We here at the Sasquatch (well, specifically myself and Nick) are very big fans of Harmonix’s Rock Band series. There are a myriad of reasons why, but it boils down to being quite a bit of fun, especially when like-minded individuals coalesce into a full band to rock out.
Well, it turns out we’re not alone in our affections–far from it. Electronic Arts announced its 4th quarter and fiscal year 2009 financial results, and included in the information-rich release is how Rock Band 2 was Electronic Arts’ biggest money-maker for the fiscal year. In fact, Rock Band 1 and 2 were two of 31 properties to sell over a million units last year; FIFA 09, Madden NFL 09, and Need for Speed Underground each sold more than 5 million units worldwide. Even Spore sold 2 million and saw more than 100 million creatures created.
But despite 2008’s successes, the company’s financial statement shows that EA overall lost money last year. Net loss for this last quarter was only around half of what it was last year–$42 million now compared to $94 million previously–but that wasn’t enough to stave off a full-year net loss of $1.088 billion. Interestingly, part of that loss is cited as “significant legal, banking and other consulting fees related to the Company’s proposed acquisition and related cash tender offer for all of the outstanding shares of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc.”
Analyzing what this means for gamers could be a bit disheartening considering EA’s past as quite the acquisitive business. Once, not so long ago, EA was a publisher weighed down with the albatrosses of shovelware and yearly sequels for the sake of moving a squillion units and making massive profits (a charge that now resides at Activision HQ).
But in 2008 EA showed a new side, and the company made intellectual property experimentation their core strategy. The EA of old would never have published a risk like Dead Space, it would not have been so hands-off with the EA Partners program (which has seen games such as Rock Band, The Orange Box, Left 4 Dead and so on developed by other studios to be released through EA’s publishing clout) and the company would never have invested in revamping much of the EA Sports line. Still, EA’s turned a new leaf with each of their efforts and it hasn’t financially paid off. That’s the disheartening part.
Some of that may come down to the slow economy–despite which, EA CEO John Riccitello is still optimistic video game sales will pick up–and the bad financial atmosphere is a named factor in the earnings release.
What I hope, as a gamer, is that EA won’t sacrifice its vision in order to meet the bottom line like they used to.
A possible tonic to cure what ails EA just might be the September 9 double dose of The Beatles: Rock Band and the sale of even more authentic Beatles plastic instruments. This hotly anticipated spin-off of the main series will feature not only the legendary band’s sights and sounds, but a host of new instruments patterned after those made famous by the Fab Four. Previously unveiled was Paul McCartney’s Höffner bass, and today gamers got their first look at John Lennon’s Rickenbacker and George Harrison’s Gretsch. The two guitars unveiled today will be available for $99 each, and are separate from the $250 special edition bundle which includes the Höffner, a microphone with stand and drums inspired by Ringo Starr’s pearlescent Ludwig kit. This could get expensive.
Finally, a quick news piece to finish today’s recap.
As E3 approaches, the once low and distant rumor rumble becomes a roar of possible announcements for the Los Angeles-based gaming expo. 1up.com thinks it may have found something juicy that Microsoft will be unveiling this year: Motion-detection technology originally shown off at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show. During last year’s event a company called 3DV showcased its motion technology, and in the following months rumors (according to Ars Technica) arose that Microsoft was in the works to buy out 3DV. Obviously, Microsoft wants to use 3DV’s technology for something game-related. Keep your eyes peeled for that.