A Question Of Value: Who Really Benefits From EA Access?

Yesterday EA announced a new premium service, coming exclusively to Xbox One. Dubbed “EA Access”, it will allow users to browse and play a growing selection of the publisher’s “biggest games”, all for the low cost sum of £3.99 a month.

When the announcement went live, my immediate reaction was sorely apathetical. Over the years EA has built a reputation for itself when it comes to putting the rinse on a gamer’s finances, from ridiculous in-app purchases in its mobile division to championing the now-defunct “online pass” system. Given its track record, to me, Access sounded like yet another scheme to get players to part with their cash. However, upon further inspection, Access could actually be one of the smartest and most gamer-friendly things EA has ever come up with.

So, how does it actually work? Well, for £3.99 a month (or £19.99 a year) users can browse The Vault, a library of EA games for Xbox One that can be downloaded and played straight away. Though comparable to PlayStation Plus and Games with Gold, it sounds as if The Vault will continue to grow as opposed to cycling new games in and out every month or so.

Currently EA Access is in beta and already offers users five games including Battlefield 4, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2, and FIFA 14. As the publisher fairly points out, these games would cost you over £70 combined, whether brought in-store or via download. Meanwhile a year’s access to these titles would cost less than a third of that. Even if you were to buy physical copies and trade them in later, you still can’t beat that price.

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The biggest problem with EA Access, though common similar services, is that the service won’t include new releases. So, if you’re stoked for Dragon Age III or Battlefield: Hardline, you’re still going to have to pay full price at retail or make use of the service’s 10% discount across all EA digital content.

Arguably, users could simply wait for months on end until these games eventually appear in The Vault, but then that begs the question: who is really benefiting the most from Access? Well, it certainly isn’t EA’s most loyal and devoted fans, especially for those who pick up the publisher’s titles on day one. For them The Vault holds no value, the best case scenario being a slew of digital discounts on already-overpriced games as well as limited-time trials to new releases.

No, who EA really seem to be going for are the casual sector, riding on the success of similar services such as PlayStation Plus and even Netflix. These are typically the sort of gamers who aren’t too fussed about staying on top of new releases and will happily slap down $30 a year just to root around The Vault. As long as EA continues to update this library of free games periodically, for them, Access will continue to provide excellent value.

For the publisher it’s a win-win situation. Within a year of launching, games like FIFA, NFL, and even Battlefield rapidly lose value as they are quickly usurped by the next annual instalment. Therefore, making these game free for Access subscribers isn’t going to put a dent in the publisher’s profits. There’s also a good chance that, for example, after playing Battlefield 4 via Access, a member could then be tempted into buying a new copy of Hardline when that comes out. Whether brought in-store or through Xbox Live, it’s still a sale for EA, regardless. The only other disadvantage to EA Access is what the service means for Xbox’s Games with Gold. The likely result is that titles featured in The Vault won’t cross over with Microsoft’s own monthly offerings.

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There’s also the question of the effect it will have on EA’s participation in PlayStation Plus, which currently plays host to Dead Space 3 and has previously seen the likes of Battlefield 3. A Sony representative saying this morning that EA Access is not on PlayStation because, in the face of PS+, they “don’t think asking our fans to pay an additional $5 a month for this EA-specific program represents good value to the PlayStation gamer.” It’s a rather strong statement, and one that could sour a working relationship, but it also takes the ability to make an informed choice out of consumers’ hands.

Overall, Access isn’t an entirely surprising move from EA though one that will be interesting to watch as the service is rolled out in the United States and Europe in the coming months. Though some will be eager to see it fall flat on its face, there will no doubt be others who genuinely benefit from what it has to offer. Will you signing up Access when it comes out? What do you think of Sony’s stance and would you like to see it on PlayStation 4? Be sure to let us know what you think the comments below.

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20 Comments

  1. I’ve been stung enough times by EA now that I am VERY wary of everything they do.

    That and they’ve changed most of the franchises I enjoyed to be as monetised as possible. Thus removing most of the interest I had in the first place.

    EA can do one.

  2. I doubt EA will vanish from PS+. EA want to make money, if they can PS+ old games and sell DLC on the back of it, they will.

    • I think this is the whole point of EA Access. Selling DLC. You rent the game, you buy DLC.

  3. I think you’ve hit on it exactly when you describe it as Netflix. It sounds purely like a revenue stream that leverages their old titles, which is fine if there’s an old EA game that you want to pick up, but didn’t get around to. But games lose their value very quickly, so while it may look good value at first, by the time a game is added to the vault, how much would it have cost from somewhere else? And how often are you going to have an old EA game that passed you by? Chances are, if you like their games, you’ll have bought the ones you wanted already.

    Obviously, it does compete (in a way) with PS+ as far as their Instant Game collection goes, so I can see Sony not wanting competition there, but the same applies to MS’s Games for Gold, so I don’t see that as the main reason for Sony not getting on board.

    I don’t think it will hurt Sony in the long run, EA are in this business to make money and not releasing on the biggest console platform isn’t something they could entertain.

  4. I’m trying to find a cheap pre-owned copy of Battlefield 4 for PS4 so that I can join in with games that my friends play, as well as the TSA meets. The cheapest I can find is about £30, and on a student budget and with other big games like Destiny and AC: Unity coming out this year, I’m still hesitant to buy it at that price.

    The thought of paying £20 a year to play a large library of what I generally consider high quality games sounds pretty amazing to me, considering a one of payment for the service would be cheaper than buying a game outright, and I wouldn’t have to worry about a monthly subscription. The only issue would be how quickly new releases would be added, considering at the moment I’m currently only interested in playing the Battlefield games, but even then that’s only a small complaint.

    I find it odd that Sony has said no considering that the choice to subscribe would be purely the customer’s, and as said above this decision has taken the choice out of our hands.

  5. Well the only 2 EA games I usually buy in a year would be FIFA & BF so if I had an xbox it wouldn’t be doing me no favours. Especially as you’d probably have to wait a year after they’re released. The more I think about this, the worse it seems.

  6. Looks like a poor copy of PS+ to me. Apparently it’s stated in the terms & conditions that they have the right to remove games you’ve collected through your sub at any time for no reason. I wouldn’t trust them.

  7. What surprises me the most, is that they haven’t tried to get this on PS3 and Xbox 360 – the wealth of titles there, most of which will now be pulling in little to no revenue would be a massive draw, and I think if they had gone with PS3 and PS4 Sony would have bitten their hands off, but right now, there is a dearth of titles on PS4 and XB1 and not only from EA – I think Sony will put EA Access on PS4 but not until there’s a better and more varied range of titles, I mean why couldn’t they have FIFA or Madden and replace the other with NFS: Rivals?

    And it’s not as though EA are pumping titles out with the rapidity that they did. It sounds a good deal for the occasional 1 month access people, but when I get the £20 yearly sub, it’ll be on the basis of a perceived value later down the line, rather than a wealth of gaming goodness in the here and now.

    • Also the 10% discount has to actually MEAN something, there’s no point in a 10% discount if it’s not low enough to make me consider not purchasing physical from say Amazon or ShopTo. Also I wouldn’t be surprised if the save transfer thing only works for digital copies, and not physical discs.

  8. On the face of it, I think 20 quid a year is great value for money. Whether it will actually turn out to be worth it though, is when we know how old the games will be when they are added to the service. For certain gamers, this could offer far greater value than PS+.

  9. Doesn’t benefit me what so ever, the only EA game I have is FIFA 14 & no one will rent the last year FIFA & any other sport games they have so what value is this

  10. In fact, is this Microsoft already slowly creeping back to the ‘always on-line’ thing?

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