EA investing $80 million into next-gen this year

Publisher puts first bets on coming consoles as digital business brings in $1.2 billion; Star Wars: The Old Republic subscriber base shrinks to 1.3 million.

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Electronic Arts is ramping up its investment in the next generation of consoles. The publisher revealed today that for the current fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, it is investing $80 million "in development of games for Gen4 console systems."

EA sees a point in the future where digital sales bring in more than its physical business.
EA sees a point in the future where digital sales bring in more than its physical business.

EA has already made some next-gen commitments, as CEO John Riccitiello took the stage at Nintendo's last Electronic Entertainment Expo to confirm support for the Wii U, and suggest that Battlefield 3 could find its way to the system. Representatives with the company have also teased a Mass Effect game for the system, but squashed hopes of Crysis 3 for Nintendo's next console. The Wii U is set for release later this year, but both Microsoft and Sony have told gamers not to expect word of their next systems before 2013.

As for its present efforts, EA reported net sales of $4.14 billion for the full year, up from $3.59 billion for the previous fiscal year. The recently completed campaign also saw EA return to profitability, posting a net income of $76 million for the year, compared to a loss of $276 million for the year before. The publisher touted its digital business in particular, saying it brought in $1.2 billion for the year between its downloadable games, subscription fees, add-on content, and mobile and social platforms.

FIFA Soccer 12 did especially well, bringing in $108 million in digital revenues (largely through its FIFA Ultimate Team mode), with another $34 million expected for the current year. The company also has high hopes for Battlefield 3, saying the first-person shooter has generated $61 million in digital revenue, with another $97 million expected in the current fiscal year. Both series posted their best-ever years for digital sales.

EA also updated its Star Wars: The Old Republic subscription numbers, which have dropped off somewhat. In February, EA said the massively multiplayer online role-playing game had 1.7 million subscribers. Today, the publisher put the number at 1.3 million, down about 24 percent. Last month, a BioWare developer claimed The Old Republic wasn't losing subscribers at all, saying only that the peak concurrent user numbers were down.

The digital focus on EA is only going to grow, as the publisher told investors the sector will continue to drive its numbers for the coming year. For the full year ending March 31, 2013, EA expects net revenues to be $4.08 billion, with a loss per share between $0.36 and $0.16.

"In the coming year, we break away from the pack, with a very different profile than the traditional game companies and capabilities that none of our new digital competitors can match," Riccitiello said in a statement.

As for the quarter ended March 31, EA said it posted net revenues of $1.37 billion, up from $1.09 billion. The company's quarterly net income hit $400 million, up year-over-year from $151 million.

In a postearnings conference call, Electronic Arts executives also confirmed that a new Need for Speed game will arrive in the holiday quarter. The game's existence first leaked through UK retailer GAME earlier this year.

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