Electronic Arts Expands Games Subscriptions to Lure Players

Electronic Arts Inc., the largest maker of games for the latest generation of consoles, is extending its subscription service to more countries as it seeks to attract new players.

The company’s EA Access service became available to users in North America, Australia, New Zealand and western European countries including the U.K. and France, the Redwood City, California-based company said before Europe’s largest gaming exhibition, Gamescom, in Cologne, Germany, which starts tomorrow.

“Our goal would be to roll it out in every market that wants it, it’s absolutely a global program.” Chief Operating Officer Peter Moore said in a phone interview. As more games are added over the years, the platform may become “key to everybody,” he said.

EA, which is trying to generate more sales from digital downloads, will have its new service limited to Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox One for the time being, Moore said. Users get unlimited access for a monthly or annual fee to a pool of titles including Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2 and Battlefield 4. Sony Corp., whose PlayStation 4 also gets many EA games, decided to start its own subscription service, PlayStation Now.

Competitive Players

While the subscription service won’t replace EA’s traditional pay-per-game model for all players in the foreseeable future, it presents a way for them to get into games they wouldn’t have paid for otherwise, Moore said. The service, which also comes with early access aimed at competitive players as well as rebates on online purchases, will also be sold via GameStop Corp. stores and at Amazon.com Inc.’s website, EA has said.

At the conference, Electronic Arts will show playable versions of FIFA 15 and NHL 15, and it will also exhibit role-playing game Dragon Age Inquisition and various mobile games, Moore said. The company had to push back the release of shooter Battlefield Hardline, a major holiday title, to next year.

Under Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wilson, who took over last year, the company’s shares have jumped about 30 percent. They rose 2.3 percent to $35.07 in New York trading yesterday. The company beat analysts’ sales estimates over the last two quarters, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Microsoft and Sony have sold almost twice as many units of their newest gaming machines as in the last generation after the same time in the market, Moore said, adding that this will help EA sell more games in coming quarters.

At the same time, EA avoided an increase in operating cost that typically accompanies the start of a new console generation by slashing the number of software engines from more than 20 in 2007 down to two, Moore said. That makes it easier for the company to shift developers from one project to another and should prevent costs from rising in coming years, he said.

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