EA's new subscription service: What it is, why it matters

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EA is about to make an offer to Xbox One owners that (it hopes) they can't refuse. Today it announced the EA Access subscription service for the Xbox One, which provides access to a library of EA games for one recurring monthly fee. But is this new deal something that you'll want to invest your money in? Is the promise of an ever-expanding library of games too good to be true? And is this a good thing for gamers and the industry they love?

First, the details. EA Access is a subscription-based service: for a monthly fee of $4.99 (or a discounted annual fee of $29.99), you get access to various EA titles, collectively known as the EA Vault. Initially, the Vault will include Battlefield 4, Madden NFL 25, Fifa 14, and Peggle 2, though more games will be added over time. In addition to this, you also get a 10 percent discount on all EA digital purchases through the Xbox Live Marketplace--including DLC and new games. That's the gist: though some unanswered questions remain: How often will EA add games to its Vault? And will it be committed to adding worthwhile titles to the lineup, or just the undesirables? Despite the unknowns, it still sounds like a promising offer.

For gamers, this could end up being a really good deal. You're getting access to an ever-expanding library of games--the Vault collection alone is what will likely entice you into paying for Access in the first place. Granted, it'll depend on what games are included, and how frequently new ones will be made available. Hopefully it wouldn't be too long of a wait, because it's not like the Xbox One has a huge backlog of games to fall back on. With a regular flow of new games coming in, Access could potentially offer a huge bang for your buck.

Plus, if you're a big EA fan, the 10 percent discount on the digital content would pay for the subscription in about five new game purchases, assuming you're paying the yearly cost.That alone doesn't sound too great if you don't buy every sports game and shooter that EA puts on store shelves, but that 10 percent is certainly more than you're going to get from anywhere else for a day-one purchase of a brand new game.

From EA's point of view, the industry giant stands to gain plenty from a successful subscription service. Not only will it get a steady stream of income from a library of games that have generally tapered off in terms of sales, it's building its franchises' audiences. Imagine that you haven't played any games in the Battlefield series before, and Battlefield 4 pops up on Access for you to try. You may end up loving it--and before you know it, you're putting in a pre-order for a 10-percent discounted Battlefield: Hardline. EA has created a new fan out of you AND coerced you into buying a new game directly from the publisher--with no middleman (GameStop) in there to get a piece of the profit. It's diabolical, I tell you!

But hey, while it's all well and good that EA obviously stands to benefit from Access, adding another subscription-based service to the market could also be great for the industry as a whole. PlayStation Now is another upcoming service that will give subscribers access to a library of games. And with the two services competing against each other, it's gamers who benefit. With EA kicking off Access, it wouldn't be surprising if other publishers like Ubisoft or Nintendo (come on Virtual Console subscription model) started services of their own. That could lead to a healthy competitive environment with each service trying to one-up the others with better deals.

It looks like we'll have to wait and see how it goes, but there could be a bright future in more publishers adopting the subscription service model. Expanding libraries of games have proven to be a pretty awesome things; PlayStation Plus' Instant Game Collection and Xbox's Games with Gold have added an incredible amount of value to Sony and Microsoft's online services. It's about time other companies jumped on the bandwagon and gave me access to more games than I'd know what to do with.

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