EA Live Service Success Gives AAA Games More Time in Development

EA is enjoying a large amount of success from their live service games as they make up a fairly large percentage of their annual income. Players might have been concerned about what this would mean for their traditional single-player experiences like Dragon Age 4 or the new Mass Effect game, but EA CEO Andrew Wilson was quick to reassure them that this is giving those games more time in development to reach the highest quality they can.

How EA’s live service games are helping development

Apex Legends

EA had a record year in FY 2022, reaching a massive $7.515 billion in net bookings according to its financial results presentation. Live service games made up 71% of this figure, up 17% from the year before. Apex Legends net bookings increased by 40% and Season 12 set records for the highest play engagement since the game launched in 2019. The EA player network also increased by 16%, reaching a total of more than 580 million player accounts. The FIFA franchise is responsible for over 150 million of those on its own and FIFA 22 was the most successful FIFA game ever.

There will be several EA games released throughout this financial year and the majority of these will arrive during the first three months of 2023, something that was once a quiet time of the year. One of these is an unannounced “major IP”. When asked in EA’s earnings call, as transcribed by Seeking Alpha, why this game would not be released during the holiday period, Wilson replied that their live service success means their AAA games no longer have to rely on those more traditional launch windows:

We’ve got a major IP in the fourth quarter and why not do that in the holiday quarter? And I would say two things to that. One is we want to get to the highest quality games we possibly can. We’re committed to quality. We’re committed to giving our development teams all the time they need to build great games and deliver those through a global audience.

Underlying that, I’d also highlight, though, that the nature of our business is changing. As Chris [Suh, EA CFO] pointed out, 71% of our business is coming from live services. And so these traditional launch windows that have been so important in our industry for the longest time aren’t as relevant now in a world where players are playing our games day in, day out, week in, week out, month in, month out. And so the combination of the changing nature of engagement consumption of our games and our deep desire to give our teams all the time they need to get to the best possible game experience really is what’s driving that Q4 launch.

In other news, EA also revealed they have got an unannounced “remake” and an unannounced “partner title” amongst six sports games and Need for Speed that are due to be released this year. Elsewhere, Sony’s CFO has reiterated its AAA first-party titles will not be launching on day one on PS Plus Premium.

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