Sales of digital books have recently overtaken those of traditional hardback books, download sales are now included when compiling popular music charts, film distribution companies such as LOVEFiLM and Netflix are rapidly being adopted and a huge proportion of society plays games on either their tablets or smartphones. Though everyone may not welcome it, the world around is becoming more and more digitised, a move which is affecting almost every facet of our daily lives.
In an interview with games industry journalists, Senior Executive, Frank Gibeau, discussed how the move is affecting EA, the game publisher behind phenomenal successes such as the Mass Effect and Battlefield series and sports games FIFA and Madden:
“For us the fastest growing segment of our business is clearly digital services and ultimately Electronic Arts, at some point in the future we’re going to be a 100 percent digital company, period. It’s inevitable.”
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“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 do some really interesting things from a service level standpoint, we can be a lot more personalised with what we’re doing.”
Gibeau’s comments come at a time when huge changes are affecting games industry. Mobile gaming has taken the industry by storm, downloadable content (DLC) is being adopted by huge numbers of gamers the world over, and the adoption rate of consumers downloading entire games rather than buying the tangible equivalent is on the rise. One of this year’s hotly contested debates, both online and in print, has been whether the next-generation of games console will even come with a disc tray, effectively forcing the hand of consumers into accepting a purely digital experience.
However, Gibeau said that the transition to digital wouldn’t be happening overnight, leaving many consumers out in the cold:
“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’s comments have been met with mixed reviews from industry experts and consumers alike. One the one hand many are citing how a purely digital production process and supply chain will be clearly better for the environment in terms of negating the need to manufacture boxes, discs, covers, manuals and transport the final product. On the other hand many have expressed concerns that, though games publishers will be saving money by going digital, that saving won’t be passed on to consumers, with the retail price of a digital game remaining similar to that of a tangible game.
Whether the digital environment will be able to satisfy the wants and needs of both publishers and gamers is up for debate, a debate that will no doubt rage for some time to come. What can’t be debated, however, is whether the move to digital is definitely happening; it is, so the question becomes not if, but when.