‘Apex Legends’ performs strongly for Electronic Arts despite weaker financials

EA's numbers are slightly down from last year, but its lauded free-to-play shooter Apex Legends has broken records.

Californian videogame company Electronic Arts (EA) has released its final quarter financials for the fiscal year ending March 2021, with numbers looking slightly down from the same period last year.

During EA’s Q4, the company reported a net revenue of $1.35 USD billion, which was three percent less than the corresponding quarter last year. However, EA’s Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer Blake Jorgensen said free-to-play online multiplayer game Apex Legends performed beyond expectations.

‘[Apex Legends] delivered its largest net bookings quarter on record,’ Jorgensen said. ‘It also delivered the best day, the best 24-hour period, the best week, the best month and best in-game event. We suggested it would deliver over $1 billion in life-to-date net bookings by the end of the quarter: it actually passed that milestone with half of the quarter to go. Fiscal 2021 was nearly double fiscal 2020.’

Read: Sometimes videogames are bad, and we should say it

Although EA’s revenue was slightly down, the company reported a two percent increase across the entire 2020-21 fiscal year, totalling $5.63 USD billion.

EA indicated, perhaps even more clearly than videogame platform holders and competitors, how important digital games with live elements are in generating revenue. In the previous fiscal year, full game sales dropped by 15 percent to $1.61 USD billion, while live services revenue–encompassing microtransactions and in-game digital purchases–rose by 10 percent up to $4.02 billion, generating far more money than one-off game purchases. This also offers a reason why Ubisoft is exploring more free-to-play games as part of its strategy going forward.

To put this into perspective, one-off full game sales made for 29 percent of EA’s revenue in the recently completed fiscal year. Of this figure, 62 percent of all full game sales were made digitally, up from 49 percent during 2019-20. Some of this would be pandemic-related due to not being able to purchase games in store, but it is only an acceleration of a previous trend.

A significant part of this is down to Apex Legends’ popularity, which has recorded more than 100 million players to date between PC and console, with the game’s recent Season 8 averaging 12 million players weekly.

Another tentpole in EA’s annual strategy is the popular FIFA sports franchise. FIFA 21, which released last year, has had more than 25 million players to date, and the FIFA Ultimate Team mode–where you can purchase digital card packs of players to build teams for competitive play–grew 16 percent year-on-year, including a 180 percent increase in matches played.

Interestingly, EA has decided not to host a presentation at this year’s digital E3 exhibition in June, where many major videogame announcements are typically made. Instead, the company announced it will have a standalone digital event on 22 July.

Chris Button
About the Author
Chris Button is an award-nominated writer for Screenhub based in Adelaide, who specialises in videogames and technology. His words have appeared on Junkee, GameSpot, Byteside and plenty more. He loves all things screen-related, sport, and small fluffy animals.   Chris also uses Twitter more than he probably should.