In a recent talk at the Morgan Stanley conference, EA's Chief Financial Officer Blake Jorgensen revealed the amount of money its cash cow Ultimate Team modes have brought in. While Ultimate Team started in the Fifa series, it has gone on to join all of the EA Sports titles, and last year brought in $800 million in net revenue for Electronic Arts. That is up over 20% over 2015's take, which had passed $650million that made up about half of the money EA made from DLC, Expansions, and Microtransactions.
More interestingly, Jorgensen discussed that they are looking to figure out ways to bring a similar concept to other EA titles. They want to take it and figure out how to take the concept of Ultimate Team and put it into core titles like Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefield. He said it's not something to expect this year, but in a couple of years as they work out how to implement it and that it would hopefully help keep players interested in the game long term.
A big part of why they want to expand this program is that extends the engagement with the title significantly. Previously, EA had expected players of their sports games to buy it, play it for a few months and then put it down until the next year. Now, they are finding people are playing it for the full year and buying the added Ultimate Team content which is all digital and has a higher degree of profitability for them. A key part of it is as well is the on-going live events and the fact that the players change throughout the season forcing players to adjust as things go on.In fact, he explained that EA is up to over 30% of its sales in digital downloads for full games and that raise in digital ownership has marked a significant uptick for EA's margins on game sales.
As part of his talk, he explained that EA is up to over 30% of its sales in digital downloads for full games and that raise in digital ownership has marked a significant uptick for EA's margins on game sales. Adoption of digital only sales has been somewhat faster than expected and he is now hopeful that they might surpass his prior goal of 50% digital sales in 4-5 years, although he did caution that many regions video games are sold in lack the internet or credit infrastructure to really support a digital push.
It is important to note that the presentation was at a financial conference, so the focus on monetization questions and other business angles is from that context.
Quick TakeFor all the flak Microtransactions get, it appears that they do make a lot of money for companies and unless that changes it will continue to grow. Having it be in a separate special mode might be the best compromise as long as it doesn't hurt the core design.
On a more interesting level, what would a Star Wars Battlefront Ultimate Team mode look like? Would you be picking famous Star Wars characters to build an assault force that attacks the other team? That could be interesting as a 1v1 squad mode thing that can have some pretty high action moments with characters from the franchise. Where I'm having more issues seeing it working as well is Battlefield as they don't have a cast of characters there. While the card system and similar mode might work, lacking the connection to recognizable faces and people who you want on your team would seemingly be a big limiter there.
What do you think of this, though? Do you think there should be Ultimate Team-esq mechanics in other EA Games? How should they work? Share your thoughts in the comments below!