* Adjusted EPS 25 cents beats Street view 22 cents
* Sees first quarter loss of 44-49 cents
* EA gaining share of digital market -- CFO
* Sees ‘modest impact’ from Sony outage--CFO
* Shares rise after hours (Adds new details on Sony; updates shares; adds byline)
By Liana B. Baker
NEW YORK, May 4 (Reuters) - Electronic Arts Inc ERTS.O, the video game publisher, said its quarterly outlook and revenue rose, driven by sales of games “Crysis 2” and “Dead Space 2”, sending its shares about 1.4 percent higher.
For the first quarter, the company forecast earnings in the range of a loss of 44 cents to 49 cents per share, falling short of the Street’s average estimate of a 36 cents loss.
In past quarters, the company used to frustrate investors by slashing its earnings forecasts but analysts say it is now releases fewer games, cuts costs better and issues more cautious forecasts.
“This was a nice, strong quarter, but they are being conservative with their outlook,” said Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia.
EA’s Chief Financial Officer Eric Brown told analysts on a conference call it would see modest impact on revenue from the outage of Sony’s PlayStation Network and that it had to factor it into its first quarter outlook. The publisher sells game that can be bought and downloaded on Sony’s network.
“We’re hopeful that (the PlayStation Network) comes back online as quickly as possible ... it has a modest impact that we’ve already factored into the upcoming quarter,” Brown said, without specifying a dollar amount.
On Wednesday, Sony told U.S. lawmakers in a letter that it was the victim of “a very carefully planned, very professional, highly sophisticated criminal cyber attack,” and that it was working around the clock to get its games network up and running again. [ID:nN04222248]
EA generated $833 million in digital revenue this year, or revenue that comes from games that are not part of its traditional packaged games business. This beat its own target of $750 million for the year.
EA is investing more in digital content as people are buying fewer and fewer games on physical discs to play on consoles. Companies like Zynga are offering users options to play free and inexpensive games on mobile devices and PCs.
Brown added the company’s digital business is growing faster than its overall business. One big digital seller was FIFA‘11, which made more than $100 million in digital content, such as downloaded content and games on Facebook.
“We’re taking significant market share in the digital videogame industry overall,” said Chief Financial Officer Eric Brown in an interview.
On Tuesday, EA said it acquired a 60-person company that makes mobile games based in Australia called Firemint.
Like many video publishers, EA follows accounting rules that defer the revenue it generates from digital games until later quarters.
Taking this into account, the company said its profit was $83 million, or 25 cents per share, in the fourth quarter up from $23 million, or 7 cents per share a year earlier. This 25 cents EPS beats analysts’ average estimates of 22 cents.
EA’s net income rose to $151 million, or 45 cents per share, in its fiscal fourth quarter, from $30 million, or 9 cents per share, a year earlier.
EA, the second largest video game publisher, said quarterly revenue was $1 billion, up from $970 million a year earlier.
EA shares rose to $20.21 after hours, up 1.4 percent from the $19.92 close on Wednesday on the Nasdaq. (Reporting by Liana B. Baker; editing by Steve Orlofsky and Andre Grenon)