Just like video was supposed to have killed the radio star, EA Sports vice president Andrew Wilson is predicting the end of an era in how gamers shop for videogames. The future, he says, is in digital downloads, leaving brick-and-mortar storefronts like GameStop to either adapt and exist solely on the Web, or whither away and die.
"There will come a day where I think that people will stop going into Game and GameStop. And I use those purely as examples of retail," Wilson told Eurogamer earlier this week.
EA and other publishers don't exactly have a love affair going on with GameStop, which cashes in on used game sales. In an attempt to grab a piece of the pie that comes from second-hand sales, EA launched its Online Pass system , which for an additional fee ($10) gives used game buyers and renters access to multiplayer online play, group features like online dynasty and leagues, user created content, and bonus downloadable content. Each new game comes with a one-time registration code.
The point here is that EA has a vested interest in seeing boxed copy games die off in favor of digital downloads. Be that as it may, Wilson says consumers want streaming or downloading games.
"The reality is what we're doing, which is very uncomfortable, which is putting the control in the hands of the consumer and letting them decide how they want to play," said Wilson. "And when you do that it makes us all just a little bit nervous because as humans, in our DNA, we like to have control. Giving control to anyone - our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our kids - is scary. It's going to be a fun time."
Vested interest or not, Wilson might not be far off on his prediction. It could be a question of when, not if, as we've already seen a big chunk of PC game sales migrate online. Walk into your local GameStop and you're lucking if the single rack dedicated to PC games is filled on both sides, compared to console games filling shelves, racks, and discount bins around the store.
Do you agree with Wilson's vision of the future, or is it way too early to think about brick-and-mortar game stores dying off?
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