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EA 2012 - EA in profit, $80m on next-gen dev in FY13

EA made a profit last year, the publisher said today, and is now looking forward to heavy investment in next-gen consoles.

EA said today that it will invest $80 million in development of games for "Gen4 console systems" in fiscal 2013, giving the clearest indication yet that we'll see new consoles on the market in calendar 2013.

EA also confirmed that Crysis 3 will launch in the first calendar quarter of 2013, and that a new Need for Speed will release in the fourth calendar quarter of 2012. A new Dead Space game was mentioned on the call, but no details were given.

The news came as part of some solid results which showed revenue well up, most big hitters performing well and the company in profit for the year ending March 31.

The news everyone had feared about Star Wars: The Old Republic, however, was proven correct: active subscribers now stand at 1.3 million, a 400,000 drop from the last reported figure of 1.7 million in early March. Two new content packs for the MMO, Legacy and Allies, will available in Q1.

EA games boss Frank Gibeau said that "some of the initial casual customers" have now dropped off to leave the core, but that subscription growth is the aim for BioWare. He described the content release schedule as "very aggressive". CEO John Riccitiello described the game as not one of EA's "top five" franchises, but definitely in the "top ten", above titles like Tiger Woods PGA.

Most of the news was good, though. Battlefield 3 players are still "deeply engaged" with the shooter, which released in late October last year. More than 6.3 million people played in March. New content downloads will be available in May and June.

Riccitiello said there would be "exciting new development for the Battlefield brand" in the coming year.

Another golden child in EA's year was Mass Effect 3. Sales totaled more than $200 million at retail: the RPG launched in March.

Digital revenue stood at $1.2 billion, a 47% rise over the previous year. Unsurprisingly, the company is still pushing the message of digital growth.

“We are proud to report a strong quarter and a fiscal year highlighted with $1.2 billion of digital revenue,” said Riccitiello. “In the coming year, we break away from the pack, with a very different profile than the traditional game companies and capabilities that none of our new digital competitors can match.”

Digital was a key highlight for the year. FIFA 12's downloads and microtransactions totaled $108 million in FY12, and Origin now has 11 million registered players.

Origin generated approximately $150 million in its first ten months of life.

When questioned by investors as to EA's aggressive acquisitions in the digital space, Riccitiello affirmed the publisher is still primed to snap up companies if necessary - but warned that it won't buy "brands". The executive's comments hinted that EA is more interested in established, proven success stories rather than the flavour of the month, in what seemed like a subtle dig at Zynga's acquisition of DRaw Something developer OMGPOP.

Total revenue was $4.14 billion for the year ended March 31, compared to $3.59 billion in the previous year. EA made a profit in the last financial year, with income at $76 million compared to a loss of $276 million in the prior 12 months.

While last year was strong, however, EA said it expects a loss in the first quarter of FY13. Lay-offs of staff associated with non-digital products were also announced, but specific figures weren't mentioned.

The weak forecast pushed EA's stock down 10% in after-hours trading.

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