Shelf Talk

Electronic Arts' 2002 revenue boom may be funneled into a major acquisition this year
March 1, 2003

Electronic Arts’ 2002 revenue boom may be funneled into a major acquisition this year

Riding the wave of several hit games that helped boost its revenues to a record-breaking US$1.2 billion in Q4 2002, Electronic Arts could be gearing up for a significant buy. The Redwood, California-based game publisher made a US$2-billion shelf filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in late January, allowing it to make public offers of securities and raise large amounts of cash quickly. The filing suggests that EA will use the money to finance activities like development and/or acquisitions.

The gameco already has more than US$1.2 billion in cash assets, according to its most recent quarterly report filed in September, giving EA potential purchasing power of around US$3.2 billion – enough to take a stab at almost any gaming company with the exception of industry giants Microsoft and Sony.

With a game roster that includes the likes of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, James Bond 007: Nightfire, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and FIFA Soccer 2003, it’s no surprise that EA had five of the top 10 PlayStation 2 titles and five of the top 10 PC games in Q4. And 22 of its games sold more than a million copies last year in an industry where a tally of 750,000 units is considered a major hit.

According to the latest sales figures from industry tracker The NPD Group, total U.S. retail sales of video game hardware, software and accessories grew 10% in 2002 over 2001. The video game industry racked up US$10.3 billion in sales, surpassing 2001′s high of US$9.4 billion.

Dr. Dolittle has nothing on Takara’s new dog translator

Japanese toyco Takara will help dog owners gain new insight into their beloved pets’ psyches this fall when it releases the Bowlingual in North America. Voted one of Time magazine’s coolest inventions of 2002, the Bowlingual is a small wireless microphone that attaches to the dog’s collar and connects to a handheld unit that contains a database of sounds.

Based on the research of animal behaviorist Dr. Norio Kogure, director of the Kogure Animal Hospital in Japan, the unit analyzes the sounds dogs make and transforms them into words and illustrations on an LCD screen. It also divides dog talk into six emotional categories – happy, sad, frustrated, angry, assertion and desire – and allows owners to customize the analysis to the dog’s breed, birth date, gender and other characteristics. With ‘Home Alone’ mode, owners who leave their dogs with a caretaker or kennel can check up to see how happy their pet is in their absence, and the Bowlingual also comes with a body language translation mode, a training mode and a medical reference mode.

Introduced in Japan last September, the Bowlingual sold 150,000 units by December, with another 150,000 shipped in January. It’s being introduced in South Korea in June before hitting the U.S. in August, where it will retail for approximately US$100 in toy stores, pet stores, variety and gift stores.

Marvel unveils its first retail-tainment venue

Hoping to capitalize on the superhero mania sweeping the world on the tails of several hit comic-based movies, New York-based Marvel Enterprises is collaborating on an amusement park-cum-retail center that will be the cornerstone attraction of the 20-acre Falls Avenue Complex in Niagara Falls, Canada.

Construction has already begun on Marvel’s Adventure City, scheduled to open in May 2003. Marvel has licensed its core superheroes to the Canadian Niagara Group, which is financing the 30,000-square-foot structure that will include interactive rides, games and a store containing exclusive, high-end Marvel toys and collectibles. The rides and attractions will feature some of Marvel’s best-known superheroes, including Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and The X-Men. ‘It’s designed so that when you walk in, you feel like you’re stepping into a real live comic – you’ll be able to feel The Hulk breathing on you,’ says Paul Gitter, Marvel’s VP of consumer products and retail development.

Canadian construction company Forrec, the same group that created Legoland and Marvel’s Super Hero Island at Universal Studios Orlando, has been contracted to design and build the park. Niagara Falls, which averages more than 16 million visitors per year, is the first of several Marvel’s Adventure City locations the Canadian Niagara Group is looking to roll out across the U.S. over the next three to five years.

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