EA: Digital-only future for console games is not happening soon

CFO Blake Jorgensen reveals full-game downloads of EA games make up "much lower" than 30 percent of all units sold; CEO Andrew Wilson says Apple and Google may challenge Microsoft and Sony in the living room.

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The future of the games industry may be the near-total digitization of products, but that future appears to be a ways off for console titles at least, if comments from Electronic Arts CFO Blake Jorgensen are any indication. Speaking today during the Credit Suisse 2013 Technology Conference, the executive was asked to say when he believes one-third of all EA games will be sold via full-game downloads, to which he responded by saying not anytime soon.

"I don't know when the 30 percent target hits. That's probably still a ways off. We're much lower than that today on full-game downloads," Jorgensen said.

All Xbox One and PlayStation 4 retail games are available day-and-date digitally, but Jorgensen said bandwidth speeds continue to be an issue for consumers. What's more, the rise in game file sizes has offset increases to Internet download speeds, he argued.

"I think a lot of the constraint there will continue to be bandwidth into people's homes," Jorgensen said. "At the same time, the size of games has gotten bigger and more complex and so it's eaten up some of the benefits of [increased] bandwidth."

Ultimately, however, Jorgensen explained that "the trend is in the right direction." The move towards a fully digital landscape will benefit EA's economics, because digital games have a higher margin compared to physical products, which must be sold in stores, Jorgensen said.

During the same call, EA CEO Andrew Wilson said the recent successful launches of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 suggest that people continue to enjoy a traditional living room console experience. Along with this popularity will come new competition from major companies like Apple and Google, among others, he argued.

"Our market is evolving at a very, very, very rapid rate," Wilson said. "I think that Microsoft and Sony have a real opportunity to build a strong following and a strong install base while they continue to be the single-best way to get high fidelity, high-definition interactive entertainment to your 80-inch television. If you think about Microsoft's strategy--and I think Sony shares some of this at least in their long-term view, of being a broader entertainment device in your living room--I think they have that time. I think that three years from now, four years from now, they're going to be under some fairly stiff competition for the living room, from mobile providers, from Apple, from Google, from Roku, from Comcast, to try and own that living room experience."

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Avatar image for justkickinittt

I think we can all agree that we love that special feeling of tearing the plastic off of a new game and putting the disc into the system...or maybe it's just me...

Avatar image for pszone

Sony still has good friendship with retial EA so stop complaining.

Avatar image for YukoAsho

<< LINK REMOVED >> Sony and MS both have great relationships with retail partners, something that goes away when retailers can't make any cash on the games. Really, it's just EA being immature and not realizing that having good relationships with retailers is a good thing. Kinda like their stance on consumers.

Avatar image for YukoAsho

Well, EA was one of the companies that was also championing anti-used game policies right up until Microsoft got the crap buried out of them at E3, then turned around and called used an "important part" of the industry.

The EA brand is a pimple on gaming and should be squeezed post-haste. And let's be honest, unless you're in a great spot for internet and are paying extra for the privilidge, you're not going to get 50+ gig games faster than going to your neighborhood GameStop. The all-digital future is a fairy tale, right up there with hydrogen fuel.

Avatar image for profilia


Avatar image for Arachnofunk

I don't like digital games, it just can't compare to the feeling of having the box and disc, let alone the enormous size of next gen games. A 500 GB HDD is barely enough.

Avatar image for YukoAsho

<< LINK REMOVED >> For all digital? Haha, 500GB isn't nearly enough. Killzone: Shadow Fall eats up 45GB by itself, and that's going to be the rule rather than the exception for AAA going forward. So let's see, 500 divided by 45, that leaves room for 11.11 (rounded to the nearest tenth). Assuming we don't see companies take advantage of mandatory installs to compress data for installation (and thus make games even BIGGER), that's going to be a lot of HDD management in a year or two.

Or in the case of Xbone, going off to play an older game and wondering why it's downloading again.

Avatar image for electrichobo99

Yea, I think digital copies should be priced like $10 less to make up for the lack of feeling like you actually own something tangible. downloading a 50gb file would take like a week or so on my slow DSL but it runs fast enough to never experience lag during online matches, go figure.

Avatar image for YukoAsho

<< LINK REMOVED >> The problem with that is that packaging doesn't take up $10 of expense. It's more like $3, probably even less now that the manuals are on-disc.

