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Analyst: Disappointing Medal Of Honor: Warfighter may kill the franchise

Medal Of Honor: Warfighter

If you’ve read our review of EA’s Medal Of Honor: Warfighter, you’re already well aware of the game’s many, many failings. We certainly weren’t alone in decrying the title, as the critical response to this game has been decidedly abysmal. As if that wasn’t enough to crush a few spirits at developer Danger Close, the game has also been selling very poorly. EA hosted a financial conference call yesterday in which CEO John Riccitiello readily admitted that the game was not performing at retail as well as the firm had hoped it might.

While that admission was certainly diplomatic, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter sees the failure of Warfighter as a big dent in the metaphorical ship that is EA. Since Riccitiello was unwilling or unable to discuss any solid sales numbers, Pachter offers a few of his own:

The last iteration of Medal of Honor received an average Metacritic score of 75 in 2010 (after its predecessor received an average score of 73 in 2007), and EA management committed to improving quality with this year’s release. Instead, with an average score of only 50, [Warfighter] is likely to fall short of revenue expectations by $100 million or more. Perhaps more importantly, the poor performance of Medal of Honor makes it highly unlikely that EA can deliver significant digital revenues from DLC subscriptions next year, and sets the company up for a disappointing comparison to the $204 million in digital revenues it expects from Battlefield this year.

Of course, that only covers the failure of this particular game, while Pachter sees more far-reaching consequences for this release’s catastrophic reception. He cites the recent cancellation of NBA Live 13 as evidence that EA seems incapable of learning from its mistakes, and more crucially of explaining why and how its mistakes occurred both to investors and to those who purchase EA’s video games. “… it is imperative that EA management acknowledge that they understand the underlying causes for the execution missteps, and commit to shareholders that these causes will be addressed, and that there will be a turnaround in game quality,” Pachter states, before saying that Warfighter’s critical drubbing “may prove fatal” to the Medal Of Honor franchise as a whole. 

Interestingly, Pachter remains surprisingly optimistic about the future of EA’s NBA Live series, and is “confident that a quality game will come out next year.”

Then, as if to directly contrast that ray of hopeful sunshine, Pachter shifts gears and goes right back to predicting doom and gloom for the Medal Of Honor games.”We think that low review scores will impair EA’s (and the Medal of Honor brand’s) reputation with those who pre-ordered the game or bought it as soon as it was released (likely some of EA’s most dedicated customers), and believe EA alienated at least a small portion of these gamers,” Pachter states.

And because it’s impossible to discuss the Medal Of Honor franchise without also mentioning Activision’s competing, wildly successful Call Of Duty games, Pachter examines the big-picture ramifications this may have for EA in its quest to be the biggest games publisher on the planet. “Given the impairment to the Medal of Honor brand, we think EA is unlikely to take Activision’s mantle as the leading developer of first-person shooters for several years,” he adds.

While business prognostication, especially that based on a field like gaming, is inherently a crapshoot, all of Pachter’s arguments here seem solid. However, we’re surprised to see that he almost completely glossed over the superfluousness of the modern Medal Of Honor titles. EA’s Battlefield series has always been very successful, yet instead of building purely on that single franchise EA opted to build Warfighter on top of the same engine used for Battlefield 3. While Warfighter is more focused on cinematic, Call Of Duty-style combat situations than Battlefield 3, when compared side by side there seems to be little reason for the existence of Warfighter

Then again, maybe that’s the point. If Pachter is correct about the imminent death of the Medal Of Honor series, at least EA can still fall back on Battlefield as its go-to modern military first-person shooter franchise.