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‘Madden’ sales fall 40 percent from last year

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(Credit: EA)

This isn't the sort of anniversary present EA was hoping for.

The publisher is touting the 25th edition of Madden NFL as the best-selling game of August (something NPD is likely to verify next week), saying internal numbers show it sold one million units in its first week on store shelves.

The problem? Last year's version sold 1.65 million in that same period. That represents a 40 percent falloff. In turn, EA's stocks took a dip on Friday.

One possible explanation for the sales drop is that avid fans are bypassing the current generation versions of the game in favor of next-gen versions launching later this year alongside the Xbox One and PS4.

EA's decision to offer a $100 anniversary edition means that the hard dollar loss from that shortfall won't be quite as painful to the company's bottom line. And the start of the NFL season, which officially kicked off Thursday night, could provide another boost of interest in the game, something EA's marketing department is likely to exploit.

On deck (yes, we know we're mixing our sports metaphors here) for EA is FIFA 14, a series that has become even more important -- financially, at least -- than Madden in recent years. With the World Cup occurring next year, the game is expected to be at least as strong as last year’s version. Analyst Colin Sebastian of R.W. Baird forecasts its sales will triple what Madden takes in, when all's said and done.

The decline in Madden sales follows a decline in EA's NCAA game last month. It's something that was expected, but still constitutes a 'yellow flag,' says Sebastian. However, don't expect consumer reticence to spend money on Madden to spill over to other big games.

"We continue to expect soft sell-through trends for all but the most popular video game franchises," he says. "As such, Madden issues should not imply any weakness in sales for Take Two's upcoming GTA V or EA's Battlefield, in our view."

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