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Electronic Arts Inc. (ERTS) Message Board

  • SPECULAWYER9 SPECULAWYER9 May 8, 2003 5:50 PM Flag

    ERTS 2003 E3 line-up

    Hmmm . . .

    Madden NFL(TM) 2004
    NBA LIVE 2004
    NASCAR Thunder(TM) 2004
    NCAA� Football 2004
    Tiger Woods PGA TOUR� 2004
    FIFA Soccer 2004(TM)
    NCAA� March Madness(TM) 2004
    NHL� 2004
    Need For Speed(TM) Underground
    SSX 3*
    The Lord of the Rings(TM), The Return of the King(TM)
    Medal of Honor(TM) Rising Sun
    James Bond 007 Everything or Nothing(TM)
    Harry Potter(TM): Quidditch(TM) World Cup

    Woah . . . that is the exact same line-up as last year. Talk about Deja Vu'!

    The Sims(TM) 2*

    I gotta say, the Sims is Brilliant. Will wright has come up with the only game since Pac-man to get women playing games in large numbers.

    Battlefield 1942(TM): Secret Weapons of WWII
    Bravo for DICE

    Black & White 2(TM) --
    Critically loved . . . but ultimately boring. ;-)

    >EA DISTRIBUTION CO-PUBLISHING AN ARRAY OF MARQUIS TITLES

    That doesn't seem right to me, I think the word she (or he) was looking for is "marquee"

    >EA Distribution (EAD) is co-publishing three titles that are under development, including:
    Looney Toons: Back in Action(TM)
    Freedom: Soldiers of Liberty* -- In a world where the Soviet Union won the Cold War, a fierce conflict is developing in the streets of America.
    That sounds kinda interesting.
    BIONICLE� --

    The only innovation going on at ERTS seems to be outside of ERTS.

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    • Another great post. Thanks for the info.

    • I'm going to disagree with you on this point. Almost all gamers I know are also avid readers. Maybe because as a game player vs. movie goer you're an active participant in the experience and (I would argue) the same is true for books vs. movies. Just my hunch.

    • Back when we were still on Madden 2001 I saw a granma / grandpa standing there searching the games isle at Target. They'd picked up Gameday for their grandson. I promptly told them to spend the extra $20.00 (or whatever) and get Madden 2001 for their grandchild, and explained why. They thanked me profusely, and I felt darned good :) What's the point of this post? I do not know lol.

    • Rab,

      Very informative posts - thanks for the info.

      Jamok

    • P.S. Note the skunk development is effectively free because it's staff who are already budgeted for on an existing title.

    • "On a related note, is there any information about ERTS' investment in new franchises."

      Not a lot, though this article recently posted here was interesting:

      http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/5788523.htm

      The comment about doubling down is important. You don't need to take a game concept far to know it's not working. A 3-month prototype from a small team plus a design doc isn't a big investment (say $250K, wild guess). If it's working, you staff up. The prototype will likely come via skunk development because you don't want people sitting around not generating revenue on approved titles. An original title will take longer to make than a sports iteration (2-3 years), but total full-time staff will peak around 50 people and it won't be fully staffed for 100% of that time so it nearly balances out - plus the margins are better anyway because you're not paying for league and player licenses (my personal estimate for those is a total of 11% of wholesale). The original title will need a lot more marketing to launch, and you'll notice they spend a lot of money marketing titles they think will do well, but not on titles they think will do poorly. This is good, you don't want to hurt your brand name like AKLM did by shipping the awesome Burnout games with no marketing but doing their best to persuade people to purchase the crappy Turok and BMX XXX.

      The problem with new titles is there aren't very many new IP's which sell over 1M, but EA isn't interested in less. This leads to more conservatism than I'd like but you can't argue with the results. NBA Street 2 is one of the best sports games I've ever played and I don't even like basketball, and DJV is getting great reviews too. They also leverage the higher first year costs by making sequels and porting to other platforms, which of course carries much less risk and is cheaper per sku.

    • Great post Rab, thanks. I agree that EA's development costs are money well spent. Last year I remember playin gthe Sega NBA game and was shocked at how buggy it was and how certian features didn't work at all. I think that the EA franchises are very valuable and its a great name brand in a high growth market.

