EA has poured significant investment into growing its digital distribution business, a strategy that has for the past couple of years contributed to steep losses. One positive result for gamers, however, has been a glut of postrelease downloadable content packs for the publisher's top titles, some of which have carried a premium. Soon, it appears as if EA will be expanding its "PDLC," or premium downloadable content, approach into the prerelease realm.
In a note to investors today, Wedbush's Michael Pachter detailed a recent investor event at the publisher's Redwood City, California, headquarters in which group general manager Nick Earl laid out EA's prerelease PDLC initiative. According to the analyst, EA would release what he called "a very long game demo, along the lines of 2009's Battlefield 1943" through Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network for $10 to $15.
"A full-blown packaged game would follow shortly after the release of the PDLC, bearing a full retail price," Pachter said. "Mr. Earl believes that the release of the PDLC first limits the risk of completing and marketing the full packaged version, and serves as a low-cost marketing tool."
Notably, Battlefield 1943 represented a significant boon for EA upon its critically lauded release for $15 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in July. During Battlefield 1943's debut month, EA proclaimed it the fastest-selling day-one and week-one downloadable exclusive title on Xbox Live worldwide, or on PSN in North America. In November, the publisher said that DICE's online-only multiplayer shooter had sold 1.2 million units across the two platforms.
Pachter's note also made mention of Visceral Games' heretofore speculated downloadable game Ripper. According to Pachter, Ripper will be released through Xbox Live and PSN. Rumors indicate that the game will offer a Van Helsing-like heroic take on notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper. EA had not responded to requests for further comment as of press time.
One other point of note from the investor event, Pachter said that EA CEO John Riccitiello "acknowledged that the company had performed poorly over the first years of his tenure, and admitted that the turnaround of the company was taking longer than he originally expected." According to Pachter, Riccitiello went on to say that EA was about two-thirds of the way through its turnaround and one-third of the way toward reaching its goal of transformation into a business that distributes games through "multiple channels."