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EA CEO Says Digital Will Dominate Retail In 2011

by Jeff Cork on Jan 08, 2011 at 09:48 AM

With a roster than includes Madden Football, Mass Effect, and the Sims, it's easy to forget about some of EA's free-to-play offerings. The company is banking on the success of games like FIFA Ultimate Team and the upcoming Battlefield Play4Free in a big way. According to EA's CEO John Riccitiello, free-to-play games are where the real money is, and he makes a bold claim: The digital side of the games industry will surpass the traditional model in terms of revenue this year.

"At the end of [2011], the digital business is bigger than the packaged goods business, full stop. No questions in my mind," Riccitiello said in an interview with Industry Gamers. "Then, you know, I think that we’ll find ways to even sell our packaged goods content in chunks and in pieces and subscriptions and micro-transactions."

Riccitiello says that gamers who play free-to-play titles are actually the consumers who spend the most money. "'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."

Publishers used to sell their games at retail and call it good. Now, players can download new maps, weapons, characters, gear for their avatars, and more. And you can bet that as long as people are willing to spend money on those add-ons, savvy companies will continue to keep churning it all out. While spending $5,000 on this may seem a bit steep, it certainly makes sense if you're a superfan with a lot of extra cash.