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EA's Jens Uwe Intat

The head of European publishing on 2009 market performance and Nintendo's challenge

As the first few weeks of 2010 pass, we're getting a better view of just how the industry performed last year overall - and while the likes of Ubisoft has already revealed plans to change its focus as a result, it's very likely there'll be similar news to come from other companies.

Just before the end of the year spoke to EA's head of publishing in Europe, Dr Jens Uwe Intat, to try to get a better sense of how that company fared in the past twelve months. In the first part of this exclusive interview we find out about the publisher's market performance, and talk in-depth about the challenge faced by Nintendo. How did 2009 live up to your expectations?
Dr Jens Uwe Intat

I would say it was twofold - one is if I look at the market, the other is if I look at the performance of EA Europe.

From a market point of view we've actually been disappointed - we had been expecting packaged goods to grow at around 5 per cent across Europe. What we've seen so far is that it's actually deteriorated by around 10 per cent, so that's certainly some disappointment with that performance.

And that's a performance we're seeing across platforms, but it's particularly strong on Wii and DS, which by the way in the build-up to Christmas started doing better, but still the market performance was disappointing.

From an EA performance point of view we're actually very happy, because we've been gaining back market share within Europe, and for the calendar up until the middle of December we're once again the number one publisher - ahead of everybody else including Nintendo.

We have to see how that plays out post-Christmas but we think the launches of the triple-A titles in 2009 - particularly The Sims 3, Need for Speed and FIFA - have certainly helped us to gain back our market leadership in Europe. When we spoke at gamescom earlier in the year we'd seen a few months of decline by that point. In real terms we're down 15 per cent on expectations - so what do you attribute that to, is it the economic situation overall, or is it because the games industry hasn't lived up to the expectations of gamers?
Dr Jens Uwe Intat

I think it's actually that - finally - the economic situation has caught us to some extent. I think you can see that if you look at one trend, which is that second hand games have still been increasing substantially.

If you look at the financial results of the specialist retailers, they're actually showing a decline on frontline goods, but increases on second hand goods, which I think actually proves the point that people are trying to be particularly cautious with how they spend their money.

That's hitting us an in industry twice - because it means that people wait longer before buying the next-gen consoles, but also that they buy fewer new games per console. The point we're at in the hardware cycle, based on the previous generation, we really should still be growing the market, shouldn't we?
Dr Jens Uwe Intat

Absolutely, and we still expect that the Christmas period - with Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the Wii - should have been at the top of wish lists for gifting. We don't expect the whole industry to continue to deteriorate, we've just been disappointed with the beginning of the year - towards Christmas we saw some pick-up, not just in software sales but also console sales.

The black edition of the Wii was sold out after just a couple of days, so there is still appetite for new consoles, and I'd expect that Sony's price reduction should certainly have helped to fuel sales over Christmas.

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