EA expects 20% of sales to be digital

Publisher says Battlefield: 1943 reaped $16 million as FIFA Ultimate Team mode has soccer fans spending as much as $700 on virtual trading-card packs.

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Last year, Activision CEO Robert Kotick told investors that trends like expensive peripherals, limited-edition bundles, and downloadable content had gamers willing to spend upward of $500 on a single game. In his own investor presentation, Electronic Arts CFO Eric Brown today confirmed that players are willing to top that total on DLC alone.

It's appropriate that Ultimate Team packs are colored like precious metals.
It's appropriate that Ultimate Team packs are colored like precious metals.

Speaking at UBS's 38th Annual Media and Communications Conference today, Brown emphasized the growing role digital sales, and DLC in particular, are playing in the publisher's portfolio. This fiscal year, EA is expecting to draw 20 percent of its revenue--about $750 million--from digital business, the vast majority of that coming from DLC and full-game downloads.

One particularly profitable example Brown gave of the company's digital efforts was in the FIFA series' Ultimate Team mode, which has players assemble fantasy teams by purchasing trading cards that let them add players to their squad for a limited number of games. The trading-card packs can be earned through normal gameplay or purchased through microtransactions.

"We see people spending $500, $600, $700 on digital card packs to play Ultimate Team simulation mode," Brown told investors.

For FIFA 09--the first game to introduce Ultimate Team mode--EA brought in $15 million in digital revenues thanks to the Ultimate Team trading-card packs. Brown pegged the development cost of adding the mode in the single-digit millions. The following year's game brought in roughly $30 million, and while FIFA 11 numbers aren't final yet, Brown said he expects that growth trend to continue. While the mode has since migrated to EA's Madden NFL and NHL franchises, Brown did not provide numbers on its performance in those titles.

Full-game downloads have also been a burgeoning business for EA. The company expects $90 million to $100 million in PC full-game downloads this year and has had success with the model in the console space as well. Brown pointed to Battlefield 1943, the stand-alone Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network shooter that debuted in mid-2009. The game cost in the single-digit millions to build but netted EA about $16 million in revenue (after Microsoft and Sony had taken their cuts).

For more on how EA's digital endeavors work, check out GameSpot's previous coverage of the first Ultimate Team-enabled FIFA and Battlefield 1943.

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