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EA's Soderlund: 'Adapt or become irrelevant'

CVG interviews the executive vice president of EA Games about the future of entertainment

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EA says its Origin service has more than 21 million registered users

Electronic Arts is rapidly expanding to digital and online models perhaps more comprehensively than any other third party publisher. Do you think EA will still be selling content at retail in ten year's time?
I don't know, it's a hard question. We know that packaged goods work, and the majority of our current revenue comes from that. That's still a viable business model.

In the long term, we'll see more and more people gravitate to downloaded content. I happen to think that there's something about physical content, like books, that's collectable and satisfying to own.

I still want physical content but I'm not part of the new generation of gamers. I remember a time when I bought a cartridge and excitedly read the manual on my way home, imagining what the game was going to be like. Maybe kids don't have that anymore.

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There will eventually be a tipping point, one suspects. The market share of physical games will decrease and decrease until it no longer becomes commercially viable to distribute on discs. It will be decided that there is no longer a significant reason to pursue physical and retail. The big question is when.
I think it's going to be sooner than people think. I think it's going to be sooner than ten years. That's my personal opinion, and might not be what EA thinks.

Do you not feel that a digital-only model could remove casual players from the equation?
The distribution method won't change how games are advertised or marketed, just how they are delivered to customers. My 96 year-old grandmother plays Cut the Rope and World of Warcraft. Honestly I don't think there's a digital barrier for the causal audience any more.

Does Origin have the potential to expand beyond PC?
Oh absolutely. Absolutely. We need to be where the consumers are, and at the moment that's on PC.

But where could Origin expand?
I think it could expand anywhere, on any device.

Gabe Newell recently branded Windows 8 a "catastrophe". Obviously EA has a growing business in the PC space so I wanted to know what your position was on the operating system.
Well, if you look at the Windows 8 mobile platform, I actually think there's a lot of potential there. It's a significant step forward. I used to be a Windows Mobile user and I left that, but now I'm interested in moving back.

What about Windows 8 for PC? What is your position on that?
Honestly I couldn't comment because I don't know enough about it.

Finally, how much is EA investing in Wii U? Will there be just ports of other games?
Well I would say EA doesn't make ports at all anymore. We try to make games that are ideal for each platform as much as possible. Obviously for PS3 and Xbox 360 the systems are similar, so we cross-develop. But we will always try to take an approach about what is unique for that platform. Wii U has many unique capabilities so you have to embrace the unique elements of the platform otherwise there's not much point doing it at all.

There is no general rule for developing a game. We custom tailor for each one, so everything is a bit chaotic, but it's worth it.

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