fiscal year.
That slump would show up in reduced engagement and slower monetization for the latest content releases like this quarter's It Takes Two. It might have become harder to log growth in winning franchises like The Sims and Apex Legends, too.
3. Looking ahead
EA on Tuesday will issue its first official outlook for fiscal 2022, a year that should mark the seventh consecutive period of growth for The Sims and third consecutive for Apex Legends. The developer should project higher net bookings after the metric hit roughly $6.1 billion this past year -- up from $5.1 billion two years earlier. Other financial metrics, including operating cash flow and earnings, will support direct cash returns to shareholders through stock buybacks and EA's recently initiated dividend program.
Risks to the outlook will include that growth pullback as consumers prioritize more in-person entertainment after a year of practicing social distancing. EA might also endure temporary hits from title release delays, or from new competitive launches by Activision, Take-Two Interactive, and others.
But the big picture is bright for EA, which is heading into fiscal 2022 with its broadest portfolio yet and a huge base of engaged users. Sure, the next phase of the pandemic might crimp its earnings picture, especially compared to the record 2021 year. But EA has a reasonable shot at expanding its hold on the video game industry while finding more ways to delight gamers in both its established and younger franchises.