Electronic Arts plans to be one-hundred percent digital, and according to one EA executive, and says that the NPD Group's monthly reports are "irrelevant." EA Games president Frank Gibeau told Games Industry International in an interview published today that the company is moving towards a digital-only future.
"It's in the near future. It's coming," he said. "We have a clear line of sight on it and we're excited about it. 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. If the gamer wants to get the game through a digital download and that's the best way for them to get it, that's what we're going to do. It has a lot of enhancements for our business. It allows us to keep more that we make. It allows us to do some really interesting things from a service level standpoint; we can be a lot more personalized with what we're doing."
Gibeau emphasized that this transition won't happen overnight and that consumers will still be able to buy EA games at traditional retail.
"But if customers want to buy a game at retail, they can do that too," he continued. "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," Gibeau said. "For us, the fastest growing segment of our business is clearly digital and clearly digital services and ultimately Electronic Arts, at some point in the future…we're going to be a 100 percent digital company, period. It's going to be there someday. It's inevitable."
But the most startling comment in the interview delivered some harsh criticism to NPD Group, the research firm that has been monitoring retail sales data for a very long time.
"An occasional bad report from NPD, which measures a sliver of what's actually happening in gaming, gives people an erroneous impression," he said. "My point is it's an irrelevant measure on the industry. It's totally irrelevant. We don't even really look at it internally anymore. We're more focused on our services and how we're connected with consumers. The number of Nucleus accounts we're growing, the amount of engagement time that we have, the amount of services that we're running--those are more important metrics for us than unit sales according to NPD and North America."