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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pac-Nation plea: Pacquiao on Fight Night Round 5 cover?

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International Sports Examiner | Marv Dumon

Will Manny Pacquiao be on the cover of Fight Night Round 5?

Fight Night Round 5 will be released in 2011, according to EA Sports President Peter Moore. The question is: Will Manny Pacquiao be on the cover of EA Sports' Fight Night Round 5?

EA's executives and game development team, as well as, industry analysts and fans are asking the same question. The cover is usually any video game's most critical marketing decision, which can determine whether a promotional campaign succeeds or flops.

The Philippines's Manny Pacquiao has been accorded "Fighter of the Year" honors three times in the past four years by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). Additionally, he was recently given "Fighter of the Decade" honors by the BWAA.

However, given Electronic Arts' revenue stream, target markets, and economic recession plaguing the United States and global marketplace, we suspect that the Philippine boxer and current pound-for-pound king has an extremely stiff petition for cover placement. Namely, Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Critical Acclaim

New games are typically sold at between $50 and $60 price points on platforms such as XBOX, Playstation, Nintendo, and PC. Fight Night Round 4 is currently offered at $39.99, which has an ESRB rating of Teen.

In an interview at E3 2009 (a video game industry expo), Moore stated Electronic Arts' plans:

It gives us a rhythm of a fighting game every year. That’s the plan. If you think of 2010, we’re bringing MMA. In 2011, Fight Night Round 5.

Most Successful Boxing Game Series

The Fight Night series has been a highly successful franchise for Electronic Arts. (The series succeeded the company's previous boxing game series Knockout Kings.)

Fight Night Round 4 was the only boxing-related video game to have topped the video game sales charts across all genres. Upon its release in June 2009, the game was received with high praise from both critics and gamers.

GameRankings scored an 87% approval, and MetaCritic gave a score of 88. Similarly, publisher Game Informer gave a rating of 9. And IGN conveyed a score of 8.8.

Despite a lagging economy that saw video game sales decrease by 20% across all genres in 2009, Round 4 was expected to top one million in unit purchases, according to industry analyst Evan Wilson of Pacific Crest Securities.

Assuming an average price point of $50, the game will have generated over $50 million in sales for Electronic Arts. That figure does not include revenue from companies for ad placements within the game.

Electronic Arts' Woes

Next year is possibly pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao's last year in boxing before retiring. In an interview on 8countnews, the "Pacman" indicated that he may retire after three or four more fights.

Enjoying a peak in popularity, Pacquiao is immensely popular in his native Philippines, and is gaining visibility with the American sports mainstream. The question facing EA's executives is whether this popularity translates well to the video game mainstream, which possesses a less diverse, younger and mostly male demographic.

Business, Not Boxing, Decision

It is a critical decision for Electronic Arts, which depends on the U.S. market for a large percentage of its sales. The Nasdaq-listed company has a market cap of $5.32 billion which is low for an organization with 2009 revenues of $4.2 billion. EA has been in financial trouble since the recession gripped the U.S., with a $454 million net loss for 2008. In 2009, EA's net loss was $1.08 billion.

Additionally, international markets with less controls on counterfeit games represent operational and financial challenges for the California-based company. In generating maximum revenue and profits from Fight Night Round 5, EA will first need to find mass appeal from the U.S. market.

Prioritizing American Markets

In this sense, choosing a foreign boxer to grace its cover could be a high risk proposition for the troubled company. Executives have always chosen American boxers in prior versions of the game as a safer selection given EA's North American markets.

Roy Jones, Jr was selected for Fight Night 2004. Bernard Hopkins was chosen for Fight Night Round 2. Mexican-American icon Oscar de la Hoya was presented in two cover versions for Fight Night Round 3. That edition also saw Arturo Gatti with Irish Mickey Ward. Finally, Fight Night Round 4 featured heavyweight greats Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali.


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