EA Games - or Electronic Arts as it is still officially known - established itself as the world's biggest computer games company in the 2000s with sports titles for the NFL, FIFA and PGA associations, breakthrough franchises like The Sims, and entertainment licenses for Harry Potter and Hasbro. However, it was caught off-balance by the rise of, first, multiplayer and then mobile gaming, both areas where it has been slow to catch up. It was overtaken as the global #1 in 2008 by the merger of rivals Activision and Vivendi's Blizzard, and then by a succession of other developers, but EA remains a dynamic force in the industry, especially in the sports games market. Its top-selling franchise overall is the FIFA soccer game portfolio, renewed each year with a new release. This has accounted for between 11% and 14% of annual revenues for the past three years. Close behind comes the Madden NFL franchise, also updated annually. Other important franchises developed by EA's various separate software studios include Star Wars (also under license), Battlefield, The Sims, Apex Legends and Need For Speed, but the group has reduced the number of titles it releases each year to concentrate on top-sellers. As performance weakened during 2013, John Riccitiello resigned as CEO and was replaced by Andrew Wilson, formerly head of its sports division. That has led to a strong turnaround, and a big push into mobile gaming. In 2017, it acquired digital developers Respawn, the creators of Titanfall. In early 2019, with sales across all established developers under intense pressure from the phenomenal popularity of Fortnite, EA fought back with the launch of its own rival MMO, free-to-play arena Apex Legends. In just its first week it accumulated 25m players. Group revenues for the year to Mar 2020 reached a record $5.5bn, while net income soared to $3.0bn as a result of a large one-off tax gain. Pretax was $1.5bn. Console games still account for more than 70% of sales, PC games for around 16% - primarily through the company's own digital download platform Origin, but also now through third-party service Steam - and mobile for 13%. However the majority of revenues come from digital subscription or add-on services rather than sales of physical product. More than a quarter of revenues come from Ultimate Team, an add-on service which allows online players to purchase additional players, vehicles, equipment or other items across FIFA and all its other most popular games. Electronic Arts was founded in 1982 by Trip Hawkins, but its true architect was arguably Larry Probst, who joined the business two years later as head of sales. He became CEO in 1991, and retained that role until 2007. He remains executive chairman.
Capsule checked 3rd September 2020
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Adbrands Daily Update 9th Feb 2021: EA continues to expand its portfolio with a deal to acquire US games developer Glu Mobile for $2.4bn in cash. The smaller company is best-known for lifestyle and sports-related mobile titles such as Design Hom','MLB Tap Sports Basebal','Covet Fashio' and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. It has around 14m monthly players, mostly in North America. Mobile is currently EA's smallest segment, so the add-on will provide valuable weighting, and the acquired games offer strong crossover potential with EA's existing sports and Sims portfolios.
Adbrands Daily Update 14th Dec 2020: EA gatecrashed the proposed acquisition of UK game developer Codemasters by Take-Two with a higher offer. Codemasters is the developer of racing games including Dirt, F1 and Grid. Take-Two had offered just under $1bn in a mixture of cash and shares; EA has topped that with an all-cash offer of $1.2bn.
Adbrands Daily Update 7th Jul 2020: "Feel Next Level". The new reveal trailer for EA Sports' upcoming FIFA 21 and Madden NFL 21 games is visually spectacular and a real pulse-racer. Is it us or is it also just a bit all over the place? And not necessarily in a good way. Judging by the published credits, EA have bypassed an ad agency and created the film inhouse in a partnership with animation and production wizards The Mill. That would explain the exceptional graphics, but we'd hesitantly suggest that an experienced agency was needed to provide an underlying concept. Or are we being old-fashioned? Perhaps also, two separate films might have been a better idea. Preferences being what they are when it comes to the sport we call football, there can't be too many players who will be purchasing both the American game and the rest of the world version.
Adbrands Daily Update 27th Sep 2019: "Wrong Breaks New Ground". Perhaps it's not that surprising that videogames - now the entertainment industry's biggest medium - now wield the kind of sponsorship budgets that until recently belonged only to sportswear giants. Adam&Eve DDB today unveiled a thrilling new film for EA's FIFA 20 which features cameo appearances from an enviable roster of football superstars including Eden Hazard, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, Megan Rapinoe, Vinicius Junior, French freestyle star Lisa Zimouche and, um... Anthony Joshua? Oh well, it'll make sense when you see it. Perhaps the most impressive change to the latest iteration of EA's long-running FIFA series is the rapid elevation of female players within the game since their first introduction in 2015. In a new blow to the glass ceiling, FIFA 20 even lets you create female managers.
Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Sep 2018: Ads of the Week: "Champions Rise". You might need to break out the headache pills after watching this frenetic, brain-busting new spot for EA Sports' FIFA 19 game. It looks like Adam&Eve DDB assigned creative oversight to a group of highly skilled but hyperactive teenagers on speed. Fast-paced doesn't begin to describe it, but you might just spot cameo appearances from the cream of Premier League football and its international counterparts. The roll call includes Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr, Kylian Mbappe, Kevin De Bruyne, Paulo Dybala, Pep Guardiola, Steven Gerrard, Alessandro Del Piero, Quavo and Joel Embiid etc etc etc. Phew... now we're going off for a lie-down.
Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Sep 2017: Here's a new wrinkle to the brand endorsement circus. Coca-Cola Zero Sugar has signed up star soccer player Alex Hunter to represent its brand worldwide in a series of promotional tie-ups. Nothing unusual about that you might think, but Alex Hunter doesn't actually exist in the real world; he's a character in FIFA 18, the latest iteration of EA's long-running video game series. In one of the game's story segments, Hunter signs a deal with Coke and even makes a commercial in the style of the iconic "Mean Joe Green" campaign from the 70s. Hunter will also rep Coke in social media, on packaging and even some out-of-home sites.
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