By Tiyashi Datta
(Reuters) - As millions of gamers peel themselves away from TVs at home, analysts say Electronic Arts Inc should look to build a metaverse around its popular titles that can help the "FIFA 22" creator produce interactive experiences to keep players engaged.
Metaverse, a buzzword in the tech industry after Facebook renamed the company Meta, is a shared virtual world where people in the form of avatars can interact with others, enjoy concerts by Ariana Grande, digitally purchase custom Vans sneakers and snack on Chipotle burritos.
Wall Street analysts said video game publishers should start the shift to this nascent area now rather than later as it would drive further monetization and keep them relevant over the long haul.
"Any video game company seriously considering the future of their offerings, and how users will play their games, is thinking about the metaverse," said John Patrick Lee, ETF Product Manager at VanEck.
The global metaverse market is expected to reach $6.16 billion in 2021 and $41.62 billion by 2026, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.
EA is reviewing a naming rights agreement with FIFA. If EA was to lose the FIFA branding, it would make acquiring new gamers more difficult.
EA released "FIFA 22" in October and is set for new releases like "Battlefield 2042" in November and "GRID Legends" next year.
However, EA is playing catch up to rivals like Roblox Corp and Epic Games Inc's "Fortnite" that let users create a metaverse within the games.
"As audiences move from one platform to the next, legacy publishers need to formulate strategies to evolve with their audience's preferences," said Joost Van Dreunen, a lecturer on the business of games at New York University Stern School of Business.
* Analysts estimate EA's second-quarter revenue to grow 92.83% to $1.76 billion when it reports after the market closes.
* Earnings per share is estimated at $1.17.
Click here for an interactive graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/3k1esaW
WALL STREET SENTIMENT
* Average analyst rating on stock is "buy", with 23 "strong buy" or "buy", 8 "hold."
* Median price target is $170 versus the current price of $140.17.
QUARTER REFINITIV IBES ACTUAL RESULTS
Jun. 2021 0.67 0.79 Beat
Mar. 2021 1.05 1.23 Beat
Dec. 2020 2.96 3.06 Beat
Sep. 2020 0.02 0.05 Beat
Jun. 2020 0.79 1.42 Beat
Mar. 2020 0.98 1.08 Beat
(Reporting by Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Writing by Subrat Patnaik; Editing by Sweta Singh and Bernard Orr)