Thursday, August 7, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

EA revealed further details about their EA Access program yesterday.

While discussing their early access model, EA clarified that early adopters can expect to play either specific game modes or the full game prior to its release. Better yet, any progress earned during the early access period would be saved for the official game’s release. While this may not make a difference to those that are playing the full game anyway, it would be neat to, say… carry over your progress in Battlefield Hardline’s multiplayer into the full game once it launches.

Though it was safe to assume when EA Access was announced, EA reinforced the point that games in the Vault will stack over time. This is one of the aspects that separates EA Access from Playstation Plus and Games with Gold, and brings it more in line with Playstation Now. At the end of every month, I scramble to connect and hook up my four consoles (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One) to catch any downloads I may have missed throughout the last 30 days. It becomes a bit of a hassle on my part to double back and make sure that I hadn’t missed anything before the month is over. At least with EA Access, I can go back months, probably years down line sifting through a Netflix catalog to see both what’s new, and what’s old.

Now, EA ensures to note that Vault titles can be removed later down the line. However they’ve stated that they’ll make an effort to notify players when titles will be removed from The Vault. While EA is willing to be accommodating about this, it reinforces the hesitancy many gamers withhold about fully committing to digital libraries, services, and market places. Games are becoming less and less of tangible products that are ours to keep, and looking to be more and more gated by the permission of distributers giving us the right to play.

But in the meantime, I can deal with a several month grace period to download a game that’s offered to me for free with a $30 subscription.

Related Write up

EA’s Xbox One exclusive Access program was announced and released yesterday, which will allow gamers full access – ala Netflix – to their Vault of games which will be added to throughout the Access beta and beyond for $5 a month or $30 annually. Currently, that ‘Vault’ is comprised of FIFA 14, Madden 25, Peggle 2, and Battlefield 4. In addition to unlimited access, EA’s program also offers 10% discounts on all digital games and even earlier access (can’t stop saying ‘access’) to new titles. Dragon Age Inquisition will be the first to be available to subscribers 5 days before its official release date.

It’s a model that expands off of their short lived EA Sports Season Ticket program, and further apes the Netflix and Playstation Plus model. But would I be willing to pay for another subscription fee in addition to PSN and Xbox Live?

When looking at it within the context of sheer pricing and numbers, gamers could earn their money back quicker than a Playstation Plus subscription. Of the above 4 games that will be available for the Access beta, altogether, they’re worth more than even an annual subscription price, and rivals the value of a Steam sale if you simply pay for a single month.

EA makes a great case here, even if Sony doesn’t think so; however the library has to speak to me long before I even consider opting in for a 1 month trial. FIFA and Madden cater to a completely different gamer than myself since I don’t give a shit about sports games. Battlefield 4? Hah! Fuck off. That only leaves Peggle 2 which doesn’t stand on its own as being worth it for any level of commitment. As you can tell, discounts and early access doesn’t interest me in the least.

Pigeon holing it into the Xbox One could stymie the appeal of the service with such a limited list of EA releases on the platform. Say if it was also available on Xbox 360 where games like the Mass Effect Trilogy, Dead Spaces 1&2, and Mirrors Edge just to name a few were available in the Vault, and that could garner immediate attraction to a subscription.

Perhaps this may be a bit too early to introduce such a service on a new platform, but what about down the line? Unless EA Access completely tanks, you can bet that such a program would catch on to other publishers just like Games with Gold caught onto Xbox platforms. Imagine if other major publishers such as Ubisoft and 2K created similar models. Even if we’re looking at three different subscriptions ranging around $30 each, and among those subscriptions, Battlefront, Far Cry 4, and Gearbox’s Battleborn become available along with other great games across three different publishers, that alone is an instant return value.

It’s easy to cringe at the thought of EA looking for a financial commitment, especially in the wake of Sony – who leads with the universally favored service – that turned down EA’s offer comparing it to their own free games and discounts service. It’s easy to say that “EA’s just lookin’ for my money!” Well no shit, of course they are. But looking at it within the context of potentially having a large quantity of quality games available for just $30 a year? If both ‘Q’s’ match up – and having more… good games is absolutely essential – then I’m willing to fork over half the cost of a full retail game for multiple. 

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