Video game giant Electronic Arts will this week release FIFA 19, the latest in its hugely popular football series, in the hope of boosting its revenues following a challenging year for the company.
Launching on September 28, FIFA 19 will be one of the biggest video game launches of the year. Last year’s version of the game, FIFA 18, sold over 24 million copies across its lifetime and made $3bn (£2.3bn) worldwide. The money in that figure came from both sales and money spent on in-game purchases of player packs in its hugely popular FIFA Ultimate Team mode.
Across the series' 25-year history, FIFA has sold over 260 million copies, making it the world’s highest selling sport game in history. According to industry analysts, this year’s game looks likely to continue the series' success, with the addition of a fully-licensed Champions League and an improvement to the core gameplay impressing critics.
“I expect FIFA 19 to continue the popularity of the franchise. It introduces Champions League teams and mode, which will drive sales in Europe particularly,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, head of Gaming Research at analyst firm IHS Markit.
“Longevity and continued monetisation is delivered through the established Ultimate Team and I don’t think this sports title is likely to be heavily impacted by the success of Fortnite. As such I think global shipments north of 15 million before the end of the year is a realistic target. It will remain EA’s biggest franchise.”
EA will hope that FIFA 19 will benefit due to a successful World Cup and shake off the controversy surrounding the ‘loot boxes’ in the Ultimate Team mode. The publisher is under the threat of prosecution in Belgium over its refusal to remove the ability to purchase random player packs, a mechanic that the Belgian Gambling Commission believes constitutes gambling.
EA has consistently denied that ‘loot boxes’ are gambling, following a controversy over their implementation of the mystery package feature in a Star Wars game last year. However, a group of European gambling regulators pledged to investigate the issue last week. Ultimate Team is a huge revenue driver for EA, with the company saying in 2017 that it was worth $800m.
EA will be hoping for a strong performance from FIFA after its share price dropped 6pc in July this year over its middling forecasts for the rest of the year. EA has not released many games in the first half of 2018, but will be looking to post strong results following the release of FIFA, along with American Football game Madden NFL 19 and World War II shooter Battlefield V among other titles. EA will also release the anticipated sci-fi shooter Anthem in early 2019.
Despite the drop-off in share price, analysts believe EA can be bullish about FIFA 19’s prospects, even if it does not match the sales of last year’s edition, given FIFA 18 saw a significant boost in sales when it updated the game with a free World Cup 2018 update.
“Uptake of new FIFA titles is strong at launch as fans of the franchise like to get the latest modes and often invest as soon as it comes out. It’s also a big hit during the gifting season,” said Mr Harding-Rolls.
“I don’t see FIFA 19 being any different. Over its lifetime it’s possible it will match FIFA 18 sales following the introduction of the Champions League mode but it would not be a failure if it didn’t, as FIFA 18 benefited significantly from the World Cup content it introduced during the year.”