EA boss John Riccitiello says the simultaneous retail and digital launch of Mass Effect 2 on the PlayStation 3 was a big success, despite being Sony's first-ever "day and day" videogame release.
It surprised me a bit to learn that prior to Mass Effect 2, Sony had never before released a game digitally and at retail at the same time. The company was understandably "very cautious" about the ability of its infrastructure to handle dealing a 12GB download to gamers on launch day, according to Riccitiello, who described the release as "mostly a technology test." But it all worked out in the end.
"This was really more about proving it could be done than it was proving what the opportunity would be," he said at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference last week. Yet he admitted that while EA did "absolutely nothing" to promote the game, the digital version nonetheless managed to account for a double-digit percentage of Mass Effect 2 sales on the platform.
"An ummarketed game one year after the original was done on the Xbox and the PC, we released the PS3 and managed to do very, very well with it," he added. He didn't reveal specific numbers, saying only that sales were "meaningful."
It's unlikely to mean a wholesale policy shift at Sony, however, as the retail/digital divide is as much the result of internal policies as it is technology. "[Sony and Microsoft] have got to manage both selling boxes at retail, and it's generally a pretty thin margin business," Riccitiello explained. "And so they basically negotiate and leverage shelf space on the promise of making retail margin on software." Less than a dozen games currently available at retail are also available for download on the PlayStation Network.