Where some thought that digital downloads would herald the future of gaming, over the last year it's becoming increasingly clear that this philosophy has evolved into something else entirely. Rather than simply offering up downloads of singular retail experiences, companies have begun bundling these together into subscription-based services. While Microsoft's Games With Gold and Sony's PlayStation Plus currently hold that crown, newcomer EA Access is doing what it can to stand out in the crowded marketplace.
Unveiled by EA just over two weeks ago, EA Access offers Xbox One users a chance to gain access to a library of Electronic Arts titles at the expense of a monthly or yearly subscription fee. While this may seem similar to Games With Gold or PlayStation Plus on the surface, EA is intent on foregrounding the features that make their service stand out as an improvement on its competition.
Speaking to CVG, EA COO Peter Moore confirmed that unlike its competition, games that are made a part of the EA Access library will remain like that permanently. This means that users who adopt the service a year down the road will have access to every title on the service all the way back to its inception rather than just the latest additions. According to Moore, Electronic Arts intends to ensure that the service is kept up-to-date with strong offerings.
"I think one of the key things is that once a game goes into the Vault it stays there, it's not going to be taken out, that's a commitment we've made."
"The Vault will get its share of triple-A titles. We haven't made any announcements to that extent about exactly when, where and how, but the Vault will be substantial."
While this may excite gamers hoping to gain access to games like FIFA 15 and other EA Sports titles as soon as they launch, it sounds as though this may not be the case. Rather than following a set template like their competitors, EA Access will instead update the titles available on their service based on "franchise and timing."
On the surface, this all sounds like a potentially healthy evolution of the subscription format but it's also hard to approach this announcement without a touch of skepticism given EA's troublesome Battlefield 4 launch, not to mention the always-online SimCity. If this service is to succeed, there will have to be a greater degree of transparency to win back the trust of consumers.
With the ever-present risk of games or services being canned ala Command & Conquer, is this promise of permanence something that EA can conceivably keep? They promised to support Nintendo's Wii U and quickly abandoned that, and games deemed to old will always eventually stop being supported by the company. These are just a few factors in what helped EA earn The Consumerist's recognition as "the worst company in America" for two years in a row.
Considering what has been shown, EA Access looks as though with time it could turn out to be a service that is worth subscribing to. While Sony has passed on the service, EA's recent trend of giving away PC games like Wing Commander 3 for free is an encouraging development that will hopefully bear weight in their future decisions. Or will those only be available for subscribers in the future?
Do you think EA Access will have what it takes to stand up to the other established subscription programs already on the market? How would you like to see EA differentiate themselves from their competition?
Follow Ryan on Twitter @ThatRyanB.