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EA and its Digital Future

EA Labels boss Frank Gibeau has told GiBiz some interesting tidbits as to the plans for EA. This is Gibeau talking about how EA will be 100% digital in the near future:

“It’s in the near future. It’s coming. We have a clear line of sight on it and we’re excited about it. Retail is a great channel for us. We have great relationships with our partners there. At the same time, the ultimate relationship is the connection that we have with the gamer. If the gamer wants to get the game through a digital download and that’s the best way for them to get it, that’s what we’re going to do. It has a lot of enhancements for our business. It allows us to keep more that we make. It allows us to do some really interesting things from a service level standpoint; we can be a lot more personalized with what we’re doing.”

However, this doesn’t mean EA plans to be “100% digital” in the sense that it’s going to leave retail behind. When I read the lead on this interview I assumed he meant “no more retail, we’ll be 100% digital.” But that’s not the case:

“But if customers want to buy a game at retail, they can do that too. We’ll continue to deliver games in whatever media formats make sense and as one ebbs and one starts to flow, we’ll go in that direction,” Gibeau continued. “For us, the fastest growing segment of our business is clearly digital and clearly digital services and ultimately Electronic Arts, at some point in the future – much like your question about streaming and cloud – we’re going to be a 100% digital company, period. It’s going to be there some day. It’s inevitable.”

In other words, EA plans to at some point down the road be a 100% digital download company after it breaks the chains of retail stores and the vast majority of consumers buy games online rather than sauntering down the road to a game store.

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The other slice from the interview is about NPD and how EA apparently doesn’t even pay attention to it anymore.

“Between Facebook, social, mobile, free to play on PC, Asia, consoles… it’s a vibrant, growing, huge market. An occasional bad report from NPD, which measures a sliver of what’s actually happening in gaming gives people an erroneous impression.”

He’s right.

“My point is it’s an irrelevant measure on the industry. It’s totally irrelevant. We don’t even really look at it internally anymore.”

He’s full of it.

Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

7 thoughts to “EA and its Digital Future”

  1. Actually, he does have a point, particularly where PC gaming is concerned. I bought dozens of games in the last couple years. Of those, I guess only one or two have been bought in a retail store, and not by me (got them as gifts).

    PC gaming is largely digital nowadays. I realize that consoles are quite different on that regard, but still, the PC is the first platform to brave new worlds in gaming, so I’d expect the console world to go the same route in a couple years or so.

      1. I’d lean toward incompetent on this one. If I was on the board of Walmart or Gamestop, I’d hire someone to hire someone else to egg this guys house. It’s a terrible idea (to imply) that your brick & mortar store buddies can piss off (and the collateral damage of less foot traffic in said stores). No wonder EA’s stock is in free fall.

        And not to harp on this “James Brightman” over at GiBiz, but I had trouble getting past his first line “Electronic Arts is one of the publishers in this industry that is at the forefront of the digital transition.”

        Forefront !? More like the back end of the rear door on a Pontiac Aztek.

  2. The all digital download format seems to be inevitable on a long enough time line. Games will get bigger, download speeds are getting faster. . . I can’t tell you the last time I actually bought a DVD or CD. If games were competitively priced for a digital copy rather than a physical copy, I’d probably be downloading them too.

    1. Where do you live? I think that most people who have good stable fast broadband connections don’t realize that those aspects of a connection aren’t universal. Lots of places all over the world have little to no connectivity and still enjoy physical media based games. Heck, the best service I can get here in fly-over USA is 5 mb/s and that’s a stellar connection to the one I had in Florence, Italy for the last month. I do agree that with a long enough timeline that it is inevitable, but I doubt we’ll see download only in the next 20 years.

  3. Will be interesting to see if this recent ruling in EU will effect EA’s plans.

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-07-03-eu-rules-publishers-cannot-stop-you-reselling-your-downloaded-games

    If digital download providers have to start allowing you to transfer license of ownership to other people, it will be interesting how long the platform maintains its popularity. It’s really popular now because the publishers can essentially sell a game once and there is zero risk from you selling your game to someone else because it just isn’t possible.

    Of course that’s EU, not the US, pretty sure in the US we’re not going to see a ruling like that any time soon.

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