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Digital Gaming Downloads Closing In on Cartridge Sales

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* Digital game sales at Electronic Arts jumped 20 percent over previous year
* Company says that number could surpass 40 percent in 2017
* The trend spells trouble for gaming retailers

Electronic Arts announced its annual financial results for the period ending March 2017, and the numbers look good for digital downloads. Peaking over $3 billion, digital game sales rose 20 percent over the preceding year, and now comprise 61 percent of EA’s net sales. The company now predicts that full-game downloads for the console market will grow to over 40 percent by the end of this year.

While EA may not achieve that much growth in the digital sector because of the kind of games its sells, the evidence suggests that console owners increasingly prefer downloaded games. If you like buying physical game cartridges, PC Mag cautions that it might not be too long before digital sales surpass 50 percent. At that point, physical game releases will begin to disappear simply because physical games are more costly to produce than their digital counterparts.

When that happens, game retailers will take a substantial hit because there won’t be as many games for them to sell, and they’ll have no easy way to adjust their business models. The changing sales figures could also influence hardware production by companies like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. First item of consideration: eliminating cartridge slots (just like laptops eliminated CD drive) and upgrading the memory to serve digital games intead.