      On a related note, is there any information about ERTS' investment in new franchises. I like how they really leverage their existing titles, but I wonder what the cost/benefit of developing a new series looks like.

    • "Does anyone know how much it costs to produce an "update" versus a novel franchise? I mean, certainly the brand name of the Madden or NHL franchise carries the marketing and little more is necessary. But I am more interested in where the programming is concerned. When the software engineers sit down to write Madden 2004, do they start from programming scratch, or do the just tweak the Madden 2003 code? And what are the cost implications of that answer?"

      Some times the marketing is near free, e.g. in the sports where EA already has such a high market share there's not much point throwing money away in marketing, such as the NHL series. But when there's competition they spend big, such as last fall when according to the lengthy Wired article about EA they allocated $15M each for Madden and NBA Live marketing (to combat the $35M Sega was spending).

      As for development, EA doesn't take chances dealing with resource management on such big franchises. They have full-time teams of 40-60 developers on the highest profile titles like Madden and FIFA, and only a little less on the second tier franchises. This doesn't include the part-time costs of executive producers, marketing staff, motion capture, QA, contractors, etc. If average salaries are around $64K (going from the Game Developer July 2002 magazine survey results - note West Coast goes up to $78K and Canada, where many of EA's sports franchises are made, will be a little less), and assuming annual bonus schemes, stock options and employee overhead (equipment, taxes, building costs, etc.) doubles that figure, that's $5M-$7.5M. Add another 33% say (wild guess) for those part-time people I mentioned and that's around $7M-$10M total for development.

      That sounds like a lot but it's money well spent. There's a gulf of sales and profits difference between #1 and #2, and you don't want to take chances nickel and diming if you want to stay on top. For the biggest franchises at around 4M units per year that's maybe around $100M net (after hardware licensing, COG and league and players licensing), and before development and marketing costs.

      Re the "tweaking the code" point, it's tough to build on the same code year after year before the cost of new changes becomes excessive due to all the patching. That's typical to all software engineering. So one year the team may refactor the animation and phsyics systems, the next year the AI, the next year the UI tools and pipeline and the renderer, etc., doing no more than one major system at a time to minimize risk. And then there's a big push for the next generation, e.g. EA had a 20 month development period on Madden 2001 for PS2 because they spun off a team while 2000 was still being made on PS2. That gave them the head start other publishers didn't have.

    • Does anyone know how much it costs to produce an "update" versus a novel franchise? I mean, certainly the brand name of the Madden or NHL franchise carries the marketing and little more is necessary. But I am more interested in where the programming is concerned. When the software engineers sit down to write Madden 2004, do they start from programming scratch, or do the just tweak the Madden 2003 code? And what are the cost implications of that answer? Thanks

    • Their guidance for this year is BS.

      The same old games they are pumping out but without some of last years benefits.

      No Harry Potter movie, No Bond movie, no World Cup, no co publishing deal with Square, no strong sales for online. games., no war to give an extra boost to those combat games, no more development team from Medal of Honor, etc...

      We do have some nice continued pricing pressure on video games though.

      Come on Probst. How about no more BS.

      ERTS is a short and hold.

      • 1 Reply to nsthil
      • I will respond to your message in place of the longs (they conviently are missing from the board today).

        <<No Harry Potter movie>>

        There is a book being published. LOL!


        <<no World Cup>>

        Every year they make World Cup. What's wrong with you?

        <<No Bond movie>>

        Bullshit. Blockbuster has tons of them.

        <<no co publishing deal with Square>>

        We have Sims Online to replace that revenue.

        <<no strong sales for online. games>>

        Yes Sims Online is below expectations......but we do EXPECT it to pick in the later half of the year, like are revenue and earnins as well.

        <<no war to give an extra boost to those combat games>>

        So what? The economy will still be bad and you know what that means don't you? More people skipping the movies and STAYING at home PLAYING video games.

        <<no more development team from Medal of Honor>>

        No more Westwood either. And your point is?

        <<We do have some nice continued pricing pressure on video games though.>>

        Listen up. We are lowering prices to move more product. More sales equals more revenue.

        <<Come on Probst. How about no more BS.>>

        You mean like that Bullshitter guy?

 
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