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Discs Out, Digital In: EA Plans to Become Download-Only in the Future

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The humble game disc as we know it could be heading to an early grave, as downloads and cloud-based gaming have started to take a firm hold on the computer games market.

Just as Sony announced its buyout of cloud gaming company Gaikai, EA Games boss Frank Gibeau has spoken to GamesIndustry about the company’s thoughts on downloadable games replacing the disc.

Gibeau told the website that EA Games is certain it will become “100 per cent digital in the near future.” This would mean that game boxes could disappear from store shelves, instead being replaced by a way of downloading games in full from the web. This of course would rely on the major console makers – Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo – creating reliable ways of finding and downloading games on their consoles, unless EA does so themselves.

EA is at the forefront of the push to make gaming digital, and its first year’s foray into the market has just come to a close with a profit of $1 billion. The company fully expects that figure to almost double within the next year as digital downloads take precedence.

According to Mr Gibeau, while EA’s relationship with retailers is important, it’s the closer connection with the gamer that they want to focus on:

“Retail is a great channel for us. We have great relationships with our partners there. At the same time, the ultimate relationship is the connection that we have with the gamer.”

This isn’t to say that retail copies will disappear altogether, though. Even if digital downloads replace the traditional disc, EA won’t be abandoning retailers it says. This means that we could still see game boxes on store shelves, but when we open the box we’ll find a download code, for example.

“If customers want to buy a game at retail, they can do that too. We’ll continue to deliver games in whatever media formats make sense and as one ebbs and one starts to flow, we’ll go in that direction,”

EA has already established its own digital format for games on the PC, with a rival to Steam called Origin. From here on in we could see games offered as downloads in the Xbox Marketplace, PlayStation Store or even directly from EA’s website.

What do you think about downloads replacing the disc? Good or bad?

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Via: GamesIndustry