The lights are on
Each quarter, we report on EA’s success with post-launch monetization of its sports franchises. The Ultimate Team model gives the publisher an in-road to wallets in way that doesn’t impact the core experience, but offers fantasy fans a way to build their own club. It’s big business.
In fiscal year 2014 (ended March 31, 2014), EA brought in $380 million across FIFA, Madden, NBA, and NHL titles. Madden Ultimate Team grew 90 percent last year and 350 percent year-over-year in the first quarter of this fiscal year. Sports is one piece of a larger puzzle for EA’s post-launch content that could total as much as $1 billion in the current fiscal year.
In addition to sports Ultimate Team modes, which continue to be big winners, EA offers season passes for many of its titles. Battlefield 4 has a Premium program, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare includes real-money purchases of sticker packs, and Titanfall has a season pass.
Today, we learned that Dragon Age: Inquisition will have a multiplayer mode similar to the one found in Mass Effect 3. New hero classes and updates will be free, but EA will offer a premium currency to speed up progress.
All of that adds up to a key component of EA’s $4.38 billion revenue projections for fiscal year 2015. Of that amount, $2.1 billion is expected to be earned from digital sales, including full game downloads, mobile revenue, extra content and free-to-play, and subscriptions like Battlefield Premium.
EA is anticipating 15 percent growth year-over-year in extra content and digital and a 30 percent growth in subscriptions, largely due to recognition of revenue from Battlefield 4 Premium. The publisher has been pushing toward a service model for its games, which helps extend player engagement. Given the billion dollar ambition, it seems the company is successfully moving toward that goal.
Our TakeUltimate Team, while not the only piece of the add-on revenue puzzle, has been instrumental in helping EA move gamers toward a service model. These modes are cloistered from the rest of the experience, making them completely optional. They’re fleshed out and targeted toward more engaged players, creating a sense of ownership over the created team. This has led players to extended play arcs that go past the close of the related sports season. Ultimately, that means more money for EA, bridging the gap between yearly releases.