EA: Digital will rise above retail this year

EA: Digital will rise above retail this year

By Rob Crossley

January 10th 2011 at 1:58PM

FIFA Ultimate Team fanatics 'spend thousands of dollars per month'

Electronic Arts has made unequivocal its intention to expand further in digital games, with its CEO predicting that the sector will outsell retail in 2011.

There is no clear public data on how big the digital games market is. The sector is scattered across numerous platforms – from social games, to mobile, to console channels and PC portals – meaning that charting the market is unforeseeable.

Yet EA CEO John Riccitiello believes the entire digital market will account for over 50 per cent of the entire games market.

Last year the UK market alone stood for £2.875 billion.

“At the end of [2011], the digital business is bigger than the packaged goods business, full stop,” Riccitiello told IndustryGamers.

“I think that we’ll find ways to even sell our packaged goods content in chunks and in pieces and subscriptions and micro-transactions," he added.

EA is fast perusing the digital games space; a strategy that continues to set it apart from its rival ‘blockbuster publisher’ Activision.

The Fifa Soccer company recently bought mobile games publisher Chillingo, and had previously spent as much as $400 million on social studio Playfish.

Playfish made its fortune on the free-to-play games model; something which Riccitiello sees huge potential in:

"Our highest ARPU (average revenue per user) are free-to-play games among paying users. You think about that and say, 'how can a free game be the game they pay the most for?' We have people who are giving us $5,000 in a month to play FIFA Ultimate Team. And it’s free. Dirty little secret."

Riccitiello also cited the recent success of Turbine’s MMO Lord of the Rings Online, which is said yielded thrice the profit when adopting a free-to-play model that encouraged microtransactions and paid upgrades.