Electronic Arts has announced the release of SimCity BuildIt on iOS and Android devices. The free-to-play installment of the classic city-building franchise has been designed specifically for mobile devices, and combines the classic “zone” building from previous SimCity installments with a hefty crafting system for constructing and upgrading new buildings.
It’s time to once again celebrate the holidays in The Sims FreePlay, as a Christmas event has launched in EA’s life simulation game. Players can now decorate their homes for Christmas, and will eventually be able to complete new quests alongside Santa Claus as they work to save the holiday. This event comes with plenty of new items to decorate your Sims’ homes, and even dress your Sims (and pets) to match the occasion.
The Christmas holiday event has launched in The Simpsons: Tapped Out on mobile devices, giving players a chance to celebrate the season by collecting presents and building toys in Santa’s workshop. Springfield is covered in a blanket of snow, trees have lost their leaves, and lights adorn certain objects. This event is similar to that of this year’s Halloween celebration, as players will collect presents in bulk to unlock prizes, while also completing quests (for additional rewards) as part of a new storyline.
Electronic Arts has announced the launch of Peggle Blast on mobile devices, introducing new players to PopCap’s popular peg-breaking franchise through a free-to-play experience on iOS and Android. In Peggle Blast, players complete level-based gameplay that challenges them to launch orbs at peg formations, with the main goal of breaking key colored pegs before running out of shots.
It’s the time for sitting around the table and sharing thoughtful words in The Simpsons: Tapped Out, as a Thanksgiving update has been launched in our virtual Springfields. This update sees players completing new quests and unlocking new character costumes for some of Springfield’s most famous citizens, while Homer learns the true meaning of Thanksgiving (or maybe not).
Electronic Arts has announced the development of the newest title in the popular Need for Speed racing franchise, Need for Speed: No Limits. The game is being developed for smartphones and tablets by Firemonkeys, the studio behind Real Racing 3 and other mobile titles in the Need for Speed franchise. According to the developer, this newest installment is being built from the ground up to deliver a new experience to racing fans on mobile devices.
Game developer and publisher Electronic Arts today announced John Riccitiello will step down as Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the Board of Directors, effective March 30. Larry Probst, who was CEO prior to Riccitiello, was appointed Executive Chairman while the Board searches for a new, permanent CEO.
EA made the announcement today via an official release, also stating that the company is considering both external and internal candidates to replace Riccitiello.
“My decision to leave EA is really all about my accountability for the shortcomings in our financial results this year,” Riccitiello explained in his letter to EA (published by Kotaku). “It currently looks like we will come in at the low end of, or slightly below, the financial guidance we issued to the Street, and we have fallen short of the internal operating plan we set one year ago. And for that, I am 100 percent accountable.”
Riccitiello also took pride in the strides the company has made in the mobile space, telling his employees: “You are number one in the fastest growing segment, mobile, with incredible games like The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Real Racing 3, Bejeweled, SCRABBLE and Plants v. Zombies.”
EA’s release cited Probst’s accomplishments when he was last CEO, also specifying his contributions to online and mobile. “As CEO, Probst successfully grew the Company’s annual revenues from $175 million to approximately$3 billion, led EA into new platforms such as mobile, online and other emerging markets and expanded its international presence to more than 75 countries.”
EA’s Nick Earl on the transition to free-to-play, relationships with mobile platforms and core gamers on tablets
Gaming giant Electronic Arts, which has seen years of success on console, PC and handheld, is seeing more and more success in the burgeoning mobile games market. The company released the highly-anticipated driving game Real Racing 3 yesterday and will launch Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliances soon for mobile.
Nick Earl, senior vice president and general manager of EA’s All Play label, recently spoke with Inside Mobile Apps about EA’s transition to free-to-play, its relationships with the mobile platforms (Apple and Google) and the core gamer market on tablet.
Inside Mobile Apps: What has EA learned so far from some of its freemium titles like The Simpson: Tapped Out and The Sims FreePlay?
Nick Earl, senior vice president and general manager of EA’s All Play label (pictured right): We’ve learned a lot. Top of the list is how open this model is in terms of the number of players and how big the audience can be when a game is free-to-play, even though there are a lot of opportunities if you’re willing to spend money inside these freemium games. Having [games] as this model means it’s completely open and free for millions to play on a daily basis. We’ve learned that we have to be able to support a large audience and that’s the infrastructure of the game. The operations has to be able to support large audiences and we’ve learned that on games like The Simpsons, for example, which now has now more than five million daily active users, and when we started it, we struggled. We rebuilt the infrastructure to support and maintain large audiences.
