As the games industry approaches its usual annual frenzy towards the year’s end, speculation on who will be among the big winners or losers tends to run wild. One title that sits at the center of this discussion is EA’s upcoming Star Wars Battlefront. Following the lineage of the Battlefield series, the November 17 release is set in the familiar Star Wars universe and features a variety of missions and gameplay options familiar to regular first person shooter players. This coming holiday season has the makings of one of the biggest sales periods in the industry yet. With the console cycle reaching its peak, demand for new games is at an all-time high. With NFL 16 and FIFA 16, Star Wars Battlefront is also EA’s chance to do well during this holiday period. The big question is: will it?
Mechanically, Star Wars Battlefront is based firmly in EA’s Battlefield franchise. With 7 million copies sold across platforms, including 1.7 million via full game download on console, Battlefield 4 proved successful, though heralded the decline of the franchise. Even as the console user base expands, sales of each new addition to the franchise has seen faster post-launch-month drops and digital earnings keep dropping faster.
Difficulties during the months following its release played a significant role in this — in particular, the absence of a server browser for its multiplayer component. Rather than being able to peruse and select servers on their own, players are expected to wait in a lobby before being matched with other players. EA’s recent confirmation that “Star Wars Battlefront will not offer a server browser,” will hinder the game from reaching a critical mass of online players quickly and lessen its appeal. Instead, the publisher is promising “a new skill-based matchmaking system,” but has yet to explain what that means exactly.
Furthermore, the planned November 17 release date for Star Wars Battlefront follows three equally well-known franchises: Halo 5 Guardians on October 27, Call of Duty: Black Ops III on November 6, and Fallout 4 on November 10. All four of these are shooter games, although Fallout 4 should arguably be considered a role-playing rather than an action game. Nonetheless, several of the major publishers have timed the release of their main franchises with the frenzy of the holiday season and during the peak of the current generation console cycle.
Finally, to maximize its earnings potential, EA is launching Star Wars Battlefront as a prelude to the theatrical release of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens in December. This gives the game a much broader appeal. Although neither of the involved companies released any details, we assume a minimum guarantee of $12 million and a royalty payout structure between 10%-15%, valuing the total deal at around $110 million for Disney at the high end.
Because of the well-known franchise to which it belongs, the game stands to do well among those purchasing the game as a gift for someone else. At the same time, this will also limit its digital appeal, as most people tend to want to give a wrapped gift rather than a download code. Nonetheless, by timing the game’s release with the movie, it will reach maximum exposure right before the holiday season. In a parallel universe, however, we observe that the Star Wars IP proved unable to turn the tides for Angry Birds. After its initial success, Rovio has fallen on harder times, having to let go of several hundred employees in the past 18 months.
Let’s see how strong, exactly, the force will be with this one.
As part of our offering, we occasionally release forecasts on specific titles. Previously we predicted $165 million in DLC earnings for Grand Theft Auto 5 for the first year, which proved accurate within a 3.7% margin of error (actuals were $158.9 million). Our estimates and forecasts are for marketing purposes only and do not represent a recommendation to buy or sell securities of any kind.
SuperData Research, Inc. is a global research group dedicated to supporting accurate measurement and representation of key titles, franchises, and markets in the digital video game sector. Any data supplied and any discussion via phone or in person does not represent a recommendation to buy or sell securities of any kind.