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EA: Digital will overtake retail in 2011

Micro-transactions and F2P are the future.

EA boss John Ricitiello believes that digitally delivered content will bring in more business than traditional packaged games by the end of 2011.

Speaking with IndustryGamers, Ricitiello explained that much of the shift will be thanks to an increased prevalence of micro-transactions and the emerging free-to-play model.

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

"Look at what Warner and Turbine did with Lord of the Rings Online. While I still think the majority of their revenue is from people giving them the premium subscription for $15 a month, there's a lot of people coming in and they upgrade. I'm not sure that $15 deal is that great a deal, but that's a separate issue.

"I guess to best answer your question," he continued, "I think these business models are going to find their own feet. We're very careful about making sure we price appropriately for platform and also for the intellectual property."

Ricitiello went on to cite FIFA Ultimate Team as an example of how digitally delivered free-to-play titles can be hugely lucrative.

"Our highest ARPU (average revenue per user) are free-to-play games among paying users. 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 $5000 in a month to play FIFA Ultimate Team. And it's free. Dirty little secret."

EA isn't the only outfit seeing the benefits of free-to-play. Earlier today, Lord of the Rings Online developer Turbine revealed that its revenues had tripled since the game ditched subscription fees.

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Fred Dutton


Fred Dutton was Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.

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