EA newbies play well

Gaming co. posts hike in revenues

The Simpsons and MTV both had a solid start in the vidgame world last year.

EA disclosed Thursday that “The Simpsons Game,” its first title under a multiyear deal with Fox, sold 4 million units worldwide from its October launch through the end of 2007. While not as big as mega-hits such as “Halo 3” and “Call of Duty 4,” it’s a healthy debut that makes it certain a sequel will be coming soon.

Publisher also announced that “Rock Band,” the music simulator it distributed for newbie publisher MTV, sold 1.5 million units in North America after its late November debut. Though still far behind competitor “Guitar Hero 3,” which sold 6.5 million units last year in North America, it’s a decent bow for a new franchise with a $170 retail price and likely has MTV stoked as it adds accessories and new downloadable songs this year, along with a likely sequel in the fall.

“Need for Speed: Pro Street” and “FIFA ’08” also were big sellers for EA last quarter, moving 5.5 million and 4.5 million copies worldwide.

News came as part of Electronic Arts’ earnings for the quarter ended Dec. 31, during which revenue rose 17% to $1.5 billion, but the company fell from a $160 million profit to a $33 million net loss due in part to a change in the way it recognizes earnings from online games.

Though Activision beat out EA to become the No. 1 third-party publisher in the U.S. last year, in large part because of “Guitar Hero,” EA noted that it remained in the top spot worldwide.

New CEO John Riccitiello has vowed to focus more on game quality. EA recently pushed back titles “Mercenaries 2” and “Battlefield: Bad Company” from the current quarter to the fiscal year starting in April to improve them.

Exec is in the midst of a shakeup of the company that has included dividing it into four units, acquiring indie developer Bioware/Pandemic for $860 million and focusing more on original properties.

EA stock fell 3% in after-hours trading following the earnings announcement. Earlier in the day, shares closed flat at $47.37.

Since late December, EA stock has fallen by more than 20%.

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