EA Mobile has announced record sales of $47m from mobile games in Q3 2008, 24 per cent up on 2007. For the first time in 18 months EA's games on mobile outperformed the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, as well as outselling Nintendo's Wii. This may be temporary, as consoles can expect a pre-Christmas boost, but the importance of mobile as part of EA's mix is clear. With steady growth over the last five quarters, mobile games now account for five per cent of EA's total sales. Electronic Arts saw sales jump 40 per cent to $894m for the quarter, though that news is tempered by net losses rising to $310m for Q3, up from $195m in Q3 2007. EA will cut six per cent of its workforce as it seeks pre-tax savings of $50m. It is unclear how, or if, these cuts will affect EA Mobile.
EA Mobile is to expand its range of games available on new mobile platforms, with three games for Google's Android mobile operating system and three for Nokia's N-Gage, in Q4 2008. A further seven titles are to arrive on N-Gage in 2009. Having delayed the announcement of games for Android until a billing system had been introduced, the games will be available to purchase and download directly from EA Mobile's website.
Whilst the new titles are a sign of support for N-Gage, EA Mobile does have its issues with the platform. Recent comments suggest that EA considers the time taken to get games through Nokia certification too long, its margins too small, and doesn't believe that N-Gage has had a proper launch. EA, though, does believe in N-Gage as a platform for delivering high-end gaming and will continue to develop and publish games for it.
Publishers of premium games, such as EA Mobile, have had problems with various aspects of N-Gage. Its 'soft launch' meant that the platform had to be downloaded on to most Nokia handsets rather than arriving pre-installed. Apple's margins are more generous for iPhone developers and Google takes no share of revenue from third-party Android applications.
With its focus on high-end games, maintained by Nokia's approach to developers, N-Gage is an important platform for publishers of premium content. As Nokia plans to release more handsets with N-Gage pre-installed, and faced with greater competition from cheap and often free games developed for Android and iPhone, publishers such as EA Mobile will need to work with N-Gage to help them capitalise on growth in the global mobile games market, that Screen Digest predicts will be 13 per cent in 2009.