The complete uncertainty surrounding NBA Live 13 continues with the latest that the product could end up being a digital release. If that is the tactic being put into play by EA Sports it’s one they’ll likely regret. There is the necessity to differentiate from the entrenched competition but limiting the market and reducing value is not the way to do it.
Given that EA Sports won’t confirm anything related to NBA Live 13 it’s unclear whether a digital strategy would mean releasing only as a download or in conjunction with a traditional retail release. Of course it’s fair to question whether the game will even release at all at this point. When thinking digital though factors such as the lack of a cover athlete, being absent from the “Season Ticket” program, EA not pre-selling the game on their own Origin site, no pre-order incentives having been announced, and general retailer confusion about the product suggests this could be the first attempt at a major title only being available as a digital download.
The next big question then would come down to price. If Live were to release at a discount that would then open up the potential of regaining a foothold in the market. The NBA however would be unlikely to allow that. The league has designated the $60 price and release date of the first Tuesday in October in the licensing agreement. Granting EA an advantage in price needless to say would not go over well at 2K Sports and that is a partner the NBA can not afford to upset.
Should NBA Live 13 release exclusively as a digital download and at $60 its prospects for success would be very slim. EA Sports would be removing a portion of the consumer base just by going digital. Those without internet access would be unable to download the game and those with small hard drives would not be able to download the game.
Worse than that though is the value would significantly decrease. $60 as a digital download ends up costing consumers more than $60 as a retail product. There is no ability to sell the game when finished with it and retailers would be cut out of the process meaning no pre-order deals which in recent years has led to many major sports titles coming out at the equivalent of $40-45. Price cuts would also take much longer to materialize as it would be at the sole discretion of the company rather than individual retailers.
There are other factors as well that have to be considered when solely digital like how long it takes to download the game and the inability to rent it or even take it to a friends’ house to play. The convenience of just downloading rather than going to a store or waiting for a delivery represents the upside. From EA’s standpoint digital would cut out manufacturing costs which is appealing but they would then be taking on significant bandwidth charges from Microsoft and Sony. They would however have a consumer base that is 100% connected making for an easy target for selling loads of downloadable content and they would have no concerns over used copies in the wild eating into their sales.
Many believe the future will be fully digital but that time is not here yet and experimenting with NBA Live 13 would be another mistake in a long line that EA Sports has made with the series. They would be completely conceding the market to the competition while limiting their own reach and highlighting their inferiority by offering even less value to the consumer.