Is physical game media soon to disappear? According to EA’s Labels president Frank Gibeau, it’s inevitable – at least for his company. He does state that “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“, but follows that thought up with, “we’re going to be a 100% digital company, period.” I can’t make sense of that, so hopefully you can.
While going purely digital has its advantages for both consumers and companies like EA, there are an insurmountable number of challenges that prevent it from being perfect. For starters, not everyone has an ideal Internet connection for going digital-only. It might not only be bandwidth caps that are the issue, but performance. With games growing larger and larger, who wants to wait an entire day for the latest release to download when you could have just popped in a disc? Oh – and Diablo III, anyone?
Other downsides are great enough that I could write an entire article about them, so I won’t touch on them here. But despite the issues that lay ahead, Gibeau is confident that 100% digital is the future. For many, the mere idea of that is disgusting, and totally overturns what originally made the game industry so great. Nowadays, sharing your games, or selling them, is harder than ever if not impossible in most cases. Simply hauling a game off the shelf to pop into the machine isn’t a reality anymore either. Get a sudden craving to play “Title A”? Hop on Steam and wait for it to finish downloading. That’s the reality most of us already face today.
Of course when there’s a company like EA backing this pro-digital statement, some people are bound to get up and arms given how the company has treated its franchises in the past, pulling the cord too soon or simply not supporting its games for too long after launch. Gibeau doesn’t see things that way, however, by saying “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“.
In the same interview at GamesIndustry.biz, Gibeau also downplays the importance of NPD reports in this day and age, comparing them to looking at an elephant through a straw. To discredit those reports, which are highly regarded to get a gauge on market, is rather significant. NPD has since responded to debunk his opinion.
Are you looking forward to a 100% digital gaming world?