I want to like the EA Access program. I really want to like it. It’s just that as an avid gamer for so many years I’ve seen what EA does to both games and the industry as a whole. They ‘vanilla up’ great gaming franchises just so they can be on EVERY GODDAMN PLATFORM ON THE PLANET. They bombard our online stores with overpriced DLC and with DLC that unlocks stuff you can get through playing the damn game yourself. Call me a cynic, call me a Negative Norman, call me whatever you like. I DON’T TRUST EA… and this time I hope I’m wrong.
If you haven’t heard yet the Xbox One is getting an early beta look at the new program, EA Access, which if implemented properly could be a boon for gamers. It will allow subscribers to play through the EA ‘Vault’ of games for a mere $5.00 a month or $30.00 for the whole year. As well it gives subscribers a 10% discount across the board on all content purchased digitally alongside early access to trial versions of big games up to five days before release. Any progress you make in those trials will even carry over to the final retail copy of the game. Sounds fantastic right? Sounds too good to be true right? Well if I’ve learned anything in life it’s that things that sound too good to be true often are.
Let’s look at the beta quickly to get a sense of what games will be available in the ‘vault’. Currently we’re looking at FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Battlefield 4 and Peggle 2. Now I’ll agree those games are nothing to sneeze at but they certainly aren’t fresh on the shelves games. If you were to purchase these games it would add up to much more than the $30 per year subscription fee no doubt. The question is how long will it take for games to join the vault after release? If you think they’re adding Dragon Age Inquisition right at release you’re higher than a meth head on welfare day. The higher ups at EA who make all the money choices aren’t going to just give up $60 games to people using the EA Access service. Are you willing to wait six months after release to play the game? I am a nerd of the utmost quality and my dedication level to increasing my nerd cred is of the highest importance. I want my game on day one thank you very much. What this means for dedicated gamers is that the games they end up actually playing on the service will be the ones they weren’t really interested in in the first place.
Now I might be going off on a bit of a long shot here but let’s take a look at the rise in popularity of the free to play genre. EA, Bethesda, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Sony… they’re all pushing for the growth of the genre on consoles. I have to admit that I am a staunch hater of the F2P model but it’s seeing success and growth across the board. How many games does EA have in the pipe that might be going that route? Something tells me there might be more of them if EA Access takes hold! They’ll give you a game that’s free anyways, rendering the purchase price of a game argument a moot point, and then give you that enticing 10% discount on all of their downloadable add-ons. If EA is good at anything it’s an onslaught of DLC add-ons and those will only grow in numbers.
I think the bottom line is that EA isn’t about to give up their bottom line. No business gives up making money for the option of losing money… at least not on purpose. While it’s obvious that Sony wants to push its own PlayStation NOW program it seems suspect that they actually chose to turn down EA and its EA Access program. They stated that they felt it wasn’t a good value for their user base and that PS Plus offered the same but wasn’t restricted to EA content only. For Sony to give up a service like this and give the advantage to Microsoft seems rather suspect don’t you think? What are they seeing that we aren’t?
There’s no doubt at all that I’m playing devil’s advocate here. On the surface everything seems great, especially to the casual gamer set, who will be able to play games that they wouldn’t have otherwise purchased and hopefully find something they like. The hardcore gamer will likely see a lot less value in all of this as there’s a good chance they’ll have bought and beat and traded away these games long before they hit the vault. For a hardcore gamer to get access to NHL 15 in the vault when NHL 16 is out in a month means little in the way of value too. It means coughing up your cash for little benefit apart from the DLC savings. If anything I can see a huge increase in the already gluttonous offerings of EA DLC, like I mentioned above, because how else are they going to get their money from us?
One of the most obvious things that we can see with this program is the subtle move to pushing digital over physical. Why would anyone want to spend 10% more? God knows I wouldn’t but there’s a certain attachment I have for my game collection. For those of you who trade in games this will all but eliminate the used market for Xbox One versions of EA games if EA has their way. Less copies of used games on shelves equals more new sales of games than ever before!
I’m going to hold back judgement until I see everything that EA is going to lay on the table but as a devoted EA cynic I’m, well… cynical. There’s always a chance that EA just wants to give back to the gamers (haha, oh man, I can’t believe I just typed that… I’m crying over here) and that this will be a straight up win for all of us. I’d love if EA proved a grumpy old gamer wrong and produced a service actually worth buying into. As a gamer what are your thoughts on EA Access? Are you a hardcore gamer? Do you still see value here? Or are you more casual? Will this open you up to franchises you might not have played before? We want to hear your thoughts so don’t be afraid to sound off in the comments section!