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EA: PC could trump consoles, handhelds for us

Electronic Arts is invested heavily in the console and handheld markets, but the PC could be its most important platform going forward, its Games Label head said in a recent interview.

Electronic Arts is finding quite a bit to like in the PC market, the company revealed in a recent interview.

Speaking with Gamasutra, EA Games Label president Frank Gibeau said PC titles are quickly becoming a key component in his company's strategy. And over time, he can see the PC become the leading platform in EA's business.

"The user base is gigantic," Gibeau told Gamasutra about the PC business, according to an interview posted today. "PC retail may be a big problem, but PC downloads are awesome. The margins are much better and we don't have any rules in terms of first party approvals. From our perspective, it's an extremely healthy platform. It's totally conceivable it will become our biggest platform."

It's an interesting comment, considering EA is so heavily invested in the console market. In fact, console games accounted for 72 percent of EA's net revenues during its last reported quarter, according to its filing. PC games made up just 14 percent of its net revenue.

As Gibeau noted, his company is looking to change that by capitalizing on the digital side of the PC games market, a space that delivers high margins and a large customer base to capitalize on. Best of all, it's larger than the traditional PC games retail channel.

In September, the NPD Group revealed that 11.2 million digital PC games were purchased online during the first six months of 2010. Just 8.2 million PC games were bought at retail outlets during the same period.

EA's focus on PCs might also have something to do with its declining console business. According to the company's fiscal third-quarter filing, console sales were down 13 percent year over year. Game sales for the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS were down 27 percent and 22 percent, respectively. All told, the company's net revenue slid 15 percent year over year.

But in order for EA to actually see the PC become its most important platform, the company will need things turn around in that space, as well. Its fiscal third quarter revealed PC sales were down 27 percent year over year.

Looking ahead, EA might be able to change its luck in the PC business with the help of Star Wars: The Old Republic. The massively multiplayer online role-playing game, which is scheduled to launch this year, is being developed by BioWare and will be published by Electronic Arts. It's easily one of the most anticipated PC games.

However, The Old Republic will be facing stiff competition. Last year, Activision Blizzard, EA's top rival in the gaming business, released World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. That title became the fastest-selling PC game of all time, according to Blizzard, hitting 3.3 million unit sales in just 24 hours of availability.