By Michelle Martin
FRANKFURT, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Video games publisher Electronic Arts (EA) is upbeat about Christmas holiday sales as it expects to release top titles and prepares its most high profile launch ever: "Star Wars: The Old Republic".
"We think it should be a very attractive season for Electronic Arts as we have quite a few blockbusters in the pipeline," Jens Uwe Intat, the head of sales and distribution for Europe, told Reuters ahead of Gamescom, Europe's biggest video games trade fair.
The company, which develops games for the consoles of Sony Corp, Nintendo and Microsoft, also said it was optimistic about the launch of the widely anticipated online game "Star Wars: The Old Republic,"
The launch date for the new game has not yet been named, but Intat said he hoped it would be announced before the holiday season.
"We have lots of people who have been subscribing to newsletters and webpages so we are actually feeling very bullish about the game," Intat said.
He added that the company was "still in the process of fine-tuning" services for the game.
EA hopes the online game will rival Activision Blizzard "World of Warcraft", which has more than 12 million subscribers. EA is said to be spending more than $100 million to develop "Star Wars".
Other big games in EA's Christmas line-up include the shooter game "Battlefield 3", racing game "Need for Speed" and "Sims Pet".
The company's soccer game, "FIFA", which is due to launch at the end of September, has already taken record-breaking pre-orders, Intat said.
PLAY BEFORE YOU PAY
Another strand of EA's strategy is to focus on Facebook games, which are free to play.
The games make money from players who buy so-called microtransactions in games such as costumes or tools which enhance game experience, Intat said.
This business model, which is a departure from how video games have traditionally made money, is in the spotlight as social gamemaker Zynga has filed with US regulators for an initial public offering on the stock market worth up to $1 billion.
Advertising in the free-to-play games has the potential to be a revenue-driver in the future, Intat said, adding that "more and more consumer goods companies understand that and embrace that type of advertising opportunity".
The company is striving to improve on its current position in the social gaming space by introducing some of its franchises like "The Sims Social" on Facebook.
EA acquired Playfish, a leading maker of social network games, in November 2009 in a bid to make headway with its diversification strategy and in August it closed the acquisition of PopCap games, the maker of "Bejeweled." [nN1E76B1O4]
(Additional reporting by Liana B. Baker; editing by Patrick Graham)