We’ve learned that the design of a free-to-play game is different from a premium game or console game where you pay upfront and get all you can eat. It requires a different style of design, that’s a core compulsion loop, that the user experience as well as the sinks where the game tends to monetize. You need to construct a game that’s going to work for the majority of people that are not going to pay at all but is still going to make sense for people who have the disposable income and desire to speed up and experience or get access to a premium item, and that doesn’t really upset the balance that exists for the entire community that are playing the game. There’s a real art to creating and designing these games.
IMA: With Real Racing 3 recently releasing, which is a free-to-play game, could you talk about the decision or the process of making the change from Real Racing 2’s premium model to the freemium model?
Earl: From the beginning, we made the decision, both EA and Firemonkeys to go freemium from the beginning for a couple of reasons. One, is that the market was moving and voting for going freemium, even though this it’s not supported by everyone because some people don’t like change. We acknowledge that and understand it. The vast majority like that there is no barrier to download a game and to start enjoying it and be a part of that community and experience. It’s clear to us that the way we we’re going to make this the most accessible and get the audience to appreciate what we believe to be a high-quality experience — free-to-play was the way to go. Secondly, we came up during the course of development with this unique, innovative multiplayer mode called Time-Shifted Multiplayer, which allows you to compete with your friends but do it in an asynchronous manner. Once we came up with that, we realized that this game is going to be more fun if there was a large audience. If there wasn’t a limit of people willing to spend $5 or $7 or $10 dollars on a game. We wanted to open it up and make it free. As we were developing, it was validating the decision to go freemium and that’s why we went all in at that point.
IMA: On the flip side, you still have premium titles in your portfolio on iOS and Android and you’ve seen some success with games that are premuium with a price upfront and in-app purchases as well, like Need for Speed: Most Wanted and FIFA Soccer 13. Is EA still seeing success with premium mobile games?
Earl: We have not made the decision to focus exclusively on premium. There’s a place for premium with in-app purchases — we call that “paymium” to make it more confusing. There’s a place for those games and we’ll continue to evaluate each game by a franchise by franchise or game by game basis to figure out what’s the optimal way to construct a game and construct a business model for that game. The majority of games are going to be freemium going forward unless something radical shifts inside the industry. I don’t see it departing from this model any time soon.
IMA: In EA’s last earnings call, the company mentioned again how much revenue The Simpsons: Tapped Out generated. Distimo recently put out a report, which showed EA at the top spot among all top grossing cross-app store publishers. With mobile development having better margins than console development, will EA be focusing more of its business on the mobile platform?
Earl: We can’t talk about our gross profits and gross margins from system to system, but what I would say is this — we are enormous believers in the mobile platform and we’re excited about the future. If you take a look at the numbers and the trajectory, there’s no argument against how fast these devices are being adopted. We’re seeing unbelievable activation rates on a daily basis. We saw enormous numbers over Christmas. We’re seeing a whole market spring up in front of us. We’re excited about mobile. There are potentially millions of people that will upgrade from feature phones to smartphones and tablets in the years ahead. So there’s just no denying that mobile is enormously exciting to this company. And, our goal is to make the greatest highest quality games we can in front as many people as possible.
With all of that said, the company is invested in the future of consoles, and now that there’s some announcements about the next gen, we’re excited about the possibilities there and we’re also big players in the PC business and have some big franchises like The Sims that make sense for the PC — both online and offline. We’re a large publisher that has the ability and the resources to go after multiple markets and find a way to tie these franchises, so that you can play and interact with them across any device at any time, anywhere. That’s the Holy Grail here — to have the ability to access a given franchise from multiple devices, and your data moves seamlessly across sessions. That’s something EA believes in.
IMA: We recently spoke with the developer working on Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances, which will launch on mobile soon, featuring cross-platform play between mobile and PC. Will more EA games feature cross-platform play?
