EA Eyeing All-Digital Future

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Posted May 21st, 2014 at 4:30 pm

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The transition from physical discs to digital downloads isn’t advancing quite as fast as publishers, Microsoft, and Sony had hoped but that doesn’t mean the ultimate goal has changed. In the recent financial call regarding last quarter, Electronic Arts CFO Blake Jorgensen discussed digital growth for the company and the desire to reach an all-digital future. 

Shifting as many customers to digital as possible is obviously appealing for publishers. They make more money off every game sold that way. The middle-man is cut out while manufacturing and shipping costs are completely eliminated – they just have to account for the increased bandwidth instead. It also removes the used game market which they’ve felt damages their bottom line to the point where they keep trying to implement ways to reduce the value of used games or remove them completely from the picture.

Consumers have not totally bought into the idea of digital, as evidenced by the backlash to the Xbox One’s original plans, and the slow uptake in those who choose to download them instead of buy them in the traditional manner.

Skepticism towards digital is certainly fair – the latest example of a big game release was MLB 14: The Show which was late going up for download by 15 hours and then still took considerably more time to download and install after finally being made available.

Benefits to consumers who buy digital are few. Immediacy is the initial draw – the idea of getting it the minute it’s out – along with not having to switch discs when going to a different game. The trade-offs are more evident as they involve potentially gigantic downloads (The Show was 47 GB), hard drives that could fill up, publishers having total control over the pricing so fewer sales are seen after release, and the lesser value inherent in the product considering there is no ability to sell the game when done and recoup some of the costs. Somehow many of the pre-order bonuses aren’t made available to those who buy the game digitally either.

There’s even now the issue of data caps to consider. Some people already face that conflict with their internet providers limiting data on a monthly basis and charging exorbitant amounts for overages. Others many come across that in the near future. Just last week Comcast stated they expect all customers to have data caps within the next five years.

Are you open to digital downloads when physical copies are still an option? Do you anticipate going more digital in the future? Or is the idea of moving away from discs just completely unappealing? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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  • Chip1010

    The Show 14 was my first download of a full-priced “retail” game. It’s nice to not have to put the disc in, and my Internet connection is super-fast, so I didn’t really have any problems, but I still don’t like not having the physical disc/box. I just wanted to try buying a big game digitally, and a sports game that loses its resale value quickly was a good way to experiment. But I would still rather have the discs. To each his own, but physical media is a lot better for my tastes, as I like collecting games for all sorts of systems. And while I hardly ever sell my games, I like knowing I have the option. Digital distribution may be the future, but that future isn’t coming nearly as quickly as some would have you believe, and it isn’t close to being fully feasible yet, so in the meantime I’m going to do what I think is best for me as a consumer and a collector.

    When Watch Dogs comes out in a week, I’ll be buying a physical copy.

    • Sean Patrick Sinagra

      You should have downloaded watch dogs and disc the show

      • Mike Query

        I would never download a game like that, because when I beat it and it gets stale, I can still sell it and make half my money back.

  • turkey86

    I’m about half digital now. I buy sports games digitally, because their’s no resell value. I’m lucky in that I have a 999 GB allowance a month from my internet provider. I rarely use more than 5-10% of that and my family and I have completely cut out cable and moved to Netflix/Hulu/Amazon exclusively. I assume most people don’t get that much, so it would be troubling for them.

    • Details

      No resell value? I traded in Madden 25 for MLB 14 the Show & got $25 for it. Target has a special where you can trade NBA 2K14 in for $48 store credit. There’s still value in trading in games.

      • turkey86

        I like to play my games for more than a couple months. Usually until the new one comes out.

  • MBird

    Man, I really dislike EA and almost everything they stand for. Now that my bias is known, I still want my physical disc, not that it wouldn’t be more convenient to switch games without leaving my seat (that 12 ft round trip walk is exhausting), but I just like the security of knowing that it is there for me to do whatever I want with. If I don’t like the game, I can recoup some money by either selling it to a friend, on the internet, or at Gamestop. Also, it’s not like EA, or really any developer for that matter, is going to allow flexibility with their prices. Why can’ they offer, let’s say, $10 off DLC or a future purchase when buying digitally? Oh wait, they already know that consumers will pay $60+ for a game when they are pocketing the difference for the lack of manufacturing/packaging costs. For what it’s worth, I have no doubt EA will be at the forefront of any anti-consumer gaming policies, no matter how much they try to convince me otherwise.

  • wiggins

    if the downloads were cheaper than buying the disk… that would help a lot

    • Iown You

      Yeah, but you know that’s not gonna happen.

