Electronic Arts sees no end in eSports expansion

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ORLANDO, Florida: Electronic Arts’ competitive gaming efforts will soon take aim at non-sports titles.

The videogame giant expects to use existing eSports entries like its soccer title FIFA and the Madden franchise as a road map, company leaders said this week.

The company plans to launch a competitive gaming series that revolves around its warfare game Battlefield 1 later this year.

“What you are seeing is our strategy around eSports coming to life,” CEO Andrew Wilson said during an earnings call announcing results of third quarter of fiscal year 2018. “We have always believed that it’s eSports that would drive the engagement in our community and allow us to reach broader community of players.”

The company reported a 1% increase in quarterly revenue this year over last year, from US$1.15bil (RM4.48bil) to US$1.16bil (RM4.52bil).

However, the company also reported a loss of US$186mil (RM726.16mil) in net income, the bulk of which came from an expense incurred because of the passage of the US Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

In the nine months that ended Dec 31, the company’s profit rose about 9% from US$401mil (RM1.56bil) to US$436mil (RM1.70bil).

Wilson frequently praised Madden, which is built in a 700-employee studio in Maitland, Florida, during the call.

The game was part of the most-viewed eSports event in the country last year, Wilson said.

He said deals with different leagues could set the stage for even more exposure.

“Now with league partnerships, broadcast partners and sponsors on board, we’re driving even larger audiences with thrilling, high-stakes competition,” he said.

The Madden game is at the centre of a series of broadcasts that began last weekend from the NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando.

During the call, company officials for the first time addressed complaints about their rollout of Star Wars Battlefront II’s online play, which some players said was little more than a money grab.

It’s EA’s first title to include transaction-based gameplay, which rewards players who spent more money on characters with special skills. The technique has been part of other brands’ games for years.

Some Star Wars Battlefront II gamers said it penalised players who did not pay but spent hundreds of hours trying to develop their character.

Wilson said the dust-up was a product of a company experimenting during a beta portion of a game and loyal gamers.

“We are fortunate to have such passionate players that will tell us when we get it right and when we don’t,” he said during the call.

Wilson said the company will continue to explore ways to monetize its games, although he gave very few specifics.

“We believe that live services that include optional digital monetisation, when done right, provide a very important element of choice that can extend and enhance the experience in our games,” he said.

“A digital economy can have a place in live services,” he said. “We have seen that across the industry. The greatest learning is there is no single (method). It’s how can we deliver the most engaging material to the player with new content and new updates.”

Electronic Arts’ Tiburon development studio established operations in Maitland 2005 and employs about 700 there.