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EA enjoys record net sales in "milestone" Fiscal 2017

Net income dipped but digital sales continued to climb, up 20% over last year [UPDATE: BioWare's new IP pushed in FY '19]

Electronic Arts has released its earnings for the fiscal year and fourth quarter ended on March 31, 2017. While total revenues climbed in Q4, from $1.31 billion to $1.53 billion, net income took a hit, dropping from $899 million to $566 million. EA's big Q4 release was Mass Effect: Andromeda, which received mixed reviews but went on to top the charts anyway. Importantly, digital continues to climb. In Q4, digital sales jumped from $715 million to $934 million, and for the full year it came to $3 billion, up 20% and now representing 61% of total revenues, which amounted to $4.85 billion.

Net income for the full year dropped from $1.16 billion to $967 million, but EA reminded everyone that 2016's earnings per share included "an income tax credit due to the reversal of the valuation allowance EA had against its U.S. deferred tax assets." The $453 million credit led to an increase of $1.37 per share in 2016. Overall, management was quite pleased with the progress EA made in the last 12 months.

"Fiscal 2017 was a milestone year for Electronic Arts, defined by groundbreaking games and live services that delivered more fun and connected more players with their friends," said Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wilson. "In Fiscal 2018, we are focused on innovating for our players with extraordinary new experiences across our portfolio, continuing to grow our global network, and extending our reach across new platforms and more ways to play."

"We generated record net sales and operating cash flow in fiscal 2017, driven by our ongoing transition to digital as well as our increasing success with live services," said Chief Financial Officer Blake Jorgensen. "Our long-term vision, to leverage deep player engagement to drive growth and profitability, is enabling us to execute on our near-term financial goals to increase revenue, earnings and cash generation."

Speaking of engagement, EA noted that during Fiscal 2017 it saw more than 19 million players joining Battlefield 1, which represented a 50% increase over Battlefield 4 in the comparable period. Additionally, over 21 million players have joined FIFA 17 to date including more than 12 million players that have engaged in FIFA's story mode, The Journey. FIFA Ultimate Team also had 13% more players year-over-year through the end of Q4, EA said. Other engagement figures included Q4 average gameplay time per player in Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes reaching a record high of 162 minutes per day, and monthly active users in Q4 for The Sims 4 increasing 33% year-over-year.

Looking ahead, EA is expecting Fiscal 2018 net revenues to be $5.08 billion, with net income around $1.13 billion. For the current first quarter ending on June 30, EA has issued guidance of $1.43 billion in net revenues along with net income of $605 million.

Update: During the earnings call today, EA CEO Andrew Wilson noted that BioWare's brand-new, as yet unannounced IP, has been moved into Fiscal 2019, meaning April 2018 at the earliest. The game was originally slated to be out by the end of the current fiscal year. Wilson said the game is very much built around live services and is coming along well. Some reports have noted that the new IP is similar to Destiny and The Division. Later in the investor Q&A, Wilson stressed that EA is "very happy with BioWare" despite review scores being lower for Andromeda than they hoped. The new IP delay shouldn't be seen as a sign of quality, he noted.

Update 2: In after-hours trading, EA's stock price hit $100 for the first time in the company's history. As of this writing it's up 5% to $101.12. The company's market cap is also nearing $30 billion. For the sake of comparison, Activision Blizzard has been trading around half that at $54, but their market cap is over $40 billion.

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