There has been a lot of speculation around NBA Live 13 given the actions of EA Sports. The game is being hidden right now and they are actively cultivating a perception that something is severely wrong with the title. That the discussion amongst consumers about Live 13 is trending towards whether it will even release or not – and EA doesn’t seem to mind that stories have to be written saying they haven’t actually cancelled it yet – says a lot about their confidence towards the product should it actually hit the market.
An interesting development this morning though as NBA Live 13 has shown up on a list of current or upcoming digital content eligible for the Xbox Live Rewards program. “Full Game – NBA Live 13 – Digital” is listed as is “NBA Live 13 – Digital – DLC”.
There is some reason to now believe that NBA Live 13 may be releasing as a digital download rather than retail product. EA Sports has yet to reveal a cover athlete for the game – a far less important event if there will be no physical cover. They have also not announced any retailer pre-order incentives which obviously would be unnecessary if the game never reaches stores. Confusion over release date at retailers could also point to plans that they won’t be receiving the product down the line as EA would have no reason to provide them that otherwise necessary information. That EA’s own store, Origin, doesn’t list Live 13 for pre-order is just as telling.
It would be a huge step for EA Sports to go full digital on a major release. They may be looking to combat NBA 2K by going such a route of differentiation though ultimately it could also be their demise by venturing into unfamiliar territory and limiting consumer reach. It would be much more difficult to sell the game at a full $60 digitally than in stores where physical copies offer the perks of pre-order deals and the ability to sell the game later and recoup some of the costs. If the NBA were to allow EA to release at a lower price point though – something that seems somewhat unlikely – it would make it much more interesting to see the results of such an experiment.