New numbers from ELSPA GfK Chart-Track show that EA was the number one UK publisher in February in both unit and value terms, claiming 14.4 per cent and 15.5 per cent of the total market respectively. Ben Parfitt spoke to EA’s UK sales director Rob Davey about its strong start to 2010.
How do EA’s numbers for 2010 to date compare to the same stage in 2009?
From a UK sell through perspective up to and including week 10, it’s favourable. The latest Chart-Track numbers put us growing our share from 15.5 per cent to 19.1 per cent, a 3.6 per cent year-on-year points growth. That's a very pleasing performance in the first quarter of the year, in what continues to be a very challenging local market. What is particularly pleasing is that this is a continuation of the share growth that we saw throughout last year – over the last 12 months, we recaptured the no.1 UK publisher position growing our share by 3.1 per cent points to 17.9 per cent.
Some have predicted another year of annual decline in 2010. Did you predict EA’s year-on-year growth when formulating your forecasts last year?
I don’t think anyone thought the market would be quite as challenging as it turned out to be in 2009. We were confident in our release schedule, our go-to-market strategy and the quality of relationships we have with our key retail partners so we were optimistic that we could grow our share and re-establish ourselves as the no.1 publisher in the UK which we succeeded in doing – everyone’s really pleased with that.
BFBC2 broke two records this week – the fastest selling game of 2010 to date and the fastest selling ever this early on in a calendar year. How does this compare to your expectations?
In the current climate, game quality, heritage and consumer awareness are key to success. A high-impact marketing campaign allowed us to build on the real confidence we had internally on fantastic game quality which was reflected in the pre-order & demo download numbers we saw. Battlefield Bad Company 2 exceeded our week one forecast and clearly the word of mouth on the game quality helped us hold up the week two numbers to a much greater degree than many other Q1 titles. DICE created a compelling single player FPS and thrilling and engaging multiplayer – personally I can't wait to see what they do for Medal of Honor later this year as they're developing the multiplayer for that game as well. What other titles have performed for you this year so far? Mass Effect 2 was a fantastic game that delivered to the top end of our projections. The guys at Bioware delivered a superb gaming experience that has again proven that quality really counts.
How has new IP Dante’s Inferno fared for you?
The current market makes the establishment of new IP pretty challenging as consumers are perhaps more risk-averse than they otherwise would be. But Dante's Inferno proved itself out with a solid performance for a new IP, that gives us a solid platform to continue to engage and excite consumers via PDLC. Our studio, Visceral, are very credible in the horror genre – building on a reputation for high quality which they established with Dead Space and continued with Dante's Inferno. Their next offering, Dead Space 2, is shaping up to be a real crowd-pleaser.
Do you think you can keep the pace up throughout the rest of the year? What will be your key releases?
2010 is shaping to be a continuation of the strong and varied line up we launched in 2009. Football will again be a core focus for us, both on the core product but also in the form of the World Cup SKUs that we will launch in April. Need for Speed is in a strong place in the genre and with the development sitting in the Criterion team and their fantastic heritage in the Burnout series, I think that’s reason for huge optimism. Medal of Honor is a welcome return and we have high hopes that the franchise can re-establish itself within a very competitive genre – the success of Battlefield BC2 augers well for this.
There’s a significant opportunity to take EA Sports Active to a new level this year with authentic keep-fit hardware such as a heart-rate monitor and a new wireless control system. Tiger Woods 11, we’ve announced, will feature the Ryder Cup license for the first time, in addition to the inclusion of Rory Mcllroy. This gives us the opportunity to work with high profile local talent.
The Sims 3 will of course be a consistent focus for us – further developments will be announced in due course. Calendar Q2 will also see us launching Skate 3, a title that has won over consumers in that genre through its incredible authenticity and quality.
There are many more announcements to come on our 2010 line up, some of which will be made at our EA Showcase at the end of April. We’re really confident we have a strong line up, but we’re mindful that we have a strong competitive field, so we’re by no means complacent.
Do you think boxed product can keep on growing as the digital age descends ever more heavily upon us?
Digital offerings are growing rapidly, but we need to recognise that much of that growth still begins with a disc sold in stores. People still go to their favourite game store and buy a copy of FIFA for PS3, then go home and download great content, like FIFA Ultimate Team. The online growth is important, but we recognise that the consumer experience begins with a disc bought in a store.