EA has decided to restructure its local contracts in Germany and gradually end the sale of physical copies of games in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
FIFA 23 and Need For Speed Unbound will be among the last games to be released in boxes in German-speaking countries. As of May 2022, EA will “no longer generate sales of packaged goods” in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, it explained in a statement. shared by Wirtschaft games (opens in new tab). This decision was made shortly after EA decided to stop selling physical copies of games from its in-house Origins store.
This decision did not come out of nowhere. EA declared in your annual report (opens in new tab) that “the ongoing shift from physical goods to digital downloads continues to have a negative impact on revenue development”. The decline in physical copies sold can be seen across the board. In the US, physical copy sales dropped from 80% of total copies sold in 2009 to 17% in 2018.
Looking ahead, EA says it had to put aside physical sales to avoid financial losses caused by selling physical products in a market that didn’t want them. “The company’s ability to develop and support digital products and services” is the most important thing for EA, according to its annual financial report.
not the first
EA isn’t the only publisher looking to downgrade its physical game distribution. Activision Blizzard dissolved its German subsidiary in May, with commercial operations ending in March 2021. While the entire Germany-based team has been laid off, publishing activities are being controlled at Activision Blizzard’s European headquarters in London.
As digital sales steadily increased, Activision Blizzard’s local physical sales in Germany dropped from €55 million ($55.1 million / £47.7 million / AUS$85.5 million) in 2018 to €35 million. million ($35.1 million / £30.4 million / AUS$54.5 million) in 2020. Due to digital sales taking precedence over physical sales, a localized approach to sales and marketing has become increasingly redundant. Therefore, regional headquarters like the one found in Germany became less beneficial for selling products.
This could be the beginning of the end for physical video game sales; Over the past decade, across the gaming industry, we’ve seen publishers reporting a shift from predominantly physical sales to digital sales. The decisions by EA and Activision Blizzard to withdraw from Germany and reduce their approach to physical copies could be the first big examples of a step away from boxed games, with other publishers following suit in other regions.
However, we may also see an increase in physical collector’s editions and limited editions such as the special edition of The Force Unleashed produced by Limited Run Games.
As fewer people buy physical copies, publishers will have less of an incentive to sell them and therefore will be able to follow in EA’s footsteps. While this might annoy physical video game fans or dedicated collectors, I have a feeling this ball isn’t going to stop rolling.