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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Relying on Video Game Sequels

Relying on Video Game Sequels

"Electronic Arts, the world's biggest video game maker, plans to release Madden N.F.L. '06 on Tuesday. It is the 18th annual version of an increasingly lifelike game that lets players be the quarterback of a pro football team, and that sells millions of copies each year.

In this year's edition, a slice of the field lights up to give the quarterback better vision and throwing precision when he makes a pass. It also lets players follow the athletes' off-the-field activities.

But Steve Perry, 35, once an avid Madden fan, won't be lining up to buy the game. He said he dropped the habit several years ago, after his daughter was born and he tired of spending $50 to get an update of a title he already owned.

"I'm not willing to jump along and buy a new one each time," said Mr. Perry, who works in sales for a newspaper in San Antonio. "I'm not going to fall prey to that."

His complaint underscores a potential problem for Electronic Arts, which has suffered financial setbacks this year. Increasingly, industry analysts and game reviewers are wondering if the company's dependence on sequels is a sign that it is losing its creative edge.

By year's end, Electronic Arts plans to release 26 new games, all but one of them a sequel, including the 16th version of N.H.L. Hockey, the 11th of the racing game Need for Speed and the 13th of the P.G.A. Tour golf game. The company also relies heavily on creating games based on movies like the James Bond and Lord of the Rings series, rather than developing original brands.

"There's a feeling of franchise fatigue. Gamers are wondering, 'Do I need to buy this game again this year? I just bought it last year,' " said Mike Hickey, an analyst with Janco Partners, an investment firm in Denver, who has a sell rating on the company's stock.

The reliance on sequels and licensed media properties, he said, is "dampening the creative spirit."" [more]

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