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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Electronic Arts, Sony, Microsoft, Activision Blizzard and McMoRan Exploration

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – November 29, 2012 – announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include Electronic Arts (EA - Free Report) ), Sony (SNE - Free Report) ), Microsoft (MSFT - Free Report) ), Activision Blizzard (ATVI - Free Report) ) and McMoRan Exploration Co. .

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Here are highlights from Wednesday’s Analyst Blog:

EA Launches New Expansion Pack

Electronic Arts (EA - Free Report) studio DICE recently announced the launch of Battlefield 3: Aftermath digital expansion pack. The expansion pack is currently available to Battlefield 3 Premium members, exclusively on Sony’s (SNE - Free Report) PlayStation 3. For Battlefield 3 Premium members using Microsoft’s (MSFT - Free Report) Xbox 360 and personal computers, the expansion pack will be available from December 4, 2012 onward.

Battlefield 3 has been touted as one of the most successful EA games of all time. It earned the distinction of being the fastest selling title in EA’s history, selling more than 17 million units since its release. Battlefield 3 Premium edition was launched by EA in September, 2012 and currently has 2 million members.

The membership of Battlefield 3 Premium service allows players complete first hand access to all expansion packs namely Back to Karkand, Close Quarters and Armored Kill, just released Aftermath and the upcoming End Game (March 2013).

Battlefield 3: Aftermath is the fourth expansion pack of the series, which offers four new maps in a vertical and horizontal setting, three new vehicles, a civilian vehicle and a complete new game mode (Scavenger). Battlefield 3 players who do not have a premium membership will be able to access the expansion pack from December 11 and 18, on PlayStation and Xbox 360 & personal computers, respectively.

Lately, downloadable contents (DLCs) and expansion packs have been extensively used by publishers such as EA and Activision Blizzard (ATVI - Free Report) to keep gamers interested in the franchise. So far, EA has always benefited from the launch of DLCs and expansion packs for some of its famous franchises that include Battlefield and Mass Effect. Activision has also released a number of expansion packs for its well acclaimed Call of Duty franchise.

However, some gamers remain dissatisfied with the continuous launch of DLCs as they believe that DLCs and expansion packs are being used by gaming companies to exploit them. They blame video game companies of intentionally holding back game content, which they later on release in the form of DLCs and expansion packs to garner recurring revenues.

Although this negative publicity may hurt subscriber base, we nonetheless believe that EA and Activision will continue to launch expansion packs of their popular franchises going forward.

We believe that EA’s high-quality titles and a robust product pipeline along with the increasing online exposure and traction in the social and mobile gaming market will not only offset any near-term dissatisfaction among its subscribers, but will also boost top-line growth over the long term.

However, we remain cautious on EA due to sluggish consumer spending, dismal video game sales and increasing competition. Considering these factors, we have a Neutral recommendation on EA over the long term. Currently, EA has a Zacks #3 Rank, which implies a ‘Hold’ rating in the short term.


McMoRan Updates on Gulf of Mexico Ops


Exploration and production company McMoRan Exploration Co. recently issued updates related to its activities in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). The company provided updates on operations at Davy Jones No. 1, drilling outcome at Lineham Creek, logging results from Blackbeard West No. 2 and progress work at Lomond North.

At Davy Jones No. 1 on South Marsh Island Block 230, the company recovered completion fluids during the ongoing flow testing work. The weight of completion fluids recovered to date is around 9 to 19 pounds per gallon. To clean up the perforations, the company will infuse a barite solvent into the formation. Earlier, the company successfully drilled two sub-salt wells at Davy Jones field. It holds 63.4% working interest and 50.2% net revenue interest in Davy Jones.

The drilling operations at Lineham Creek well, located in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, encountered hydrocarbon bearing porous sands. The well was drilled to a depth of 25,250 feet and is expected to be drilled up to 29,000 feet. Working interest of the company in the well is 36% .

The Blackbeard West No. 2 well on Ship Shoal Block 188 was drilled below 25,200 feet and hit hydrocarbon bearing sands. The company intends to drill up to 25,500 feet to assess Miocene targets. McMoRan owns 69.4% working interest and 53.1% net revenue interest in the Block.

The Lomond North exploratory well in St. Martin Parish, LA, was drilled below 10,700 feet and is expected to encounter Eocene, Paleocene and Cretaceous objectives under the salt weld. McMoRan holds 72% working interest in the well.

McMoRan is an independent public company and its operations are carried out chiefly in the GOM Shelf and onshore in the Gulf Coast area.



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