Electronic Arts Labels boss Frank Gibeau was interviewed over at Gamesindustry International yesterday about the future of games distribution. In a candid interview Mr Gibeau repeatedly stressed that digital distribution is the future and EA “will be 100 percent digital in the near future”.
EA recently had its first year of digital revenue clear the $1 billion milestone and the company expect that this year the figure will be approaching $2 billion. Through digital downloads the company can have a direct relationship with the buyer with no intermediary, that benefits both gamer and the content creator, in this case EA.
When questioned about the timescale to become a 100 per cent digital company Mr Gibeau answered “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” The fastest growing segment of EA’s business is digital so of course they should go with the flow. Mr Gibeau continued “…at some point in the future we're going to be a 100% digital company, period. It's going to be there someday. It's inevitable.”
EA has worked with Gaikai, only recently acquired by SCE, to deliver cloud streaming games and sees this as another trend for the future. Mr Gibeau believes that EA’s use of online services to get games to the end user, via Facebook, mobile, PC streaming and others, has impacted its NPD sales chart ratings significantly. Thus the NPD retail chart figures are mostly ignored by EA now as it “measures a sliver of what's actually happening in gaming gives people an erroneous impression” and “it's an irrelevant measure on the industry. It's totally irrelevant.”
Digital does seem to be a channel though which video games sales can be made to be almost “frictionless”. The traditional blockbuster games producers have seen how the mobile games download market has developed and made gaming minnows into big fish and definitely want a piece of the action.