  • flossbee

    I really don’t see how going all out digital is any different than DRM gaming. The reason I say this is because these downloads eat up HDD space like crazy. It’s bad enough that you have to install game data. Now they’ll get to a point where you’ll have to download and install the whole game. With factory HDD’s you’d be lucky to store 10-15 games (If that).
    The only way to combat this would be to get a larger HDD (that would still have limitations) or have the games stored on a cloud which would ultimately require round-the-clock internet connectivity to access your games. Which has us back at square one similar to the DRM process that Microsoft was trying to impose.
    Long story short, I could be wrong in my estimations but I just don’t agree with going “All-Digital.” Just give me the option for a disc as advertised. I value the space on my HDD too much.
    P.S. Please let me know if I’m overreacting.

    • Skopin

      Hard drives really aren’t expensive anymore. You can get a 2-3 TB drive for about $100.

      • Rebel

        That’s not exactly pocket change for most of us.

        • Skopin

          Less than the price of two games. It’s not exactly free, but it’s a lot less than it used to be.

        • Beelzebot44

          Most adults who play enough video games to need a hard drive that big can easily afford a $100 purchase. Not pocket change, but if you can shell out $60 every few months for a game you can probably manage a hard drive.

  • Details

    What about when your hard drive gets full & you’re forced to delete a game to make room for a new one? You just lose the game forever? There are too many downsides to going strictly digital. I personally trade most of my games in once I’m done with them. For companies who say they’ll cut cost & save money, this is true but you have to also take into account that they’ll also probably sell less games by going strictly digital. So is the pay off really worth it? How about these companies focus on getting their servers on point before worrying about this smh.

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      You still have the license for the game. You’d be able to re-download it. But then again you’re facing issues with hard drive space and data caps.

  • MoneyMayweather

    lol data caps and higher price will make customers not want a digital future data caps off and lower prices on games were at the table.

  • IButtonMash

    Don’t like the all-digital future that gaming is going towards. Don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience and pre-downloading, but I’d much rather own physical copies which I can still sell secondhand, trade with other people and even pass down to children at some point in time. It’s weird to think that at some point we’ll be treating the discs that we just bought yesterday like we treat vinyls today, but I suppose that’s the way we treat things like N64 Cartridges now.

  • James Jolley

    I personally have no choice but to own physical disks. As a blind gamer, I use a barcode scanner that allows me to record voice notes as labeled, so I can record the name of the game disk via it’s barcode. Digital takes that option away from me and limits my access.

  • Weekend Roady

    How about companies pass on the additional earnings by going all digital. I can think of a few things… offer free, heavily discounted or coupons for hard drive upgrades. Perhaps team up with a broadband provider or two (preferably not Comcast) to bring down the cost (and certainly no data cap) for console owners. An all-digital model costing more (and in many cases, much more) for the consumer is an absolute joke. (and to those who said sports games carry no resale value, I just sold a handful of 3-4 year old sports games for about $8-12 apiece on ebay after fees. That’s gas money, lunch money, new game money, etc…If you sell the games a lot sooner, you’ll get a lot more back and essentially your game was a glorified rental. No chance to recoup anything with digital…)

    I feel like a grandpa already in reminiscing about the good ‘ol days. I’ve scaled my gaming way back nowadays. 80% of the time I use my 360 or PS4 for movies. Part of it is less time, more commitments and different interests. But the challenge of being a sports gamer in this market does figure into my increased disinterest. There is far less variety and competition in the market. The cost of putting a solid product out has become enormous. There are absolutely no college sports being represented. There is one game for every major sport except the NBA. Fringe sports barely stand a chance. Then there is this increased pressure and added cost on the consumer to go all digital. If I own an Xbox console and a PS4 I now have to pay for online gaming on both. Heck, they can’t even decide if the next-gen is worth jumping to yet (see: FIFA World Cup – which is the reason I temporarily decided to keep up my Xbox Live subscription instead of going all-in on PS Plus).

    If the only benefit to the consumer to going all-digital is that they don’t have to drive to the store, wait for the mail and/or get up off the couch, then that’s not much of a benefit. Thank you, but no thank you. If you’re sole plan is to pocket manufacturing costs, I can wait a few extra hours for my game to get to my front door…

  • Robert Norman

    If they want me to buy digitally, there are a two ways to do it.
    1. Offer it early. There are some games I’d love to get a week early.
    2. Offer a discount. Even $5 might do the trick.

  • Beelzebot44

    I’m torn on this. I don’t like the idea of not being able to sell/trade in games, but I got NBA 2K14 as a download and not having to change discs is awesome. If the download was $40 instead of $60 I’d never buy another disc again, but as long as I can make up that $20 difference I’ll probably still lean toward discs for most games.

  • Mitch Norton

    Trade in at best buy when they do 100% trade in value… I got 40 for need for speed, 30 for Madden and 32 for nba all last week

  • Rebel

    What are the realistic chances this will result in cheaper games?

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