Electronic_Arts_3Let me throw some numbers at you: according to EA CFO, Blake Jorgensen, EA is making 1.3 billion dollars a year from its extra content business (season passes, map-packs, Ultimate Team, and other micro-transactions), and around half of that comes from Ultimate Team in FIFA, NFL, and Madden franchises on all platforms. That is equivalent to $650 million in annual revenue, and when assessed in the context of last fiscal year's results, Ultimate Team accounts for roughly 30% of EA's $2.23 billion dollars in digital revenue. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't only for Ultimate Team on mobile but for the consoles as well. However, that really doesn't make a difference because when we take these numbers and then put them alongside EA's recent games, a pretty clear pattern begins to emerge.

While EA's figures cover Ultimate Team on all platforms, the development of FIFA on mobile is a good example of where EA is heading. FIFA 14 was free to play game with a one-time premium unlock. It had numerous modes (online friendlies, seasons, etc) in addition to the Ultimate Team mode, and it was probably (in my opinion) the best football game on mobile to this date. Jump to FIFA 16 Ultimate Team [Free], and you can see even from the name that something has changed in EA's strategy.

When I reviewed this game a few months back, I gave it a generous 2.5 stars because by stripping all the modes away and leaving only Ultimate Team, EA managed to turn a great football game into a game about navigating menus and IAPs with the occasional kicking of the ball. While I was pretty sure money was the reason why EA went this route with its flagship mobile football game, the numbers coming from Jorgensen confirmed that EA is simply following the trail of money, and that trail is unfortunately leading them straight to free to play games with plenty of micro-transactions on all platforms.

And in case some of you are already loading the "this is why mobile sucks" cannon, I would advise restraint. The other kind of sports games I like are the UFC ones, and guess what? For the first time in the franchise, the upcoming EA Sports UFC 2 on PS4 and XBOX One will have an Ultimate Team mode, too. On the one hand, I can't blame EA for simply going for the tree that has the most money hanging off it, but personally I'm really disappointed with this Ultimate Team trend because that mode completely alters the way a game is played, and (in my opinion) not for the better.

Would it be a stretch to say that EA will continue shifting its attention to the Ultimate Team part of its sports franchises on all platforms? Going by the history of FIFA 16 Ultimate Team and the decision to add an Ultimate Team mode to EA Sports UFC 2, EA's games on mobile and consoles will probably gradually have a cheaper up-front price and many more opportunities for players to spend money in-game. After all, EA has about 650 million reasons to do just that.

  • Bruce Morrison

    Serious Games, Bla Bla Bla, something dumb about Mobile, bla bla bla, absurd comment about consoles, absurd console about EA games not being good. There did I cover all the dumb comments?

    • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

      You forgot to accuse us of being paid off by the free to play illuminati to write this.

      • http://matt-curtis.me/ Matt Curtis

        I bet the Free to Play Illuminati payed you to write that comment.

      • Tasos Lazarides

        Sipping on my "F2P Illuminati" Champagne as we speak

      • H4nd0fg0d

        I think it goes without saying...

  • Moonartzi

    Why can't companies release a premium version and a free version of a game?

    • Bruce Morrison

      You make less money that way.

      • curtisrshideler

        Maybe. But then everyone who pays to play Ultimate Team would probably keep doing so... And they could actually get money out of me again to the tune of $20 for a paid normal FIFA experience. And many people who pay money into both. So, it would be FIFA 14, basically.

    • http://entrepreneurialblog.com Niclas Johansson

      That's like saying "why not make a horror version and a tear-jerker drama version of the same film?" - because the distinction makes them things of different natures.

  • spader623

    It's horrible depressing, but you can't really lie with this kind of info... As much as we, gamers, may hate IAP or free to play or whatever, it makes Devs a fuckton of money.

    • jonnyb086

      Yes, but why exactly and how? Is it really millions spending only a buck or two or the "whales" who will sink over $100?

      • Tuzzo

        Who cares, as long as they keep up getting loads of money from IAPs? Whether there are 10 whales spending $ 500 each or 1.000 casual gamers spending $ 5, they still get $ 5.000 in the end. Game success is not made up by how many times it is downloaded, but how much money they can make from it, unfortunately 🙁

    • Twitchfactor

      Correction, "it makes the top tier of execs and producers at publishers, a lot of money". The actual "devs" get crunch and pizza.

  • InTheAir

    I would think that part of the reason why Ultimate Team earns so much money is because people who play sports games are even LESS informed about the video game industry than... the elephant in the room. The majority of people I know have EA Sports games as the only games they play on console, so mixing the 2 incredibly young audiences together plus possibly other adults straight deep into sports makes an incredibly lucrative and dangerous concoction of greed. It's gonna take a whole lot to demand sports companies to sign up with other publishers, and make a huge mess for EA if they really want to "Gain trust from the PC community."

