To many sports fans, EA Access is a subscription service available on Xbox One and contracts them a lot, launched by EA Sports last August, to which you give your money for FIFA 15 Coins. You can enjoy it’s service with $30 a year, or $5 a month, subscribers get unlimited play with games in the “Vault”, 10% discount on all digital purchases related to EA games, which is really valuable indeed.
Initial reaction to the service was mixed. Many didn’t like the idea of subscriptions starting to gain traction within the industry. Imagine if every publisher offered their own form of subscription and it’s easy to understand how things could get out of hand quickly. Already established were “Season Passes” for individual games (paying in advance for future downloadable content) but nothing like this. Others didn’t see the value for themselves, were irked by it being available only on Xbox One or having to pay a subscription on top of another subscription (needed to play online on the systems).
At launch the “Vault”, which contains older titles from the company’s library with which subscribers have unlimited access to play, was fairly thin on content. It included FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2 and Battlefield 4. That has since changed dramatically, as has the widespread perception of EA Access.
New titles are being added regularly and there are now nine included. In addition to the original four the Vault contains Madden NFL 15 (just added this week), NBA Live 15 (added last month), EA Sports UFC (added in December), Need for Speed Rivals, and Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. Games in the Vault will never be removed so the library of available games will continue building. FIFA 15 and NHL 15 can now be anticipated for inclusion over the summer.
With the prevalence of sports games out of EA the service has been especially appealing to those with interest in the genre. Over half the games are from EA Sports and new ones are going to be cycled in every year.
In addition to the Vault subscribers get to play games early several days before they release. The sports games have offered six hours of playtime, five days before they come out. The upcoming Battlefield Hardline will allow 10 hours. People who spend money within sports games in modes such as Ultimate Team, or on other downloadable content, can also benefit from EA Access with the 10% off those purchases.
The prospect of an EA Sports “subscription” has been floated over the years. Most consumers buy one or two sports games, not all of them, so EA could potentially make more money by offering their whole suite of sports games for a yearly fee of say $100. EA Access takes things part of the way towards that possible goal. The games are added later on, when they’re less relevant certainly, but non-sports games are included as well and for just $30 a year.
Unfortunately as EA Access adds value, particularly for those interested in sports games, it’s still only available on Xbox One. EA attempted to offer the service on PlayStation 4 but Sony rejected it by saying Access ” does not bring the kind of value PlayStation customers have come to expect”. They may not be able to hold it off much longer though as it is becoming a real selling point for Microsoft and a reason for consumers to play EA games on Xbox One rather than PS4.
There’s irony in Sony’s stance, which was obviously not about assessing value but protecting their own interests. Right now, digitally on PS4, Madden NFL 15 is going for $60. Consumers could buy two years worth of EA Access for that price. Madden NFL 25, a game that’s a year older, is $30 on PS4 — as are EA UFC and NBA Live 15.
Consumers then have a choice between $30 for all those games and several others on Xbox One, or only having enough to buy one of them on PS4 — or in the case of Madden 15 paying double.
One might wonder how EA can survive practically giving these games away. Well, for one, they’re added to EA Access after they’ve sold the vast majority of copies they’ll ever sell. This is especially true of sports games. Once their respective seasons end people stop buying them. So why not add the games to the service where people who wouldn’t have played them otherwise might spend time with them, like them, and then buy the next year’s version?
The other key here is creating additional sources of digital revenue. EA Sports makes hundreds of millions each year on Ultimate Team — a card collecting fantasy-type mode within their games. People spend money to buy “packs” of cards. There’s a barrier to that however and it’s buying the games in the first place. Those who don’t buy them can’t get to Ultimate Team where they might spend money.
Essentially this is the free-to-play model that has been popularized on mobile now reaching consoles. There will be people who wouldn’t have purchased the games, playing them on EA Access, and spending money within them. That’s a net win for EA.
For the more casual sports gamers, or those who have interest in certain sports games but not enough to justify spending $60 on them, EA Access can be a great value and is something well worth considering.