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As Madden Trends Down, EA Encouraged By Metacritic Scores

Ahead of today's NPD numbers, an internal Electronic Arts memo reveals that sales of Madden NFL 10 are below expectations -- but the publisher sees its improving Metacritic scores as an optimistic sign, with 11 titles rated 80 or above in 2009.
Ahead of what industry-watchers hope will be the last month for negative trends in NPD numbers, many analysts are unsure whether 2009 will close with a positive year-over-year result. Some analysts have expressed concerns about how sales of major titles like Madden NFL 10 have been trending; with that title predicted to top August software sales when the NPD releases its results later today, a deflated Madden could be the strongest signal yet of a deflated industry. An internal memo from Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello to company employees obtained by Gamasutra shows that indeed, sales of this year's iteration of the football blockbuster are not on their customary track. "This week, market research for August will show that year over year, the industry was down in North America – and that August sales of Madden NFL 10 are down with that trend," writes Riccitiello. "It is discouraging that one of our highest-rated and best-marketed Madden titles in years is facing strong headwinds." Not only, according to the memo, is Madden NFL 10 "the best Madden on this generation of consoles, but it had the proper support, too. "In my judgment, we supported this game with one of the strongest marketing campaigns of the year," he writes. But the CEO stresses that this disappointment is hardly a sign of doom. Riccitiello told employees that the publisher now has 11 titles in 2009 alone with a Metacritic average of 80 or higher, including Madden NFL 10, Fight Night Round 4 EA Sports Active, The Sims 3, Battlefield 1943 and more. "I am confident that we will exceed the record we set last year of shipping 14 titles rated 80 or better," Riccitiello continues. "We will know in the weeks ahead when critics rate our big releases such as NHL 10, FIFA 10, Need for Speed SHIFT, Dead Space Extraction, and from EAP, Brutal Legend and Left 4 Dead 2." The CEO notes that the holiday season, most key in any given year, is still to come: "Trend lines for the industry present a challenge, but our strategy and execution give me confidence," he says. "From here, our focus is on four priorities: great product launches, succeeding on the Nintendo Wii, continued expansion of our direct-to-consumer business, and cost control. In any economy, this is the path to success."

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