Industry analysts unhappy with EA’s performance

December 10, 2008

Leading game industry analysts are voicing displeasure with Electronic Arts’ underperforming holiday sales, blaming the company’s future-focused plans and criticizing its new direction.

“We are beginning to question management’s commitment to achieving [its] goals, and we think that prudent investors will take anything EA says or does with a grain of salt,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst at investment firm Wedbush Morgan Securities.

Pachter discouraged investors from buying EA stock by lowering his rating for the company from “Strong Buy” to “Buy.” In less than a year, EA’s stock price has fallen from a high of 60 on December 26, 2007 to today’s 16. Most of the decline has occurred since September when the stock price was still near 50.

EA has plans to reduce research and development in 2009 to focus on key titles it believes are more likely to become hits. The company also plans to focus more on online gaming as a source of steady revenue and to reduce staff.

CEO John Riccitiello took over EA in early 2007. During his reign, EA has focused more on developing new properties like Army of Two, Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space. Sales of these games, along with the recently released Need For Speed: Undercover, have not been as strong as predicted, though. Pachter and others have been critical of Riccitiello’s strategy, saying EA needs to do more to earn profits right now instead of waiting for the future.

In November, EA consolidated its EA Casual division with its Sims division after just more than a year of operation. EA laid off 600 employees in October and cancelled development of the Command & Conquer FPS Tiberium in September.

Key upcoming releases for EA’s 2009 schedule include Lord of the Rings: Conquest and Skate 2 in January, The Godfather II in February, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in July and Dragon Age: Origins and The Beatles with dates still to be announced.