Avatar image for tightwad34

I don't care who says it, it's music to my ears.

Avatar image for uncle5555

Ahhh, that's interesting....I think EA said the exact opposite thing last year. Hmmm, where's that article, oh yes here it is... I'll just leave this here for now.


A highlight of the article ""It's in the near future. It's coming."

This future starts when now EA?

Avatar image for JustPlainLucas

Until Internet access is as common as plumbing, it will never happen.

Avatar image for PlatinumPaladin

"The move towards a fully digital landscape will benefit EA's economics..." and be detrimental to the benefits of the consumer. Publishers are already pushing across the point that the consumer doesn't legally own their games. A digital only future can only lead to a point where we don't physically own them either.

Digital versions of games are already more expensive than retail versions, and for that increased price you get the added benefit of not having your game completely at your convenience.

Digital only will suck.

Avatar image for atopp399

These same idiots acted like full digital was the way the Xbox One and PS4 were going to be. Also, with these new games taking up like 40GB they are going to have massive server issues and it would be really annoying deleting games that large when you run out of hard drive space then have to re-download them again later to play. That's a lot of bandwidth and a waste of time.

Avatar image for amaneuvering

Wasn't EA one of those companies that said a few years ago that by now all consoles would be fully digital or something?

Avatar image for uncle5555

<< LINK REMOVED >> Haha, glad I'm not the only one who remembered that, see my post above. And it was last year actually.

Avatar image for West123

its funny how people are so fast to forget about GTAO, diablo 3 and simcity...

think about all those people who try to download the next big game at the same time....think how broken its going to be!!! is this the future you want? have both its the only logical solution

Avatar image for Tribesmaster

<< LINK REMOVED >> PC gaming sucks.

Avatar image for flyingdutchdog3

<< LINK REMOVED >> PCer's didn't have much choice in the matter ... most stores stopped carrying PC hard copies of games, thus forcing them, for the most part, to download digital copies ... oh and I hate PC gaming .... I have tons more enjoyment on the console than I ever had with my PC.

Avatar image for YukoAsho
<< LINK REMOVED >> Very good point. Most people seem to forget that the reason Steam took off was that game retailers stopped carrying PC games full stop, unless it was WoW or the casual nonsense seen in the thrift store. While the side-effect has been to make AAA PC games impossible to find without invasive DRM (Indies can be found all over the place DRM-Free), it was simply the only way to keep gaming on PC after a while. That's not going to happen to consoles any time soon.
Avatar image for AM-Gamer

PC gaming sucks and you won't change anyone's opinion of that. Nobody wants to pay 3x the price for hardware that delivers almost identical graphics with a few more fps. An all digital future is garbage and a way for them to completely destroy your right to own the product you bought. Its also a way they get away with this free to play scam that all these stupid PC gamers have embraced. But when an entire market is incapable of actually purchasing a game what can you do.

Avatar image for atopp399

@jimdove2 Discs aren't holding anything back. I bought Everquest 2 many years ago on CD and it was like 10 discs. So, what did that prevent me from doing back then? What is a disc really doing? Costing us more money? Yeah, not really. The systems will not cost less just because they remove a drive.

Avatar image for AM-Gamer

No pc from 2009 would touch the PS4 please just STFU! And you talk about Apple? LMAO they would have released something on par with the PS4 and charged 3x the price.

Avatar image for West123

<< LINK REMOVED >> yet your car has sum form of windows in it and without ms the pc would never have grown as fast as it did... you most likely have sony patented tech in your house..so ya **** ms and sony

Avatar image for skittzo_s

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> most digital devices are run from linux.

Avatar image for megaanto

i for one wont buy digital downloads. im a bit of a collector and am proud of my library of games but what they'll do is remove manuals, which they already have in a lot of new games. then they will take away the box and the disc will come in a shitty sleeve. then they will take away the cover art. in the end we will get a plain disc with just the name of the game and platform printed on it, in a plastic sleeve. people wont be bothered buying the retail copy anymore and they will get their way. wait and see.

Avatar image for superkadeemx

They were singing a different tune a lil while ago

Avatar image for HapiJoel

Whats that? EA admit they were talking out of their behinds?

