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Microsoft to reveal EA partnership at Next Xbox event

Exclusive add-on content deal expected; Publisher exec says prepare for big announcements

As the industry prepares for a highly anticipated Microsoft press conference in which it will showcase a new console for the first time in eight years, publisher Electronic Arts is preparing to step on stage to announce a key exclusivity agreement.

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CVG has learned that EA has secured a partnership with the Xbox firm, according to accounts from two sources who wished to remain anonymous. However, neither person was certain of what EA will show, nor what the terms of the exclusivity partnership will be.

Due to the necessities of multiplatform development and publishing, it is likely that such a partnership will not extend beyond exclusive downloadable content, or staggered release dates. An outright exclusive EA game on the Next Xbox would be unlikely, and certainly a major coup for Microsoft if such a deal were to be secured.

Last Wednesday, rival publisher Activision announced a key partnership with Sony which will result in - among other business obligations - exclusive add-on content for the PS4 edition of Destiny.

While other major publishers, from Ubisoft to Square Enix to Capcom, also spoke at Sony's PS4 showcase, EA did not participate.

Both industry sources had different speculation on what the EA partnership would be. One claimed it might be Battlefield 4, while the other suspected that Respawn Entertainment will make a surprise appearance. Neither person works for EA or Microsoft, and so could not confirm the terms of the deal.

However, EA's chief financial officer hinted at such a deal on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference, CFO Blake Jorgensen was asked why Electronic Arts did not appear at the PlayStation 4 press conference.

"It was more about timing of our own slate as well as trying to maintain a good balance of power with all the parties out there and choosing when to unveil certain pieces of software," he replied.

Jorgensen added: "I'd say, between now and E3, you are going to see a lot of stuff, and we are going to chose with our marketing teams when to announce."

But he clarified that EA was clearly going to support the PlayStation 4 platform.

"At the end of the day we are very excited about Sony's platform. We feel there's a huge opportunity there. The technical power on the platform is going to allow us to do a substantial amount of things that have never been done before.

"I have seen the new Battlefield, and it is just stunning. It is just amazing what the imagination of the game developers [at DICE] are allowed to do with that much power."

It has become a growing expectation in the industry that Microsoft will announce its next-generation Xbox platform at a special one-off event in late April.

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