Today was a rough day for Electronic Arts on the Nasdaq stock exchange. By the time the closing bell rang, the megapublisher's share price had fallen $1.05, or 5.95 percent, to $16.61. That's only $2.55 from its 52-week low of $14.06, and far below its 52-week high of $21.05.
Analysts pegged the blame for the sudden dip on less-than-stellar reviews of the company's high-profile shooter, Medal of Honor, which had broken preorder records for the series.
"[EA] shares [are] down because apparently some investors are disappointed by these early reviews," Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told the Reuters news service. Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey seconded the notion, saying, "Medal of Honor reviews are not looking good. This can dampen future catalog sales as word of mouth dampens consumer enthusiasm."
That score is also "certainly bugging people," Colin Sebastian of Lazard Capital Markets told the Wall Street Journal. However, Sebastian also said the drop could have resulted from a spike in EA shares leading up to the release of Medal of Honor, which the publisher has been pushing as its own Call of Duty. This sentiment was echoed to the Journal by Eric Handler of MKM Partners.
"I think it's a situation where some of the air is being let out of the balloon following a nice run in the shares and high expectations for the Medal of Honor reboot," explained Handler. The Journal also reported that EA's current share price is well below the median $20 target set by a survey of analysts by the Thomson Reuters news agency.
Check back later today for GameSpot's own review of Medal of Honor, which takes the series out of World War II for the first time. It places gamers in the boots of the shadowy commandos known as Tier 1 Operators, who ran dangerous secret missions during the beginning of the still-ongoing Afghan War.
The game became the subject of controversy when the US Army learned it would allow players to assume the role of the Taliban in its multiplayer mode. More controversy ensued when, two weeks before its release, EA changed the name of the Taliban faction to "opposing force" to sidestep complaints from the armed forces and veterans groups.
[UPDATE] An EA spokesperson offered the following response to analysts' doubts about Medal of Honor. "I can tell you that we're pleased with the North American launch of Medal of Honor and we’re looking forward to the EU launch on 10/15. You may have noticed in yesterday’s press release that the game had the highest pre-orders in the 11-year history of the Medal of Honor franchise. Early sales indicators are very strong. Day 1 retail response has been overwhelmingly positive and the game is off to a great start."
"As in all entertainment formats, critics' scores are highly subjective. Critical scores to Medal of Honor are good, with some as high as 90 on Xbox 360 and PS3. This is an especially big achievement considering Medal of Honor has been dormant for several years. This is the first year in rebooting the franchise. Medal of Honor is part of a larger EA strategy to take share in the shooter category. This is a marathon, not a sprint--yesterday’s Medal of Honor launch represents a step forward in that race."