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Competition Takes a Toll on Electronic Arts' Earnings

Joe Tenebruso, The Motley Fool

Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA) reported fiscal 2019 fourth-quarter financial results on May 7. The video game publisher saw its sales and profits dented by intense competition from rival game makers, but a blockbuster new franchise has management optimistic about fiscal 2020.

Electronic Arts results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q4 2019

Q4 2018

Year-Over-Year Change

Net revenue

$1.24 billion

$1.58 billion

(22%)

Net income

$209 million

$607 million

(66%)

Earnings per share

$0.69

$1.95

(65%)

Data source: Electronic Arts Q4 2019 earnings release.

What happened with Electronic Arts this quarter?

Net revenue fell 22% year over year to $1.2 billion, mainly due to disappointing sales of the company's Battlefield V and Command & Conquer games. However, this figure was $75 million above Electronic Arts' guidance. 

Moreover, net bookings -- essentially, the dollar amount of products and services Electronic Arts sold during the quarter -- rose 9% to nearly $1.4 billion. The gains were fueled in part by the growth of the company's live services, which include EA's subscription services and in-game transactions.

"The last 12 months have been a time of change for the video game industry," CFO Blake Jorgensen said during a conference call with analysts. "Nevertheless, we ended our fiscal year with strong growth, driven by our live services businesses, which continued to provide a very large, stable, and profitable source of net bookings.

Notably, Electronic Arts' player base has grown to more than 500 million active player accounts. New games such as EA's popular free-to-play battle royale game Apex Legends are helping the company reach new audiences around the world.

"Apex Legends is the fastest growing new game we've ever had, quickly reaching the milestone of 50 million players, and millions more have continued to join," CEO Andrew Wilson said. "It has also helped us tap into new player audiences, as nearly 30% of Apex Legends players are new to EA." 

Characters from Electronic Arts' new Apex Legends game are shown fighting

Electronic Arts' new Apex Legends game is helping it attract millions of new players. Image source: Electronic Arts.

Additionally, esports are helping to boost player engagement with EA's venerable FIFA and Madden NFL franchises. Viewership for the company's FIFA competitive gaming tournaments was up 60% year over year, and its Madden Bowl tournament was watched by seven times as many peak viewers as last year's event. 

Still, lower revenue resulted in a 66% decline in net income to $209 million, or $0.69 per share. That was, however, $0.13 better than the company's guidance. 

Looking forward

Management sees better times ahead. Electronic Arts' guidance for fiscal 2020 includes:

  • Net bookings of approximately $5.1 billion, representing year-over-year growth of about 3%.
  • Net revenue of $5.375 billion, up 9%.
  • Net income -- adjusted to exclude a one-time tax benefit -- of $1.095 billion, up 7%.
  • Adjusted EPS of $3.56, up 7%.
  • Operating cash flow of $1.575 billion, up 2%.

"Players are engaging with games in more ways than ever before," Wilson said. "We're committed to meeting them where they are with a broad portfolio of amazing new games and live services, choice of engagement models including free-to-play and subscriptions, and new opportunities to play, compete, and watch."

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Joe Tenebruso has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Electronic Arts. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.