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US buyers favoured other publishers' games

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Electronic Arts saw revenues and income fall during the Christmas quarter, as growing demand in Europe and Asia failed to compensate for a big dip in US sales.

The three months to 31 December, the third quarter if EA's fiscal year, yielded sales totalling $1.43bn, down 3.2 per cent on Q3 FY2003's $1.48bn.

Sales were up nine per cent in Asia, to $70m, and the company achieved a single percentage point gain in European sales, to $666m, but neither could cover the eight per cent drop in US revenue, which fell to $692m.

Still, many analysts had expected US sales to fall even further, given a strong showing from the company's rivals, most notably Microsoft's Halo 2 and Take-Two's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. EA also released only 11 titles during the quarter, compared to 13 in Q3 FY2003. This time round, its best-selling titles included Need for Speed Underground 2, FIFA 2005, The Lord of the Rings and Sims in the City

EA's income fell 4.4 per cent year on year to $375m (118 cents a share), at the top of the range the company had previously forecast and in line with Wall Street expectations.

The company is now looking forward to better results in 2005, thanks to the arrival of the Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) and "the possibility of next-generation consoles".

The latter is undoubtedly a reference to Microsoft's second-generation Xbox. According to a leaked EA press release last week, this will launch later this year. ®

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