(ERTS) Electronic Arts to Launch Burnout CRASH

Electronic Arts Inc.(ERTS), popularly known as EA, in association with Criterion Games, has come up with Burnout CRASH, the latest offering from the Burnout series. The game is expected to hit the markets in the fall of 2011.

Criterion Games, an Electronic Arts studio, is the developer of the Burnout franchise that has been internationally acclaimed and hugely successful. Games such as Burnout, Burnout 2, Burnout 3: Takedown, Burnout Revenge, Black, Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed Hot Pursuit form part of the popular series.

Burnout CRASH has three explosive modes available across the 18 crash junctions in six unique locations of gameplay. Players are awarded points for causing maximum traffic disruptions by crashing into cars, triggering explosions and destroying almost everything in sight. Loaded with new features, the players have a variety of vehicles to unlock, seek and destroy high-value targets and cause mayhem in the streets while enjoying the fast-paced game.

Gamers can also get an aerial view of the location as they have a top-down gameplay option. The game’s Autolog technology enables the players to connect, compete and compare scores to fight their way to earn the master of disaster crown, as well as use the all new Autolog Challenges feature to compete with their friends and fellow gamers.

Burnout CRASH can be played on Microsoft Corp.’s (MSFT) Xbox LIVE Arcade and Sony Corp.’s (SNE) PlayStation Network.

Burnout CRASH will be one of the latest entrants into the violent genre of gaming. It seems the announcement of the game was strategically timed, as it comes just days after the U.S Supreme Court turned down a California law that prevented minors (below 18 years of age) from buying violent videogames, referring to the ban as an unconstitutional infringement on speech rights.

The favorable ruling added cheer to the videogame publishers whose games were designed to appeal to violent and so-called realistic instincts in people. It was all the more favorable for publishers, since hardcore gamers have shown a clear preference for these games, with the most violent games turning out to be the most successful ones.

Recommendation

We believe Electronic Arts has a strong product pipeline for fiscal 2012 and beyond, which will drive its top-line growth going forward. We believe that the high quality titles, impressive product line, increasing online exposure, social games and portfolio diversification guarantees market share gains over the long term.

Electronic Arts has significant exposure in the social gaming market and recently the company had teamed with Procter & Gamble Co (PG) to feature the latter’s Bounty products in the social game, Playfish Restaurant City. Though the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, we believe this association will enhance Electronic Arts’ Restaurant City social game.

With the advent of the gaming titles getting a digitized avatar, EA has launched Origin, its first online service through which the company plans to sell its downloadable titles directly to customers. We think that EA is better equipped than many new players to gain traction in the digital format with its variety of titles and massive fan following.

However, cut throat competition from Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI), Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. (TTWO) and from social network company Zynga, may act as headwinds going forward.

We have a Neutral recommendation on Electronic Arts over the long term (for the next 6 to 12 months). Currently, Electronic Arts has a Zacks #3 Rank, which implies a Hold rating in the short term.

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