The chief financial officer of Electronic Arts says digital will dominate but the market for video games in boxes will always be around too.
Electronic Arts has for some time now been a big booster of a digital future for video games. EA Labels President Frank Gibeau went so far as to say a couple of years ago that it would someday be "a 100 percent digital company, period." It was a bold statement but not beyond the realm of belief, but today EA is softening that stance a little bit.
Speaking at the 2014 Wedbush Transformational Technologies Management Access Conference, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen affirmed the publisher's commitment to digital, driven by both mobile and microtransaction-based free-to-play releases. In fact, he said that "paid downloads" represent a very small part of EA's business these days, and he expects them to eventually disappear entirely.
"At the end of the day, the consumer expects to get the game experience on a mobile device for free, and they know they can grow that experience over time by monetizing or continuing to play for free," he said. "And you're going to see a little bit of both of those, but I do think the upfront fee for downloading is probably slowly disappearing."
What he doesn't expect to go away, ironically, are games in boxes. "I think the physical business from a publishing standpoint obviously will always be around," he said. "Right now people still buy physical records, even though most of us probably don't. At the end of the day, we'll probably always have a physical business and retailers will always be around as a way for discovery and interaction for consumers. But I do think the consumers will find themselves more and more buying digitally, and the process of buying is less about the actual game and more about the experience over time."
Jorgensen's stance is reflected in today's announcement of the Dragon Age: Inquisition Inquisitor's Edition, a monstrous, $170 limited edition box aimed squarely at fans who want more than just the game. That's the future of physical media as I see it (and, I suspect, as Jorgensen does): smaller, more expensive and catering to a niche clientele who believes that statues of Max Payne and Geralt qualify as tasteful decor. The supremacy of discs and boxes is over, but as long as there are people prepared to pay big bucks for specialized collector's editions, they'll never go away entirely.