The games industry is "pinning its hopes" on a digital future, EA Sports president Peter Moore has said.
Speaking yesterday at an event held at Premier League stadium Stamford Bridge to officially unveil FIFA Online - the upcoming free-to-play web-based version of FIFA - Moore said sales of boxed games were "flat to down", and the real growth will come from digital downloads.
"As you all know, we're flat to down in the world of packaged goods. When we look at the latest US numbers for 2009, we're actually down 10 per cent year on year. The real growth, though, is coming from digital downloads, premium downloadable content, subscriptions, micro-transactions, premium access - all of the things we look at which are innovative and, quite frankly, are upon the horizon; the future of our industry from a growth perspective," he said.
"The future of where we see growth, particularly within sports, is having a sports experience regardless of time, budget and platform. That ubiquity is going to be the key to where we're going. Are we still going to be deeply involved as we always have been, in the world of classic console games delivering personal access to the emotion of sports? You bet. But are we going to be stagnating in that world, when we see other opportunities - whether you see, for example, what the company has done in the acquisition of Playfish, which is an up and coming social network developer and publisher - looking for different ways you as consumers are consuming your entertainment content? We've got to be there, we've got to be on the front edge, and in some instances we've got to be ahead of the curve. I could argue that both with Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online and with what we're doing with FIFA Online, we're ahead of that curve right now."
Moore said FIFA Online was "one of the tips of the spears" of EA's focus on the digitisation of its content.
"This is going to be, from an Electronic Arts perspective - not just EA Sports but EA as a company and a whole - one of the tips of the spears of our strategic focus on the digitisation of our content and our business; looking at new business models on new platforms in new ways to play, with great IP that obviously is part and parcel of who we are at Electronic Arts. That's going to be important to us.
"[It's] not only critical for the growth of EA Sports, not only critical for bringing more football fans into this world, but it's also a very very very important part of the strategy of EA going forward here, as we continue to move towards this digital future that the industry is, quite frankly, pinning its hopes on."
With the release of FIFA Online, which can be played with a mouse only, EA hopes to target some of the 2 billion football fans it's identified around the world.