EA’s Online Strategy Dissected

Writing for MarketWatch, Dan Gallagher dissects EA s now much-touted moves to turn around its businesses by getting aggressive about online games and digital distribution.  Gallagher provides plenty of financials behind the company’s strategy, and he talks to industry pundits on whether the opportunities in the space are big business, as defined by EA COO John Schappert, or characterized by unproven business models, as voiced by EA rival Activision’s chief Robert Kotick.

Read the article at MarketWatch {link no longer active}.

Analysts Voice Concern, Cite Causes For Game Sales Shortfall

A pair of analysts talking to Gamaustra have voiced concern and tried to find causes behind the recently reported double digit drop in game sales for January.  Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter told the news outlet that the month s thirteen percent year-over-year decline in the face of a solid software lineup gives us pause.   Pachter pointed some of the blame towards Nintendo hardware sales, saying a combined year-over-year drop of 300,000 units of Wii and DS sold this January translated to $30 million less in software sales.  Cowen Group’s Doug Creutz told Gamasutra the blame lies in new software and catalog sales.  Creutz pointed to disappointing sales of high-profile new releases, citing how sales of 624,000 units for Mass Effect 2 fell short of his forecast by more than 24 percent.  He said other examples of software woes are disappointing January sales for other new releases such as EA’s “Army of Two: The 40th Day” and THQ’s Darksiders, as well as a larger than expected quarterly sales decline reported by Activision.  Read more at Gamasutra.

Analyst: Game Consoles Need More Price Cuts

Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey suggests that more game console price cuts are needed in 2010 to spur slumping software sales, starting with Nintendo Wii.  Industry Gamers reports on Hickey’s comments.  The news outlet quotes Hickey as saying that console makers should dramatically cut price points in calendar 10, to continue hardware sales momentum from the holiday.   Hickey said that traditionally the console cycle would be nearing full maturity now, leaving the market dependent on price cuts for hardware and software as well as hardware extensions.  Expanding on the latter, Hickey said he doesn’t expect Microsoft to drop the Xbox 360 price prior to the launch of its hardware add-on, the motion controller Natal.  He added that he expects near-term success for Xbox 360 as well as Sony PlayStation 3 based on the introduction of motion controllers for both consoles, giving them a secondary casual market cycle.   But he highlighted Nintendo’s precarious position, with its handheld DS facing competition from Apple devices, and the Wii facing upmigration of casual console game players to Microsoft and Sony’s more powerful consoles.  Hickey said Nintendo needs to cut the price of Wii from $200 to $150 immediately to build a solid install base before Microsoft and Sony motion controllers hit the market.  Industry Gamers also cites Hickey s comments that publishers should expect continued pricing pressure on premium priced games in 2010, with too many high-profile releases on slate for the market to sustain.  Read more at Industry Gamers {link no longer active}.

Burger King Dives Into Adult Swim

Cartoon Network has enlisted Burger King on a campaign to pick the next new series premiering on Adult Swim.  As reported in MediaPost, the campaign channels Burger King’s Have It Your Way messaging, launching a fan voter drive to pick which pilot episode from eight candidates will join the network’s adult-skewed programming lineup.  Billed as the Big Uber Network Sampling, the Adult Swim promotion is running on a Burger King branded micro-site.  Viewers to the site can watch full pilot episodes and vote on favorites each week through March 8.  The pilot episode with the most votes airs on Cartoon Network on March 22.  MediaPost says the campaign includes a contest component also drawing from Burger King messaging, where one winner will have it their way by programming an entire night s lineup on Cartoon’s Adult Swim block.  Read more at MediaPost {link no longer active}.

