Electronic Arts

Chris Nuttall

Even another record-breaking Call of Duty could not rescue the US video game industry from a twelfth consecutive month of declining software sales in November, according to the latest official figures from the NPD research firm.

But the “packaged goods” disc sales are only a part of the picture, now that we have digital and social and mobile games to take into account. Judging by announcements from Facebook and DeNA this week, hard-core gamers seem just as likely nowadays to be competing in these new gaming territories. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Two more executives have left Zynga, the leading social gaming company whose stock has lost 70 per cent of its value since going public in December.

There has been a string of departures this month after the San Francisco-based company issued disappointing quarterly results and its stock price continued to slide. The latest to leave are vice presidents Bill Mooney and Brian Birtwistle. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Zynga has announced the resignation of John Schappert, its Chief Operating Officer (pictured left as his Zynga character), in a sign that the social gaming company is wrestling to recover from its poor financial performance.

Mr Schappert quit on Wednesday, with the company stating in an SEC filing that his resignation was not because of any disagreement over Zynga’s operations, policies or practices. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Electronic Arts says subscriptions for its Star Wars: The Old Republic game have slipped below 1m, forcing it to “pivot” to a free-to-play option for the much vaunted franchise.

Launched in December, Star Wars was supposed to try to supplant Activision’s World of Warcraft (WoW) online role-playing game, but its subscribers now amount to less than 10 per cent of the 10.2m users paying for that world-leading title. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Electronic Arts has criticised its social gaming rival Zynga for paying high prices for “instant one-hit wonders” that give it a “temporary lead” in the charts.

John Riccitiello, chief executive, also used EA’s quarterly earnings call with analysts on Monday to argue the success of EA’s own digital and social strategy, defend falling subscriber numbers for its Star Wars online game and announce a big investment in next-generation console games. Details after the jump. Read more

Chris Nuttall

For anyone seeking holes in Activision’s seemingly bulletproof Call of Duty franchise, there was a chink in the armour exposed in NPD US January sales figures released late on Thursday.

Sales fell nearly 50 per cent year-on-year for the world’s best-selling video game in 2011 – that’s comparing the performance of the latest in the franchise – Modern Warfare 3 – with its predecessor, Black Ops.

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Chris Nuttall

The social gaming leader Zynga has lured away another top Electronic Arts executive, hiring Barry Cottle (pictured) as head of business development.

The news represents a blow to EA, which lost its chief operating officer John Schappert last April when he took up the same position at Zynga. Mr Cottle was head of Interactive at EA, covering the mobile and social gaming areas where EA is in direct competition with Zynga. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Video game publishers have had their best November on record in the US, according to the NPD research firm, with hard-core gamers loading up on two first-person shooters and a classic role-playing game.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 from Activision was the top-selling title, with Electronic Arts rival, Battlefield 3, at number three, and the highly-rated Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (pictured) from Bethesda Softworks splitting the two shooters. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Nintendo has received a Black Friday boost after a black year for sales – shifting more than 500,000 Wii consoles on the biggest shopping day of the year in the US.

Sales of the 3DS handheld console have also been booming, due to a new Mario game, bundling offers and a precipitous price cut. Read more

Chris Nuttall

It was only a matter of time before celebrities sought to extend their personal brands established on Twitter and Facebook to other social arenas such as games, which are capturing as much attention as the stars themselves.
Zynga has been featuring music from Lady Gaga’s latest album inside FarmVille this month in a deal with the singer and now Electronic Arts has announced celebrity chef Jamie Oliver will feature in its own Facebook game, Restaurant City. Read more

Chris Nuttall

While commencement speeches typically focus on the opportunities and successes that lie ahead in life, John Riccitiello, chief executive of Electronic Arts, challenged the norm today and delivered one to graduates on how to fail well. Visiting his alma mater, the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley, Mr Riccitiello talked about difficulties in his four years as CEO at EA, while citing similar dark times for others who went on to be tech industry titans. Read more

Chris Nuttall

It was “Klingons on the starboard bow” time in video games in January, with the space genre dominating. Eve Online introduced a major update to its online universe, Electronic Arts released Mass Effect 2 on the PlayStation 3 and launched Dead Space 2, which sold 440,000 units in the US, according to monthly figures released by the NPD research firm on Thursday. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Electronic Arts is launching a rival games portal to Apple’s Game Center on the iPhone and iPad touch on Thursday.

Apple has approved the video game publisher’s Pogo app, which brings its PC browser-based casual games service to the App Store. Read more

David Gelles

How do you say “Farmville” in Japanese?

Zynga, maker of the popular social game, wants to find out.

To do so, the San Francisco company is entering into a joint venture with Softbank to develop and distribute games in Japan. As part of the deal, Softbank is investing $150m in Zynga, and will help launch the new business unit, Zynga Japan, in Tokyo.

Details of the partnership are scarce, but it will be interesting to see how Zynga’s games go over in Japan, a difficult market for foreign companies to crack. The deal also brings social gaming, which originated in Asian markets, full circle.  Read more

David Gelles

Everyone is happy on the farm. That’s the message from Zynga and Facebook, which just announced a “five-year strategic relationship.”

For two companies attached at the hip, that may sound like stating the obvious. Zynga makes social games like Farmville that are played by hundreds of millions of users on Facebook’s platform, and in turn spends lots and lots of money advertising on Facebook.

But the announcement comes after weeks of speculation that Zynga was growing fed up with Facebook, and might even be considering leaving the platform. Read more

David Gelles

Electronic Arts reported that losses widened and revenues fell over the past three months. But the world’s second-largest videogame maker had a better than expected quarter thanks to some well-timed releases.

Even as overall spending on videogames is down, EA results were bolstered by strong sales of “The Sims 3″, the latest release in one of the industry’s best-selling franchises, and “EA Sports Active”, a new title for the Nintendo Wii. EA lost $234m in the three months through July, compared with $95m during the same time last year. Read more

  • Google executives mounted a concerted public defence of how the search company wields its wide-ranging power on the internet amid signs of growing regulatory concern. The comments came as a Google lawyer confirmed for the first time that US regulators had shown their interest in possible competition issues raised by chief executive Eric Schmidt’s position as a director on Apple’s board.
  • Hulu, the US online video service owned by NBC Universal, Fox and Walt Disney, has signed its first batch of content deals with international television producers, the first step towards a full global launch of the service. The company was set up 18 months ago by the media companies as a viable alternative to YouTube for professionally produced content.

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  • Faced with industry-wide overcapacity, Taiwan announced it was restructuring the nation’s memory chip companies and creating a new government-backed group. The move comes two days after AMD and Abu Dhabi investors created a new company to take on the Taiwanese. Demand for chips is falling precipitously as consumers and companies cut spending on computers, cameras and mobile phones.
  • Although there is evidence that gamers are growing tired of music games such as Activison‘s Guitar Hero, one title may revive the genre. “The Beatles: Rock Band” will ship in September, and is an almost guaranteed blockbuster for the companies behind Rock Band, which include Electronic Arts, Viacom‘s MTV and Harmonix. The Beatles, who have sold more than 600m albums worldwide, have rarely licensed their music.

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