The Redwood City video game maker reported fiscal first-quarter sales that missed Wall Street's expectations. It offered a disappointing forecast for coming quarters. And it said that its high-profile "Star Wars" mass multiplayer online game had seen a sharp drop-off in subscriptions.
But the company beat analysts' earnings expectations by a penny and said that its revenue miss was largely due to its decision to delay recognizing some strong sales of one of its games. It also said sales of that and other games are largely offsetting the disappointing results of its "Star Wars" game.
And the company threw a bone to investors, who have suffered through years with little but stock declines from EA. The company announced a plan to buy back as much as $500 million worth of its stock, a move that often can boost share prices.
The video game industry has been undergoing a transition from packaged console and PC games to mobile games and those distributed digitally over social networks such as Facebook. EA has shifted from being primarily focused on traditional games to spreading its bets across many different platforms. The
"EA delivered a solid performance in the quarter," he said.
Investors largely seemed to agree. In after-hours trading, the company's stock was up 31 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $11.33.
In the quarter ended June 30, the video game maker earned $201 million, or 63 cents a share. That was down from its fiscal first quarter last year, when it earned $221 million or 66 cents a share.
Sales fell 4 percent from its first quarter last year to $955 million.
Excluding certain deferred revenue and stock options and other charges, EA would have lost $130 million, or 41 cents a share, on sales of $491 million. On this basis, analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting the company to lose 42 cents a share on sales of $500 million.
Part of the revenue shortfall was because EA deferred recognizing the revenue it gained from subscriptions sold to its "Battlefield 3" game. The company has sold 1.3 million subscriptions to the service, but doesn't plan to include that revenue in its results until its fourth quarter, when it plans to release another update for the game.
The company's success with "Battlefield 3" was counterbalanced by the disappointing showing with "Star Wars: The Old Republic." EA spent years and millions of dollars on "Star Wars" before launching it with much fanfare late last year. More than a million users initially signed up for the service, but subscriptions have now declined to below 1 million, EA officials said.
The number of subscriptions is still above the 500,000 level the company needs to have to break even on the game, said Frank Gibeau, president of EA's labels division. But, he added, "It's not good enough."
The company announced Tuesday it plans to cut the price of the packaged "Star Wars" game to $15 from $40 in August and will offer a free-to-play option for the game later this year. In the free version, players will be able to reach level 50 with some restrictions.
In its second quarter, EA expects to lose between $1.36 a share and $1.43 on sales ranging from $650 million to $700 million.
But on a pro-forma basis, EA expects to earn 7-to-12 cents a share on sales of $1.05 billion to $1.1 billion. Before the company's financial report, Wall Street analysts had forecast pro-forma fiscal second quarter earnings of 14 cents a share on sales of $1.07 billion.
Shares of EA closed regular trading on Tuesday down 21 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $11.02
Contact Troy Wolverton at 408-840-4285. Follow him at Twitter.com/troywolv.