EA on Facebook: Down, but Not Out

Electronic Arts said yesterday the number of people actively playing its games on Facebook dropped by more than half in the past year.

In the second quarter, the games company said, digital revenue increased 40 percent year over year, but social gaming had slowed significantly. It clocked only 42 million monthly active users, down from 101 million in the same period a year earlier.

“It’s slow versus the hype, but it’s not dead,” said EA’s John Riccitiello during the company’s conference call. Accordingly, Riccitiello said, EA has reduced its social gaming slate for the year, but maintained that it’s still an important part of the mix. “It continues to be very useful and positive for us,” he said.

EA’s comments come at a time when social gaming is clearly in a lull. Zynga, the largest social gaming company, is struggling to produce a new hit. Facebook has also recently acknowledged the slowdown, saying that payment revenue is declining as fewer people spend money on virtual goods inside of social games. But Riccitiello says that no one should have ever expected the platform to continue such a rapid growth — logically, it was going to plateau.

The company’s next social game is Madden NFL 13 Social, set to launch soon across both Facebook and iOS. In the game, players take turns in an offense-only shootout. The Facebook version of the game offers a 2-D game simulation experience, while the mobile version is 3-D and offers live game play. The two games are fully synced so players can play the Facebook version at their desk and continue on the go from the phone.

EA’s approach to social has been to leverage the franchises that have been very popular on other platforms and adding the ability to play with friends — on Facebook or on other platforms. In the company’s earnings release, it said Madden NFL 13 for the console was one of the top-selling titles in September, so extending the brand to mobile and social makes a lot of sense, especially since players are already tapping into the game’s digital experiences. Madden NFL 13 on the console logged record fan engagement, with a nearly 30 percent year-over-year increase in online game sessions.

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