(Pocket-lint) - Electronic Arts firmly believes that the shift to digital downloads over physical copies of games is gathering pace. It has claimed that, by the end of 2017, digital downloads will account for at least 40 per cent of all sales.

During a financial call held yesterday, EA's chief financial officer, Blake Jorgensen, cited sales of Battlefield 1 as past of the company's reasoning. He said that 33 per cent of Battlefield 1 full game sales were made through online stores, such as PlayStation Store or Xbox Store.

That was four per cent higher than forecast and, if at the current rate of growth, means the next batch of releases will do better digitally.

It might come as something of a surprise to many. Disc copies of games are traditionally cheaper, easier to find on discount and have resale value. Games on Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo's online stores are usually priced at the full RRP and rarely deviate.

However, with the rise in broadband speeds across the country and larger capacity hard drives installed in consoles (with the exception of the Nintendo Switch, which really requires an option microSD card to expand its storage to useful levels) many gamers are clearly opting for the convenience of purchasing games online.

One exception to EA's estimations is expected to be FIFA 18, the latest in a franchise which sells in bucketloads in markets that can't get the broadband speeds to download games at more than a snail's pace.

Writing by Rik Henderson.