EA: Digital distribution won't diminish retail game sales for the next 20 years

EA: Digital distribution won't diminish retail game sales for the next 20 years
Leo Chan - Friday, August 29th, 2008 | 4:00PM (EST)

Games are getting bigger, and broadband doesn't appear to be growing fast enough for potentially larger downloads

The convenience and growing library of standout titles is helping digital distribution across online gaming services like Steam, Xbox Live, and the PlayStation Network make a name for itself, supported for example by the recent success of Bionic Commando: Rearmed. However, Electronic Arts Europe's senior VP and general manager Jens Uwe Intat believes sales of boxed games through traditional retail avenues is in no danger of going the way of the dodo for another twenty years or so thanks to digital distribution.

The key sticking point is the ever increasing filesizes for newer video games. While these are on the rise (depending on what developers want to do with their titles), gamers in North America generally won't have access to the sort of bandwidth from North American ISPs needed to download such games outright. That is to say, broadband won't get fast enough anytime soon for gamers to download meatier games at an appreciable rate:

"The reason why I'm so convinced is that I've always been saying our softare developers eat up storage space so much quicker than telcos can build distribution. You can always see technological quantum leaps in terms of digital distribution capacity, it's all true, but if you see how those guys increase the size of games... it's just unbelievable.

"The content size of games, say Need for Speed, the size of the open world that you can use increases - so you just need more and more storage space, which is going to, again, make the pipeline a big bottleneck."

Of course, that will depend on whether or not developers choose to go all out with the production values. It's definitely possible to tailor games for digital distribution, but for the moment these are generally not the sort of mainstream releases like many of the titles sold at retail.

EA intends to treat digital distribution as a supporting channel for additional content and services. In EA's bigger picture, both distribution channels will coexist to bring additional value to their titles, hopefully discouraging second-hand sales which the publisher continues to see as a "critical situation" involving off-the-record sales of their intellectual property. Otherwise, EA would have to get "confrontational" with retailers who rely on second-hand game sales as an important revenue stream.

EA: Digital distribution won't diminish retail game sales for the next 20 years Image 1

Source: GamesIndustry.biz

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