EA promises to go totally digital for game distribution in the future

But the move might not sit well with physical retailers


Electronic Arts Labels President Frank Gibeau promised that the future of the video game publisher's business is "100 percent digital."

EA is one of the biggest publishers in the video game industry, churning out blockbuster games in series like Mass Effect, The Sims, and Dead Space year after year.

And they, like the rest of the industry, have been increasingly exploratory of digital distribution methods, which eliminate the need for physical retailers and expensive packaging, among other things.

"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 percent digital company, period," Gibeau said in a published report.

"It's going to be there someday. It's inevitable," he added.

Gibeau was echoing statements made by EA Sports VP Andrew Wilson last year.

Wilson told a European gaming site, "There will come a day where I think that people will stop going into [retailers like] Game and Gamestop," he said. "It's important for retailers and us to understand what the consumer wants in the future."

EA's Origin of digital distribution

Every major gaming company has gotten into digital distribution, whether in the form of Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade, Sony's PlayStation Network, Nintendo's WiiWare store, or Valve's Steam, the most popular platform for PC gamers.

But EA has said recently that their Origin service, spawned last year to compete with Steam for the PC market, has exceeded expectations.

EA's Senior VP of Global Commerce David Demartini told MCV last month that Origin has 12 million users, and that their revenue has grown 400 percent in the first year, calling EA's service the Facebook to Steam's Myspace.

It doesn't hurt that EA's biggest games last year required players to sign up for an Origin account to play on PC, and therein lies one of the problems with digital distribution: lack of competition.

Not all gamers on board the Good Ship Digital Distribution

With EA's games appearing only on Origin, some gamers are worried that prices will go up in Origin's digital marketplace.

Others bemoan the death of the used games market, where gamers get better deals than buying new, but where all the revenue goes to retailers rather than publishers like EA.

EA's gone to great lengths to squash used games sales, including imposing an extra $10 fee in the form of an "online pass" to play used copies of their games online.

EA's online pass likely hasn't gone over well with Gamestop, the biggest games retailer in the US. And EA's plans to go full-digital likely won't sit well with them either.

Gamestop enacted measures to keep up with the evolving market, including investing in cloud gaming services and selling digital download codes in-store, but the retailer's fate in a full-digital future would be up in the air.

TechRadar has made multiple attempts to reach both Gamestop and EA for comment, but both companies remain unresponsive at this time.

Maybe it's because tomorrow is the fourth of July, or maybe they just don't want to talk about it.

But Gibeau said in his recent statements that what the customer wants is paramount to EA.

"The ultimate relationship is the connection that we have with the gamer," he said. "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."

Via CNET, GamesInudstry.biz, Eurogamer,MCV