Earl: That’s something we’ll push toward. There’s a lot of intricacies around design. I don’t think you can necessarily stop playing on web and then pick up where you were on mobile, but I do think you can interact with it. I like to use FIFA as a good example of that. On your phone, you can act more like the manager and switch positions — who your players are on the starting eleven and later you can take that new roster and play a new game in all its 3D glory with your 5.1 surround sound on a beautiful HD screen. And then the next time you can open your iPad and look at all the stats that you generated from that game. We love the notion of having your data in the cloud and being able to interact with it no matter where you are and when. (more…)
Inside Mobile Apps yesterday got a hands-on preview of Real Racing 3. We also spoke with Ptolemy Oberin, one of the game’s programmers and project lead at developer Firemonkeys, about the studio’s experience going free-to-play and the game’s Time-Shifted Multiplayer feature.
Real Racing 3 is the first game in the Real Racing franchise that’s developed by Firemonkeys, a studio consisting of developers Firemint and IronMonkey. In July 2012, Electronic Arts merged Firemint, the developer of the first two Real Racing titles, Flight Control and SPY mouse, with IronMonkey. Melbourne-based IronMonkey was purchased by EA in February 2010, and are known for bringing EA franchises to mobile as it did with Mass Effect Infiltrator, Dead Space and The Sims FreePlay. Firemint, a Melbourne-based studio as well, was acquired by EA in May 2011.
Modifications made to Real Racing 3
The most noticeable difference going from Real Racing 2 to the third installment is the graphics. Oberin tells us that Real Racing 3 is pushing about the same graphic fidelity seen in PlayStation 3 titles such as Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo 5 and Xbox 360 games like Turn 10 Studios’ Forza Horizon. Oberin adds that Real Racing 3, which runs on Firemonkeys’ in-house engine Mint3D, is pushing around five to six times more polygons in the cars, and that the tracks have been upgraded graphically as well. Other graphical touches include full damage visibility on cars, multiple camera angles and real-time images on the mirrors in cockpit view.
The game is broken down into multiple series, each featuring various events. According to Oberin, who was the project lead for Flight Control Rocket and SPY mouse, there are about 900 events in total. There are 46 licensed cars in total from 12 car manufacturers including Audi, Bugatti, Ford and more. Control-wise, users steer the car by tilting a device side-to-side and braking by pressing the screen — the gas pedal is automatically pressed down.
The biggest change in Real Racing 3 is Time-Shifted Multiplayer (TSM). TSM records a real person’s skill level and attributes on EA’s servers. That data is then used to program the AI opponents in races. This works because every user that plays the game will have their driving data recorded. If a user integrates with Facebook or GameCenter, they can then asynchronously race versus AI opponent that are programmed by a user’s friends. Oberin says the cars are not just ghost racers, he described the AI driving the cars as an “AI doppelgänger.” It should be noted that TSM isn’t a mode, it’s in every race. Real Racing 3’s TSM will also be platform agonistic, meaning players can compete against each other’s TSM AI-controlled driver whether they are on iOS or Android devices. (more…)
Electronic Arts non-GAAP mobile revenues from smartphones and tablets were up 20 percent quarter-over-quarter from $66 million to $79 million for Q3 2013, Chief Financial Office Blake Jorgensen said today in the company’s earnings call.
The Redwood City, Calif.-headquartered corporation’s total mobile revenues including handhelds was $99 million, up 19.3 percent from $83 million at the same time last year, and up 12.5 percent quarter-over-quarter from $88 million.
Overall, EA reported $321 million in digital revenue, up 17.2 percent from $274 million in Q3 2012.
The most notable mobile game for EA was The Simpsons: Tapped Out, which generated more than $23 million in digital net revenue for the quarter. EA also claimed it was the No. 1 publisher on iOS worldwide for 2012.
“The release of the Treehouse of Horror content was a key driver,” said President of Labels Frank Gibeau in the Q & A portion of the earnings call.
EA’s hit iOS titles Bejeweled Blitz as well as The Simpsons: Tapped Out will launch on Android this quarter, said Chief Operating Officer Peter Moore in the earnings call. Moore also revealed that driving simulator Real Racing 3 will launch on Feb. 28.
Head over to our sister site, Inside Social Games, for a full run down of EA’s Q3 2013 earnings report.
Social Media Jobs
of the Day
Kensington Publishing Corp.
New York, NY
New York, NY
The Center for Public Integrity