Xbox 360 Expo Anchored By Sequels, XBL Game Room

Microsoft resurrected its Xbox 360 expo with X10, the first since 2006, anchoring the event with high-profile games slated for 2010 along with the coming launch of Xbox Live Game Room.  As reported in Edge-Online, Microsoft adopted a tone for the event set by director of product management Aaron Greenberg, who declared 2010 as the biggest year in the history of Xbox.  The X10 game lineup was dominated by sequels, with Microsoft showcasing Halo: Reach, Crackdown 2, Fable III, and its sole original IP game Alan Wake.  Third-party fare was also primarily sequels, with Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell: Conviction, Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIII, Capcom’s pair of sequels Lost Planet 2 and Dead Rising 2, and downloadable content for EA’s Left4Dead2 on display.  Edge-Online seems to express the most excitement for the upcoming launch of Game Room, a cross between Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation 3 Home as a virtual place where avatars can gather and play classic arcade and console games.  The news outlet says more than 30 games were announced at X10 for the virtual arcade.  Read more at Edge-Online.

EA Super Bowl Ad Fizzles On Sizzle Meter

EA’s pricey ad buy for Dante’s Inferno during this year s Super Bowl may not have moved the needle the way the publisher intended.  Ad Age analyzes post-game buzz for advertisers, and names EA among brands that took a beating.   The news outlet uses buzz metrics compiled by research firm YouGov Polimetrix, which created an index of winners and losers among Super Bowl ads based on surveys.  The firm conducted surveys the week prior to the game then again the day after, creating a positive buzz point system by measuring the percentage of respondents who had heard positive comments about a brand minus the percentage of those exposed to negative comments.  It found the biggest winners were Denny’s, E-Trade and Doritos, all of which gained double digit points in positive buzz after the game.  Among buzz losers, Volkswagen saw the biggest drop, falling 6.2 points on YouGov Polimetrix s meter, followed by Acura at 4.9 and EA at 4.7.  The firm found EA as one of five brands with the most buzz lost in surveys among all men as well as adults over 18 years old.  Check out the full findings at Ad Age {link no longer active}.

Linear Beauty

Capcom put out this Valentine’s Day themed trailer featuring the femme fatales in the upcoming title Super Street Fighter IV.   There s no shortage of creativity in it.  It s expertly crafted in terms of pace, directing and editing.  But the highlight here has to be the art direction, an ink sketch, almost calligraphic art style that Capcom’s worked into previous trailers for Street Fighter IV.  It takes center stage here.

{video link no longer active}
Watch it at GameTrailers.

‘Is It In You?’

Coca-Cola has been known to run ads channeling sports drink advertising {link no longer active} to push Sprite to the urban set before.  This recent spot essentially turns Gatorade s slogan “Is it in you?” into a visual premise.  The ad uses nifty special effects to depict actor-rapper Drake as a robot seemingly made up of hodge-podge music component parts, and fueled by Sprite.

Watch it at YouTube {link no longer active}.

Op-Ed: The Buzz On Buzz

Writing for Mashable, Ben Parr has a decidedly hot outlook on the otherwise lukewarm to cold reactions many have voiced for Google Buzz.  He says Google s social media tool for Gmail is no email service add-on, rather it s a full-fledged social net ready to rival Facebook and Twitter.  Parr offers a mix of launch usage statistics and Mashable reader testimonials to support his bullish forecast for the service.

Read the article on Mashable.

Shack News Game Releases Feb. 14 – 20

Shack News lists this week s videogame releases.

This week s headliner is Sega’s Alien vs. Predator, yet another title in the promiscuous entertainment license that has had previous publishers EA, Sierra and Fox bringing it to all manner of platforms.  Sega tries to reinvigorate the franchise with a seemingly well-budgeted action title for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.  Other notable releases are sequels and expansions, with Nintendo DS getting a new entry in the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series from Capcom, PC getting Everquest II: Sentinel’s Fate Expansion from Sony Online, and PSP getting another SOCOM from Sony.  Honorable mention goes to Majesco for gathering 15 arcade games from Data East for a Nintendo Wii compilation, with such classics as Burger Time, Bad Dudes, and Caveman Ninja.

Check out the full list at Shack News.