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Syntheseizure avatar 11:14 AM on 07.30.2014
EA Access Could Threaten PlayStation Now's Success... But That's Okay

EA is not often a company that stands for good value. In fact, they usually represent the opposite--forcing a pay-to-win model on FIFA multiplayer, charging Battlefield 4 players an extra $50 for a ďpremium membership,Ē and offering 19 bare-bones expansions for The Sims 3 at $20 each which add items and features that should have been in the original base game are good examples. This is why the announcement of EA Access comes as such a shock, because, unless Iím missing something (which Iím sure I am), then EA is offering a subscription service with actual value.

EA Access, available on Xbox One later this year, will reportedly offer unlimited access to select EA titles for a fee of $5/month or $30/year. The four titles announced for the beta are FIFA 14, Madden 14, Peggle 2, and Battlefield 4, worth a collective total of about $140 if purchased new. Even with crippling pay systems currently harming two of these games, five dollars is a pittance of a subscription and way out of character for EA, who Iím sure havenít charged five dollars for anything except maybe a power-up in their mobile Tetris game or a pack of digital cards with soccer players on them. This leads me to believe that they may be ripping out features and content from the games, making them glorified demos, but Iím sure Iím wrong and EA just wants to line their pockets any way they can. Maybe they make such profit with overpriced add-ons and FIFA transactions that they donít need to charge for their games anymore, or perhaps they are just tired of seeing used copies of their games on Gamestop shelves when they donít see a cut. At any rate, I will remain at least partially optimistic until launch.

The reason Iím optimistic is because this is a bold and important step for video game pay models. Gamers today often find that $60 is too high a price to pay for a new game, so they wait until they can get the game used, at a massive discount on a Steam sale, or maybe even cheaper in a Humble Bundle. With EA Access, EA is offering gamers another way to choose how they want to experience and price their content, and choice is never a bad thing. This is the publisherís way of cashing in big on their back catalog; their logic is that gamers wonít rent or buy used games when they could get a handful of games for five dollars, and thatís pretty sound.

But not everyone is on board. Sony released a baffling statement regarding EA Access earlier today, saying that the program wonít appear on the PlayStation 4 because ďit does not bring the kind of value PlayStation customers have come to expect,Ē and that ďgamers are looking for memberships that offer a multitude of services, across various devices, for one low price. We donít think asking our fans to pay an additional $5 a month for this EA-specific program represents good value to the PlayStation gamer.Ē This is very thinly-veiled corporate pandering, and it comes off as unbelievably bitter. Surely Sony understands that gamers would prefer to have the choice whether or not to subscribe to EA Access, and they must see that five dollars for four games (plus more eventually) is a pretty striking value, so why do they deny the service to their customer base? The answer is very simple: PlayStation Now.

Sony has their own subscription- and rental-based game service in PlayStation Now, which allows gamers access to PlayStation 3 games on their PS4, and the serviceís open beta reportedly launches tomorrow. Sony would be wary of EA Access for the simple reason that it represents much greater value than Now currently does: a four-hour, single game rental on Sonyís service can cost from $3 to $5, with weekly and monthly access to a game running from around $8 and $15. Nowís subscription prices and what they entail is unclear at this time, but you can be certain that if Sony is already decrying this new service from EA, theyíre worried about its success.

Imagine if all the major publishers--EA, Ubisoft, Activision, and others--created subscription services for their catalog titles, services which would pay them directly and whose content they could easily control; if EA Access is a success, itís possible. Consider EAís losses in the used game market every year when the new Madden, NBA Live, and FIFA titles come out; similarly, Ubisoft has started releasing a new Assassinís Creed annually, while Activision has put out more Call of Duty games than they could even fit on a subscription plan. If each of these publishers began to offer their older titles for a small monthly fee, they would no doubt make more revenue from these franchises than they do now, and probably more than through a somewhat pricey service like PlayStation Now with Sony as a middleman. Say what you will about EA, but they know how to make smart business decisions.

Sony seems afraid of EAís success with EA Access, and thatís telling. They didnít want competition to exist on their own platform, so they denied PlayStation 4 owners access to EAís subscription service, but if the service is successful and other publishers jump in the pool, they soon wonít have a choice. This is a good thing. Sony shouldnít feel comfortable with their current PlayStation Now model, and any reasonable amount of competition will drive them to improve it. Still, the most important thing to take away from all of this is that gamers are being offered more choice with how they want to pay for their content, and with that choice comes greater value. That this innovation is coming from the hands of EA is certainly a surprise, but leave it to the greediest company in the business to drive consumers to shell out money for older games. Weíre the real winners, anyway.

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