FANTABULOUS! Have another Consumerist award...

Avatar image for boogie25

with the prizes of digital downloads, it will never get full digital, i can get box retail game cheaper then digital download version.. shouldnt it be the other way around? So yeah you right not anytime soon as most will buy at retail shop and save few bucks.

Plus you can sell the boxed version when done/bored with the game, you cant with digital.

Avatar image for Sohereiam

<< LINK REMOVED >> If the industry becomes full digital a large amount of people that works manufacturing physical media for the industry, will lose their jobs, and taxes will increase, which will thin the profit margin making all economy of digital only become meaningless, not mentioning the life style of all middle class citizens to below will fall making all games become much more expensive.

Avatar image for Pupchu

I like collecting games, in a sense you cant do that with a digital purchase.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k

That's not what you were saying before Microsoft 180'd, you hypocritical lying pieces of garbage.

Avatar image for bu3aDeL_Maz

they base this theory on games apps, and those are only like 100mb max. Im not ganna download 20 ps4/Xbone games each with 50gb!!

2 problems, internet sux here and HDD does not grow on trees.

this theory is irrelevant to real games.

right now im downloading super street fighter arcade edition with 18gb, 3 DAMN DAYS and still 2gb to go T.T ......
and that's one of the reasons why Steam is not my main resource for games.

Avatar image for Carpetfluff

Not while the digital prices are higher than the disc-based ones, and the machines have such small drives in them. Less of a problem for the PS4 owners, but still a problem nonetheless.

Avatar image for Sefrix

"because digital games have a higher margin compared to physical products, which must be sold in stores" I will continue my practice of never, ever buying a digital game at full retail price.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k

<< LINK REMOVED >> I will continue my practice of never, ever buying EA games.

Avatar image for West123

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> i buy ea all the time they wont die so give in to the dark side BF is really gooooood...but and there is a big but just know any complaints you have with the product will fall on deaf ears and your just a number on a spreadsheet to them

Avatar image for SouthLSoldier

<< LINK REMOVED >> As long as they give people the option thats all that matters. Im quite happy with digital games especially on Steam. My BB connection is ok and i dont really have the storage space for more games. Yes downloading anything over 20gb takes a while but ill just do it while i sleep. Do miss taking of the wrapping from a new game though. New game smell mmmmmhhhhhh.

Avatar image for Sohereiam

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Pal, Steam is a rarity these days, Gabe Newel is a decent person, but he can't be at front of Steam forever, once he step down you don't know who gonna be in the place and for how long he/she will be at top.

This was what happened to EA.

Avatar image for West123

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> your so right EA was once the darling of gaming giving us so much new stuff to play and then the suits took over who had no interest in games but are talented at making money

Avatar image for nedrith

Digital games are nice but they have to meet all of the bonuses that physical games have:

Sales, Phyiscal games go on sale all the time. you have every game company that does sales from time to time. New games don't go on sale often on the PSN. Old games yes but they take a lot longer.

Used games. You can almost guarantee any major game will be $50 after a couple of weeks used. You can also sell the game if you didn't like it or if you feel you will never return to it.

Giving games to friends. I have two nephews that live near me and a few friends who also do a lot of gaming. Every once in a while I give them one of my games.

Bandwidth is also a huge issue. 10 hours to download a PS4 game is fine for me some of the time. But If I want to play online during that time, perhaps stream a netflix movie or do anything else with the internet it might be a inconvenience. It's also one for anyone else who lives with me.

Avatar image for Zjarcal

<< LINK REMOVED >> Sales? Maybe for consoles that's not common but the Steam sales are one of the biggest incentive to go digital on PC.

Avatar image for SouthLSoldier

<< LINK REMOVED >> Does'nt the PS4 let you download only part of the game so you can jump in within minutes?

Avatar image for atopp399

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> And what happens if you have a save file 40 hours in and you need to redownload the game?

Avatar image for Kiaininja

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Game has to be programed to support it. Their was a Gamespot article where Sony admits not every game yet supports this feature. I'm confident that at least Sony's 1rst party will implement it but it's the 3rd party developers that probably will not do this because of laziness, budget, or deadline.

Avatar image for Sefrix

<< LINK REMOVED >>Sure does.

Avatar image for PlatinumPaladin

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Who's side are you on? :-P