It may sound like a bit of broken record at this point, but EA Sports has exceeded previous numbers of both first-week sales and online activity with the latest edition of their hockey simulation NHL 12. With another hit in the books, EA can now leave behind NHL 12 and turn to their next frontier of hockey gaming, announcing the free-to-play NHL Superstars for Facebook next month.

It comes as no surprise to us that EA Sports can officially claim to have outdone their past work, since we had more than a ringing endorsement of the game in our review. The general consensus among the gaming world was that NHL 12 had once again set the new standard for hockey gaming, if not delivering an experience on par with last year’s.

The sales and online activity numbers seem to bear that judgement out, with more than 451,000 copies of the game sold through to retail outlets in its first week. That means more than $27 million earned from September 13-19 alone, with more than two weeks before the NHL season officially kicks off.

Players quickly showed how long they’d been waiting to try their hands at the game’s new physics engine, especially in online play. Take a look at the statistics:

  • Fans logged more than 6.9 million online connected game sessions last week (Sept. 13-19), which marks the most online games played in one week in franchise history and 17 percent more than last year’s opening week.
  • Each day last week, an average of 86 total hours of online gameplay of NHL® 12 were played by fans — the equivalent of more than 70 full NHL seasons of action every single day.

With critical acclaim and sales dollars rolling in, EA Sports has also announced that October will bring hockey to social networking, with NHL Superstars launching for Facebook. The free-to-play game will allow players to craft their very own team of superstars, and even compete with their friends online. The exact game mechanics haven’t been revealed, but we’ll keep you updated when more information is released.

Regardless of how you feel about social gaming taking away from developers’ attention, EA Sports has shown that they’ve got somewhat of a talent for casual titles. 3 on 3 NHL Arcade was one of the funniest, nostalgic and ridiculously over the top hockey games to date, so those who have yet to try it are missing out. If some of that charm can be brought onto Facebook, then we’re more than interested.

NHL 12 is available now for the PS3 and Xbox 360, with NHL Superstars coming to Facebook in early October.

Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.