Opportunity Presents Itself for EA to Grow UFC as Next Generation Arrives

Posted June 14th, 2012 at 10:15 am

When the news broke that THQ had sold off the UFC license to EA Sports many assumed that the company’s more stable backing and marketing prowess would catapult the brand’s exposure and credibility levels and in turn increase sales greatly. It won’t be that simple though. THQ lost 70% of the consumer base in a four year period and saw no opportunity to recover and get back to a level where the UFC could be a profitable venture. 

With no development team in place, and not even knowing yet what studio (EA Canada or Tiburon) the series will be stationed at, it’s likely that the first UFC entry won’t come until the next generation of consoles. Even if the company has to wait it out that would be the smart move to make.

EA Sports found success being one of the early releases on the 360 with Fight Night Round 3 – the series hasn’t replicated that success ever since – so they can use that as a blueprint. It was a brilliant display of the technical improvement that the hardware was providing over the PS2/Xbox era. That game was able to attract consumers who weren’t even necessarily fans of the sport and that’ll now be the same goal being reached for with UFC.

The UFC series emerged in 2009 with a huge splash as it not just surprised in quality but also sales numbers moving over a million copies in the first month. It turns out that ended up being the perfect storm of a worthy product with consumer curiosity and thirst for a UFC game but was ultimately unsustainable.

This generation has established that sports which don’t see dramatic roster turnover will struggle. Roster updates have clearly become the biggest driver of sales on a year-to-year basis. Rosters for UFC games will largely be the same and thus the need to buy a new edition isn’t as evident to consumers. Even with a nearly two year buffer between the release of UFC 2010 and UFC 3, and the latter being received far more positively, sales fell an additional 18%. Anticipation levels just can’t be ramped up to the levels needed to achieve growth.

With the likelihood that EA will launch their first UFC product early on the next Xbox and PS4 that could provide the circumstances under which it outperforms now lowered expectations at least for the short term. If it were to debut as a demonstration of the hardware advancements like Fight Night Round 3 was, and with it being perceived as “new” under the EA banner and with vastly different features, that could be exactly what the UFC needs to not just halt the brand’s slipping relevance in gaming but expand upon it and gain the right footing for the future.