Electronic Arts introduced a new membership service today that gives players access to a bunch of the massive publisher’s games for a monthly or annual subscription fee.
EA Access, which is exclusive to Microsoft’s Xbox One console, costs $5 a month or $30 a year, and players get games from EA’s past as part of the program. That doesn’t mean classic games from the 1990s. The first four games available as part of the beta test are FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2, and Battlefield 4 — all of which debuted last year. EA says that the program is launching worldwide “soon,” but the beta is available starting today. This marks a huge shift from the traditional model of selling games for $60 and then at a discount over time. FIFA 14 and Battlefield 4 both still cost $60 on the Xbox Games Store today.
To get into the beta, you’ll just need to head to Xbox Live when the program launches, and you won’t need a Gold subscription from Microsoft to make it work.
In addition to the games, EA Access subscribers get a 10 percent discount on the purchase of any EA digital content through Xbox One. That includes full games, like Dragon Age: Inquisition and NHL 15 as well as downloadable content like maps for Battlefield 4 or points in FIFA 14 Ultimate Team mode.
Members will also get into demos of upcoming EA games five days earlier than everyone else. Again, this feature, like EA Access is available only to Xbox One owners.
You can get the EA Access membership through Xbox Live, but GameStop is also selling codes for the service at its retail stores.
While a subscription service is a progressive move for a major publisher (or any gaming company), the biggest surprise is that EA Access is exclusive to Xbox One. That leaves Sony’s PlayStation 4 out of this exciting new business model. Sony is introducing a subscription-like service of its own called PlayStation Now that features PlayStation 3 and other classic games, but that’s not quite the same thing as EA’s Microsoft deal. Access is offering up releases that are less than a year old.
That this is Microsoft exclusive isn’t actually that big of a surprise. Electronic Arts has associated itself closely with the Xbox One since before Microsoft even unveiled the box last year. In February, Sony introduced the PlayStation 4. It brought many of its publishing partners onstage, but EA did not participate. When Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One later in 2013, EA was onstage to talk about Battlefield 4 and its sports lineup. That partnership grew even stronger in October when Microsoft bought the exclusive console rights for the EA-published Titanfall. EA Access as an Xbox One exclusive seems like a natural evolution of the relationship that the two gaming giants have established this generation.
EA has the highest software-attachment rate of any third-party publisher on the new-gen systems, which means that gamers buying Xbox Ones and PS4s are picking up a ton of the company’s games. Fans also have a history of choosing one system or another for EA’s popular sports titles. In the past, the Sega Genesis, Sony PlayStation and PlayStation 2, and Xbox 360 seemed like “the” consoles to get EA’s Madden or FIFA. With the PS4 outselling the Xbox One, Microsoft is potentially trying to work with EA to attract those dedicated fans to its system rather than Sony’s.