The video game giant reported $850 million of non-GAAP revenue in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010; up 4% from the year-ago period. Last year's $0.13 of GAAP losses per share turned around to a $0.09-per-share profit. These improvements came riding on white horses named Digital Distribution and Fewer but Bigger.
Those are two of management's four strategic goals (the others being cost savings and plain old better games), and that model seems to be working. EA recently cut hundreds of jobs, pared down the release schedule somewhat, and promised to push the remaining games harder. The all-important EA Sports brand is central to this effort, including a freshly minted plan in conjunction with game retailer GameStop
But above all, what's fueling EA's engines now is digital distribution. Direct-download games cut out expensive manufacturing and shipping costs and give customers instant gratification. It's a higher-margin business model than shipping physical discs in lavish packaging, and this model is very much on the rise. Only 13.7% of EA's sales came from downloads and digital service subscriptions in 2010, but that segment is set to grow sales by 30% next year. That target would outpace the general gaming market's 8% expected growth, and also take market share from rivals Activision Blizzard
If there is any hope for Electronic Arts to complete a long-suffering turnaround, it would be as a digital gaming expert. Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the Sony
I still think Activision has a better fundamental business and the stronger pipeline of upcoming games between the two market leaders, but there may be hope for this turnaround story yet. Can EA stay focused enough to execute this audacious transformation? Discuss in the comments below.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Apple, Activision Blizzard, and Electronic Arts are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. The Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard, GameStop, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.