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Published on July 31st, 2014 | by Chris Scott

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Electronic Arts: Access is the Future

Electronic Arts is a company that I and many others have been very critical of over the past 18 months or so. They’ve made a lot of poor moves that hurt confidence in them as a publisher. SimCity and Battlefield 4 were both broken at launch, both plagued with a variety of problems including some crippling design issues. Their mobile work has been a mess, including the abomination that was Dungeon Keeper. And don’t even get me started on their E3 press event. With all these major issues at play, it is often easy to ignore some of their other smarter moves: improving Origin to not be a giant dung heap of a service, awarding free PC games to Origin users on a monthly basis, delaying titles to focus on making them the best games possible, and starting EA Access.

Alright well, maybe nobody is ignoring EA Access. The company’s new subscription service offering a selection of EA Vault titles and early access to new games has been all over the online gaming community the last few days. How ever you want to look at it, EA Access is a smart move and one that could very well change the way we view games.

For years now, the game industry has been trying to figure out a way to take greater control over its revenue, specifically the revenue created by the purchasing of used games. And much of that revenue is currently locked inside the vault of Gamestop. Publishers have tried a variety of different tactics including online passes, season passes, and promised beta access, but none of these has proved to be a truly effective solution. One area that has been successful for platform holders Sony and Microsoft is Playstation Plus and Xbox Live Gold.

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While at their core, Playstation Plus and Xbox Live Gold are pay-to-play services that grant you access to multiplayer gaming on their networks, they have softened the blow by providing “free” games alongside the service, making both Plus and Gold subscription services granting you access to an ever increasing library of titles. EA Access looks to be emulate this approach with its service coming to the Xbox One.

EA Access will kick off with four selections from their “Vault”: Madden NFL 25, FIFA 14, Peggle 2, and Battlefield 4. In addition to these titles, EA Access subscribers will receive early access (five days prior to release) to this year’s selection of sports games (Madden, NHL, FIFA, NBA Live) and Dragon Age: Inquisition*, as well as a 10% discount on the purchase of EA games, DLC, and in-game currency. The subscription will cost $30 a year or $5 a month. I don’t know about you, but as someone that has hovered my cursor over the BUY button for FIFA 14 many times, getting access to it for ½ price plus getting 10% off NHL 15 seems like a deal to me.

The key to making this service successful is EA continuing to add value to the subscription as things progress. If EA can offer up Need for Speed Rivals, UFC, Titanfall and so on as time passes, I can see this being a huge win for them and it may entice other publishers to follow suit with their own subscription services, something I would gladly embrace. I see value here for me as a consumer, but if I cease seeing that value I’ll stop utilizing the service. It’s a choice and good on EA and Microsoft for allowing me to make it.

The perception that people have of EA at this point is not a good one, and every move by the company is looked at through distrustful eyes. I fully understand. Every decision EA makes I heavily scrutinize because I’ve been burned by them one too many times. That said, EA Access feels like a proper step for them. It is a decently priced service that is offering significant value to its customers and isn’t being forced down our throat like online passes were. This could be a great way for gamers to try out some of EA’s library for a fraction of the current cost and, maybe, make them into fans of the company’s products going forward. If the publisher can pull this off properly, EA could rebound from being the most hated company in games to one of its most loved.

*There have been reports that some of the early access content is locked behind a two hour wall. I can see some people having an issue with this, if the only thing they are purchasing this for is the early access. I for one see value in the offerings that EA is making here and my suggestion to those poo-pooing the possible lockage of content is to not purchase EA Access and wait for Dragon Age to come out five days later.

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  • Wolf

    Subscriptions……
    I get why they can be great, the growing library of content, access, discounts. What I don’t like is the idea of paying for a service over time especially if I’m not currently using it.

    I tend to invest in a game for a long time, so my library grows in fits and slowly. I also have limited hard drive space on my (2nd SKU?) PS3, so downloading stuff every month was never an option. (not to mention general limits on time to play video games as a working adult).
    If I have a subscription, I feel obligated to use it to the max, which adds stress to something that should be fun. (Also why I’m getting rid of the Netflix physical DvDs)
    Its not a big deal if I’m not forced to use it, but PS4 and XB1 both force you online, so you have a forced subscription, and that is actually the number 1 reason why I’m not excited about joining gen 8.
    My PS3 is closing on 8 years old, 60*8 + 500$ = 980? While that’s obviously a simplistic view of the cost structure, it is still a consideration. I invested a lot (the $500) to have a system for the next X years, I do not want to pay more to have that system.
    Sorry for the rant, but this is something I am concerned about, as I agree, it could be a linchpin for how the industry grows for the next X years.

    • Chris Scott

      Except PS4 and Xbox One don’t force you online. If you want to play multiplayer games you need the service but if you don’t play them on the regular there is no need to sign on for an entire year.

      Flip side of that is that I just bought a new gaming PC. It isn’t top of the line (more mid tier for a gaming rig) but It will probably last me about three to four years in its current configuration. Total cost was about $1350. After those three or so years are up I’ll have to upgrade the gfx card again ($200-$300) which will up the total amount of my PC to around $1500 and by about year six the processor won’t be current enough to play anything new so I’ll have to upgrade again. If you use your (self admittedly simplistic view of cost structure) numbers at $980 over 8 years. I will have spent around $3000 on gaming on my PC during the same time you spent under a grand. And neither of us have purchased any games yet. Sure the online is “free” on the PC but there are different costs associated with it.

  • Wolf

    I don’t normally do this, but it seemed very appropriate: http://9gag.com/gag/aXEZ2RP

    • Chris Scott

      That comparison is a little unfair being as Unreal Tournament was built from the ground up as a multiplayer only experience while Gears Judgement was built as a Gears game (single player and cooperative multiplayer campaign, as well as competitive multiplayer). Additionally that comparison is inaccurate. The game launched with eight competitive multiplayer maps, four of which could be used on only one mode, shortly after launch a free map was released with a new game mode, bringing the total to 9. Sure that doesn’t make the numbers look much better but when considering the entire package, it does flesh it out some.

      And yes, you do have to pay for online multiplayer play but having played a lot of both console and PC multiplayer over the years, the experience is more standardized on console and finding games that pit you against players of equal skill (generally) always seems to work better on them because the server structure is controlled.

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