During a recent visit to EA's offices, Wedbush Securities' Michael Pachter (and other analysts) got what he calls a "candid" view of the future for the publisher. Among the many glowing things that Mr. Pachter had to say in the report from the meeting, he reveals that EA group general manager Nick Earl told him EA has plans "to release premium downloadable content (PDLC) as a product for sale prior to the release of a packaged product."
Comparing the PDLC to Battlefield 1943 -- a game for which we unfortunately have yet to see any post-release support from EA -- Earl revealed that the content will be priced at between $10 to $15 through Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, and will arrive prior to a "full-blown packaged game." That "full-blown packaged game" will of course still carry a "full retail price" when it does arrive in stores. Pachter expanded to Gamasutra, "I think that the plan is to release PDLC at $15 that has 3 - 4 hours of gameplay, so [it has] a very high perceived value, then [EA will] take the feedback from the community (press and players) to tweak the follow-on full game that will be released at a normal packaged price point."
This is just one part of the digital effort EA is gearing up for in the coming year, according to the report, which details an expected "1/3 [growth] of revenues over the next few years" in the digital market. Between this and 'Project Ten Dollar,' EA's certainly taking an aggressive approach to new monetization routes on the digital frontier. It remains to be seen how it'll all pan out, but for now things are at least staying interesting.
Update: EA's Jeff Brown explained the PDLC concept to us in more detail this afternoon, saying:
"EA is working on a number of projects for delivering premium content to consumers before, during, and after the launch of a packaged-goods version of the game. EA SPORTS, EA Games and EA Play are each experimenting with download strategies that deliver fresh game content in formats players want to experience. To date, there is no set pricing strategy for the entire EA portfolio. And many of the proposals include free-to-play content on models similar to Madden Ultimate Team, Battlefield Heroes and Battlefield 1943. None of the proposals call for charging consumers for traditionally free game demos."