  • H4nd0fg0d

    Who's EA, oh I didn't even think they made games anymore. Haven't thought about EA since Madden '06 or was that '96. Oh well, no matter. Good article to pour gas on the fire and get the goons fired up.

    • Brendan Charles

      EA is the Dr. Frankenstein of video games. They keep the remnants of old, dead franchise moving and making money. They only put as much effort as is required to keep the lifeless corpses of old franchises going and that's it. Their games have no soul, no meat on their bones... just money making opportunities pinned on to the flesh of old IPs.

      • ZeeMonkeyMan

        You obviously haven't played The Garden Warfare games! If only more people realised it is one of the better shooters to come out in a long long time and not just a game for kiddies maybe they would make more games with the originality and freshness that it provides!

  • DemoEvolved

    Ea should be quite careful. While they can milk a single concept across multiple themes, there will come a time when it is played out and crashes hard. I call that the Guitar Hero Event Horizon.

  • Talaen

    There is room to have both a F2P, ultimate-style offering for those interested in persistent themed online competition and premium offering to allow offline gameplay and comparable. If EA no longer has that offering it is only a matter of time before another game company does (although addressing actual licensing will take longer).

    I can't fault companies like EA for chasing revenue trends... They are a business and their goal is to make money for their shareholders. Demand and profits being up is a representation of customer consumption of their services, which is another way of saying dollars are talking. If people weren't buying into these models, they would stop offering them and invest efforts elsewhere.

    Every product ever offered in any sector is based on some amount of market and demand research, and we live in a big data world where the analytics are no longer hidden behind marketing firms and discrete surveys. You can see it in the App Store trends, public revenue reporting, and countless other areas.

  • bababewey

    When you add in the fact the monetization of EA's "ultimate teams" from their sports franchises is a totally different thing, it makes it less incredible. I don't enjoy games with f2p mechanics, but I pump a pretty crazy amount of money into hockey ultimate team every year. They're a completely different animal.

  • fabell

    What about the other 70%? Because that's a pretty big number to not talk about. It would be interesting to see how that 30% changes if and when that 70% becomes less important. Would EA be able to survive purely off an Ultimate Mode? Probably not in the long-term. The upside to this is that we may see more AAA experiences on mobile, and technology for developing mobile software (such as Unity) may become more widespread and prevalent, if behemoths like EA seriously jump in the ring... Not just as supplemental to their income flows, but as a major investment.

  • curtisrshideler

    They haven't gotten a cent from me since FIFA 14 mobile. I unlocked that premium experience, and still have it on my phone. Would love a roster update someday, EA. 😉 I hate these F2P all star team mash ups. So boring to me. And that's how I know I'm getting old. I just wonder if those that pay money into this junk are adults spending money they made it teens spending their parents' money. Either way, I just wish they'd stop.

  • Schpank

    More 'uh-oh death of premium' from TA. Let me see if I get the reasoning - Greed trumps all, therefore every developer must try to become EA or Supercell (as if that's possible). It's the kind of thinking America is built on: "You're a loser if you don't try to become a member of the 1%, but of course since we're talking about 1%, only 1% of you ever will. Haha!". The notion that the only choice for developers is to become crap factories like EA or die, is false. These sweeping market pronouncements seem rash at best.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Absolutely no one is saying that.

  • Raki_Saeki

    Well, they're sports games. I've worked selling videogames, and here the most we sold were Fifas and PES (year after year). More than any halo, uncharted, pokemon... People who like soccer love to throw their money at anything soccer related and the same goes to other sports. Just look how much people spend on a ticket to just see adults kick a ball from side to side. No mystery nor surprise here.

    • DanKetch

      In Canada it's always the EA NHL games at every game retailer I've worked at.

  • MasonHurst

    Yeah you can't blame EA for sucking up the sports fans money. They are quite ok with getting fleeced and apparently don't mind accepting an inferior product. Otherwise the money well would dry up. Sadly a lot of them really just want to gamble anyways.

  • Jakeopp

    It's all about the money to the big companies these days...

    • abazigal

      Can't say I blame them. People are willing to spend, so why say no to easy money?

  • Toney

    At the end of the day, we're the ones that are at fault for this, because we choose to support it with our wallets. EA is just giving us what we apparently want.

  • Grits n Gravy

    Who would've thought people would spend money on useless sports cards again?

  • stelluhreyesthis

    I think it's interesting that sports games are the main titles being affected by this I'm not sure what the correlation is exactly, I could assume things but I think that demographic in part has something to do with the ability to pull off these types of micro transactions

  • vicsark

    EA also innovated with EA Access for XBone and now on PC with Origin.
    For 30$ or 25€ a year, You may play all their back catalog (one year old games) and each new game for 10 hours.
    It's incredible value.
    I would totally have preferred a subscription model like that for the AppStore instead of full F2P for most games.
    Before that, I always bought used old FIFA, Madden and Basketball game at 5 or 10$ in case of I had a friend interested in playing them at home. Now I have access to all the latest and it's way cheaper.