Current-Generation Sales Prove Taxing for Electronic Arts (EA)

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- While it wasn't a game-changing quarter for Electronic Arts (EA), it wasn't game over either. The biggest concern, Sony's (SNE) PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox One, last year hampered the sale of older-generation video games.

"In the third quarter of fiscal year '14, we had the unprecedented excitement of two new game consoles launching within weeks of each other. With that came the challenge of launching a full slate of EA's top titles for both next-gen and the current-gen consoles," said CEO Andrew Wilson in a post-earnings conference call.

"Our Q3 revenue shortfall was driven by a much sharper decline than anticipated for demand," added CFO Blake J. Jorgensen.

NPD results for U.S. sales for PS3 and Xbox 360, the older-generation consoles, declined 35% compared to the same period a year earlier.

Weakness in demand for current-gen software was at least partially offset by higher demand for next-gen games. Since the new consoles launched in October, Electronic Arts released six compatible titles: FIFA 14, Battlefield 4, Madden NFL 25, Need for Speed Rivals, NBA LIVE 14, and Peggle 2. Over December, The Sims creator managed to carve out an early leadership position among next-generation gamers, achieving 40% segment share on the PlayStation 4 and 30% segment share on the Xbox One in the U.S.

"Our estimates indicate we garnered similar shares in Europe. On average, every gamer in Europe that bought a next-gen console is playing one of EA's next-gen games," said Wilson.

Aside from console gaming, the Redwood City, Calif.-based business enjoyed strong growth in its digital gaming segment, which includes mobile, full-game downloads and live services. Quarterly revenue increased 27% year-over-year and the company is on track to exceed guidance of $1.7 billion segment revenue by the year ending March. One of its most popular mobile games, The Simpsons: Tapped Out, has pulled $130 million in net revenue since its launch in February 2012.

The video game publisher, second-largest in the U.S., posted net income of $1.26 a share in its December-ended quarter, three cents higher than Thomson Reuters estimates. Revenue of $1.57 billion missed the mark, falling short of the $1.66 billion analysts were hoping for.

For its year ending March, the company predicts net revenue of $3.91 billion, downwardly revised from its previous forecast $4 billion. A tight rein on costs allowed management to increase guidance for earnings to $1.30 a share from a previously guided $1.22 a share.

In pre-market trading, shares have added 1.5% to $25.25.

TheStreet Ratings team rates ELECTRONIC ARTS INC as a Hold with a ratings score of C. The team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate ELECTRONIC ARTS INC (EA) a HOLD. The primary factors that have impacted our rating are mixed -- some indicating strength, some showing weaknesses, with little evidence to justify the expectation of either a positive or negative performance for this stock relative to most other stocks. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, growth in earnings per share and compelling growth in net income. However, as a counter to these strengths, we find that revenues have generally been declining."

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