We already knew EA had a great 2016, once again appearing at the top of the publisher charts for UK retail sales (source: GfK). Today's Q3 earnings call reinforced that position with some choice stats concerning the growth of its playerbase for key titles.
FIFA 17 was the top-selling console title in the world in 2016, no big surprise there, as the trials and tribulations of its namesake organisation look to have no impact on the success of EA's football goliath. More telling, though, is that FIFA grew its FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) player base by nearly 10% year-on-year. It's this player base that drives significant monthly income for EA, total digital revenue from FIFA 17 was £8.85m in October for the UK alone (source: Superdata), and the increase is great news for the game's continued growth.
EA described Battlefield 1 as its 'biggest Battlefield launch ever'. It backed that up by revealing the unique player base of BF1 was 50% larger than that of Battlefield 4 over a comparable period. EA also stated that more than a third of players were new to the franchise or new to EA, presumably tracked through Origin user logins. Given the concerns over the choice of setting before launch - and that the last outing, Hardline, struggled at retail - it's an incredibly impressive haul of new players.
With the two titles above in the top three for digital revenue, based on Superdata's December charts, EA is certainly pulling in significant revenues beyond the release period. And that's before the first Battlefield 1 expansion pack comes along in March. In related news, EA also reported that 32% of unit sales in 2016 were digital.
Discussion of Titanfall 2 was distinctly muted in comparison. The only bright point that EA could come up with was that player satisfaction scores were 'among the highest in our portfolio'. Given the title's huge critical success, it's hard not to lay the blame for its failings at retail at EA's door. Whether the franchise can survive for another outing must surely be in the balance and EA will be hoping for a Rainbow 6 Siege-style resurgence in terms of player numbers and their support for DLC. In fairness, EA did note that it was 'excited about our long-term plans for the Titanfall franchise'.
Moving onto upcoming titles, EA was obviously excited about the possibilities for a 'bigger' new Battlefront game to complement Star Wars: The Last Jedi towards the end of 2017. The new game will include an 'all-new single-player campaign' which should push its popularity past that of even the 2015 title, which had sold 14m copies by May 2016 (source: EA). In the near future, the company will release Mass Effect: Andromeda in March and expects to sell 3m copies Week One.
It's largely good news then over at EA. Increasing the size of its playerbase on key titles shows that they have a healthy future and with its two biggest science-fiction IPs coming back onto the market this year as well, it's very hard to see anything but huge and continued success from EA in 2017.