EA to go 100% digital, calls NPD 'irrelevant'

EA has made a major push into PC digital distribution with Origin, and it seems to be paying off. Analysts have predicted that we're heading toward an all-digital age, and EA intends to speed up the process by actively moving toward that goal itself.

"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," EA Games president Frank Gibeau said. "Ultimately Electronic Arts, at some point in the future - much like your question about streaming and cloud - we're going to be a 100% digital company, period. It's going to be there some day. It's inevitable."

He also noted the problem that many in the industry have pointed out: our only measure of tracking sales numbers is through NPD, which tracks retail sales but has lagged behind on reporting digital numbers. Part of that is probably that the large digital marketplace Steam is reluctant to share its sales data, but it still creates a definite issue of incomplete data.

"I think one of the problems with this industry right now is that people tend to look at it like they're looking at an elephant through a straw," he told GI.biz. "They only see a little parts of it and they're not looking at the total picture, right? Between Facebook, social, mobile, free to play on PC, Asia, consoles... it's a vibrant, growing, huge market. An occasional bad report from NPD, which measures a sliver of what's actually happening in gaming gives people an erroneous impression."

"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." This is similar to a previous statement from corporate communications executive Tiffany Steckler, who called NPD's data "a misrepresentation of the entire industry."

In a statement to GameSpot, NPD Games president David McQuillan said he was surprised at Gibeau's comments. "Successful companies are looking at how their products are performing within all channels, particularly retail," he said. "For that reason, we were surprised to read the comments by Mr. Gibeau that EA does not look at NPD data internally at all. While we will not comment on the specifics on our long-standing relationship with EA, we can say with confidence that we have daily dealings with all of our major publisher clients. And we know for a fact they’re using the data." He also noted that their estimates show 56% of consumer spend is in physical software, and 70% in Q4.

While NPD defends its retail figures as valuable, it seems to understand the changing tide. The company announced last year that it would be moving into digital tracking as well. In the same breath, however, it pointed out that it needs digital retailers to open their doors to the tracking firm to have accurate figures.