EA: Digital to overtake physical in 2011

The switch from boxed to digital goods is going to happen far quicker than most of the industry has expected, according to EA CEO John Riccitiello.

In fact, the outspoken exec thinks that even by the end of this year digital revenues will exceed revenues from the sales of physical goods.

"At the end of [2011], the digital business is bigger than the packaged goods business, full stop," he told Industry Gamers. "No questions in my mind.

And it’s not just sales in stablished channels such as XBLA, PSN and the App Store, either. Riccitiello forecasts a swift change to the way in which gamers purchase traditional triple-A console games content.

"I think that we’ll find ways to even sell our packaged goods content in chunks and in pieces and subscriptions and micro-transactions," he added.

"I actually don’t think that there’s a lot of mileage in trying to decide exactly how consumers want to buy their entertainment content. They may want to buy it on an iPad; they may want to get it through the social network, they may want to pay for it through micro-transactions and magnetising, or they may want to pay for it all at once.

"They may rather pay a subscription price in order to count on what their costs are going to be, but they may want to pay for it all at once and never have to pay for it again. We’re in all of those businesses and I think the way this is going to work is that the models that the consumers like the most are going to grow the most."

Riccitiello also confessed that some of its biggest online successes have come from free-to-play games with optional in-game purchases. He also made a startling admission about FIFA 11’s Ultimate Team mode.

"Our highest average revenue per user are free-to-play games among paying users," he explained. "You think about that and say, ‘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."

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