SBD/Issue 38/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Not In The Game: EA Sports Axes Plans To Release "NBA Elite 11"

EA Sports Will Not Release "NBA
Elite 11," But Not Folding Title

Electronic Arts Inc. last night announced that EA Sports has formally canceled all plans to release "NBA Elite 11," its troubled basketball simulation video game franchise. EA Sports had already delayed indefinitely the title from a planned Oct. 5 retail release following a spate of poor reviews and technical glitches, and EA Exec VP & CFO Eric Brown announced the full shuttering during the company's second quarter earnings call. The title, however, has not been abandoned entirely, and future production of the game will now occur out of EA Sports' Tiburon Studios in Florida, where "Madden NFL" is produced, as opposed to its prior development location outside of Vancouver. EA has made similar studio switches on several prior occasions when seeking to reboot a game franchise. The shuttering of "NBA Elite 11" represents another blow for EA Sports within basketball video gaming, as it already had trailed 2K Sports' rival "NBA 2K" series by a wide margin in both sales and critical acclaim. Prior to the delay and cancellation, EA Sports had announced a series of sweeping changes for "NBA Elite 11," including a name change from "NBA Live," a deal to put Thunder F Kevin Durant on the cover and a new game control mechanism. The NBA in a statement said, "We realize that canceling 'NBA Elite 11' was a difficult decision for EA, and they have assured us that they are taking all of the appropriate steps to deliver a premier basketball game for our fans in the future."

CUTTING ITS LOSSES: EA for the second quarter posted a $201M loss, slightly less than half of the $391M loss in the same quarter a year ago. Helping boost company revenues were very strong sales of "FIFA Soccer 11," which has now sold more than 8 million units worldwide since its late September launch. EA also is pursuing a broad corporate restructuring plan that will include changes to terms of some of its key license and development agreements. Overall, the company, much like the entire video game industry, remains in significant transition as packaged goods retail sales slump and publishers begin to embrace digital forms of gaming (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). EA posted $631M in revenue for the quarter ending Sept. 30, down from $788M in the year-ago period (L.A. TIMES, 11/3).

PAYMENT PLAN: In San Jose, Troy Wolverton notes EA yesterday announced it "will be using Facebook's virtual currency exclusively in its games hosted by the social network." EA social media gamers, including those who play "Madden NFL Superstars," who "want to buy virtual items within them will have to use Facebook Credits to do so" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 11/3).

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