Star Wars and live-service games keep EA strong despite Anthem’s flop

Electronic Arts continued to generate strong profits over 2019, with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order selling well above the company’s expectations and its live-service games generating impressive revenue. The success comes in spite of the early-year failure of Anthem, which was quickly discounted after receiving middling review scores and reports of the game being massively overhauled.

As part of its latest quarterly earnings call, Electronic Arts revealed it had record operating cash flow during 2019, with nearly $1 billion in revenue coming from its live services during the fourth quarter alone.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is now on course to sell around 10 million units, up from an initial estimate of between 6 million and 8 million units. More content related to the project is on the way and it will remain single-player-focused, but Electronic Arts stopped short of saying if it would be DLC or a new game. Fallen Order was the first non-shooter project from Respawn Entertainment, which is currently developing a VR-exclusive Medal of Honor game.

FIFA 20 and Madden NFL 20 both sold above expectations as well, with continued player support for their online components. Madden NFL 20‘s success also meant it staved off a discount as early or as deeply as its predecessors. However, the raw sales data for these three franchises doesn’t tell the whole story, as Electronic Arts’ royalty checks to the brands’ owners cut into profits.

During the call’s Q&A portion, Electronic Arts shared details about a pattern emerging in its Origin subscription service: Players joining to play one game move onto playing other games and continue playing and using the service. A Star Wars fan, for instance, may become a fan of Dragon Age or Titanfall via their subscription.

Anthem‘s disappointing performance, however, still looms over the company. It did not meet EA’s expectations, either for sales or microtransactions, and was discounted to a fraction of its original price by the end of 2019. Developer BioWare is working on a new Dragon Age game, but the full game hasn’t yet been unveiled. Anthem was BioWare’s second recent disappointment, following Mass Effect: Andromeda in 2017. The latter effectively killed its series — at least temporarily — with developers moving onto other franchises.

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