Electronic Arts (EA -0.99%) was has been building up momentum since November's launch of Battlefield 4, Madden NFL 25, and FIFA 14. These newly released next-generation versions of games that have struggled in the past turned out to be winners for Electronic Arts.
Electronic Arts a winner according to December's NPD data
Three of the top ten games sold in December were published by Electronic Arts.
Battlefield 4 debuted at no. 4 in October and moved up to the no. 2 spot in November. With no major releases in December, Battlefield 4 was able to maintain its second place spot, having sold 1.36 million units. Madden NFL 25 came in at no. 4 with over 1.2 million units sold, while FIFA 14 came in at the no. 9 spot with approximately 600,000 units sold.
Lowered guidance a buying opportunity?
On Jan. 28, Electronic Arts reported its third quarter results. The company beat the consensus EPS by $0.03 but missed the consensus revenue estimate by $9 million. The company also forecasted its fourth-quarter EPS to be $0.09, a penny below the consensus estimate.
Black Jorgensen, the company's Executive Vice President commented on the company's fourth quarter guidance during a conference call:
As a reminder, also, we'll be shipping [Titanfall] at the tail end of the quarter, middle of March. And so essentially, the March revenue or the quarter revenue is primarily the first sell-in of that title. We expect the title to be very additive to us also in FY '15." Jorgensen added "it's really a starting point in Q4 this year and then we'll play well into next year as more and more people build the base of Xbox Ones or build or play the title either on 360 or PC.
Investors shouldn't concern themselves with a lowered guidance for one quarter as it is the initial stages of a major game release. The newly created game could prove to be a multi-billion dollar franchise over the coming years.
Second billion-dollar franchise in its pipeline
December's NPD data ranked Activision Blizzard's (NASDAQ: ATVI) Call of Duty: Ghosts as the top-selling game of the month. The popular shooter has already proved itself to be a successful billion-dollar franchise.
Like Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard has a potential billion-dollar franchise in its pipelines called Destiny that is scheduled to be released in September.
Destiny has already received about 75 awards including "Best of Show" at Gamescom. According to comments made by management during its third quarter conference call, the game is also on track to be one of the most pre-ordered games of any new IP in history.
Destiny is so important to Activision that management has already set up a 10-year game plan. "Our goal is to establish a new intellectual property for the next ten years, and we're making substantial investments in both product development and marketing."
As if a 10-year plan is not sufficient reason for investors to buy shares, the company is working with Chinese based Tencent to bring its Call of Duty Online to the Chinese online market. As part of a long-term strategic relationship, Tencent has the exclusive license to operate Call of Duty Online in mainland China.
Can't win in every category
One negative piece of Electronic Arts' portfolio has been the return of the "NBA Live" franchise after not being developed since 2009. Take-Two Interactive Software (TTWO -1.99%) has successfully turned its "NBA 2K" series into the premier basketball franchise in its absence.
The latest "NBA Live" game is strictly a next-gen title, while the new "NBA 2K" release is available on both the new consoles as well as the old ones. NBA Live 14 has sold a measly 68,000 units compared to NBA 2K14's 760,000 next-gen units (only counting the Xbox One and PS4).
During Take-Two's third quarter conference call, management said that "the majority of NBA 2K14 fans are actively engaged in online connected experiences including multiplayer gaming. In particular, consumers are buying virtual currency to customize their players with clothing and abilities and are also forming teams with friends to play in online competitions."
Add-on content is a key component of the company's strategy and it plans on introducing add-on features to its prized "Grand Theft Auto" franchise. Rockstar Games will release substantial story-driven downloadable add-on content for Grand Theft Auto V. Strauss Zelnick, the company's Chairmand and Chief Executive Officer commented on monetizing Grand Theft Auto V:
My own view is, I feel very, very optimistic about GTA Online and I think there is plenty more opportunity and we have made no bones about the fact that we have expectations for GTA Online in the fourth quarter, for example. So clearly we have expectations going forward but we are not at a point yet where we want to share the metrics.
Superdata projected that Take-Two Interactive will realize $206 million of additional digital sales within the first year and will collect $437 million in extra add-on sales throughout the life of Grand Theft Auto V.
Both Electronic Arts and Activision are months away from releasing their next billion-dollar game franchises. These releases should excite investors who are in it for the long term.
Take-Two Interactive, on the other hand, already has a billion-dollar franchise in "Grand Theft Auto" and is in the early stages of monetizing the latest game with add-on content to generate new revenue streams.
Data from Gartner supports a long-term view that video game sales will be strong in the coming years. Gartner published that the video game console and software sales is forecasted to reach $111 billion by 2015 and $128 billion by 2017. This compares favorably to sales of $79 billion in 2012 and $93 billion in 2013.