Game publisher Electronic Arts of Redwood City, California has teamed up with Internet giant AOL to form EA.com, a new EA on-line game division that will launch content on AOL this summer.
The deal follows EA’s recent acquisition of Internet gameco Kesmai, based out of Charlottesville, Virginia and previously owned by News Corp. Mark Blecher, EA’s VP of marketing and e-commerce, says the Kesmai deal is just the latest in a string of EA initiatives that pave the way for the company’s move into Internet gaming. Earlier this year, EA also acquired San Diego-based sports gameco Play Motion, took ownership of California’s World Play, and took a 10% ownership in New York’s Bottle Rocket. EA is also developing games internally in anticipation of the summer launch and of the likelihood that Mountainview, California-based Internet software management company Marimba will give EA access to the company’s Castanet technology, which is used as a patching system that updates software.
The AOL deal gives Electronic Arts exclusive programming responsibility for one of AOL’s channels and affords EA access to AOL’s 19 million subscribers. When a gamer clicks on the games channel at AOL, he goes directly to EA’s site. Similarly, at AOL brands AOL.com, CompuServe, Netcenter and ICQ, a button sends browsers straight to EA.
EA.com will house three games channels: sports, popular entertainment and a traditional gamer channel. Blecher says the games won’t be as complex as CD-ROM equivalents. Content will be a mix of current EA properties in on-line versions and new titles.
Hoping to build on the US1.2 billion generated in 1999, EA expects to pick up additional profits from subscriptions to EA.com (the rate has not yet been determined). The site will receive 70% of the ad space revenue AOL sells on its game channel, and e-commerce will also contribute to the coffers.
A massive marketing push will accompany the launch through EA’s existing product lines and via AOL marketing platforms. ‘We spend US$20 million in advertising a year,’ Blecher says, ‘and that will be tagged with the site. All marketing assets will be used to move people to the site,’ including print, TV and box ads on all EA titles.