EA CEO John Riccitiello, one of the biggest advocates for the rising dominance of digitally distributed games, told IndustryGamers that he expects digital sales to exceed sales made in the retail space this year -- he predicted digital distribution would account for half of all game sales in 2010 earlier last year. "Then, you know, I think that we'll find ways to even sell our packaged goods content in chunks and in pieces and subscriptions and micro-transactions," he added.

Riccitiello brought up the success story of Turbine with Lord of the Rings Online, where the developer saw revenues triple by switching to a freemium model. For EA, there's been similar success -- Riccitiello revealed the company sees its highest average revenue per user from paying users in free-to-play games. "You think about that and say, 'how can a free game be the game they pay the most for?' We have people who are giving us $5,000 in a month to play FIFA Ultimate Team. And it's free. Dirty little secret."

According to Riccitiello, striking success in digital distribution isn't about one magic formula, it's about giving players options and seeing what they most respond to. "They may want to buy it on an iPad; they may want to get it through the social network, they may want to pay for it through micro-transactions and monetizing, or they may want to pay for it all at once," he added. "They may rather pay a subscription price in order to count on what their costs are going to be, but they may want to pay for it all at once and never have to pay for it again. We're in all of those businesses and I think the way this is going to work is that the models that the consumers like the most are going to grow the most."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.