EA Access and rage

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I am a cynic, and in my eyes, EA has gone and done it again. How? By doing the following, EA has recently introduced a new service known as EA Access. For $5 per month, or $30 per year on XBox One, you can get access to the following: 10% off new digital game purchases, access to timed trials of games up to 5 days early, a selection of games in the Vault (likely those that have had drop-offs in their DLC purchases), and even 10% off DLC and other premium services. Or, as I see it, pay us for demos of the games you've likely already pre-ordered, and feel free to feel like you're sending us less money, when it's more likely that you'll give us more because you think you're getting a good deal on your Ultimate Teams and other digital content we didn't need to put on physical media.

As this new venture is only available on XBox One, with Sony turning down the opportunity, I'm just a casual observer on the sidelines. However, I am still rooting inside for this to somehow manage to fall on its face. I realize that this makes me sound somewhat hypocritical, as I'm currently a subscriber to PlayStation Plus, a former subscriber to XBox Live, and also believe that PlayStation Now would have a better chance of catching on if it were also a subscription-based service over it's current rental format. Let's take a deeper look into why I'm internally hoping that Access manages to fail.

While I can get all sorts of behind a 10% discount for new games, I get the same discount from GameStop for a physical disc as early as a couple of days after release used. Double that amount if I'm a Power-Up Rewards member, for $10 less per year, and still receive copies of one of the few gaming publications left in existence. There is also the fact that I can accrue points to further discount my purchases for used or new games by doing so, and this is pretty effectively nullified. To only add further to this, I still have the ability to turn the discs that I have tired of into credit there, or cash through the likes of eBay or the like.

While there is also a 10% discount on Ultimate Team and other forms of DLC, which I cannot make a fair parallel to, this may be the most insidious, overall. While these are already a money sink for those that play them, and not necessarily a small one, the idea of these being discounted may well actually cause them to be a larger cash-grab in the grand scheme of things. For those that compulsively play and purchase these extras, the thought that they are saving money could easily snowball and have the impact of these same people spending even more in the long run under the misconception of trying to maximize their savings.

This brings us to the Vault, which is the great unknown in the grand scheme of things. Currently available are Peggle 2, released last December, and Battlefield 4, Madden 25, and FIFA '14, all released last November. The next iteration of Battlefield recently was pushed out of this coming November and moved into early next year. The next edition of Madden is due out in late August, and FIFA is coming on its heels roughly a month afterwards. There is currently no new Peggle slated for release, but that exists beyond my point. ES Access makes it easier to bring new players into all of these ecosystems, with Battlefield and Peggle holding easy opportunities to sell these newcomers on the readily-available DLC so they can have the full experience for these games that they're now playing for free. In the case of Peggle, this equates to roughly $3.60 after the discount, but in the case of Battlefield, the amount for the possibility of combining Premium with the Ultimate Shortcut Bundle runs an extra $90, including the 10% off mentioned before. This also has the ability to balloon to a possible $124.20 were someone to purchase all the unlock packages and DLC expansions separately.

Notice currently how the EA-published Titanfall is also missing from the list of available games. This may be due to Respawn not being seen as an EA Studio, or factors such as trying to continue to drive sales of the game, but it is not my place to try to determine why the title is the most conspicuous absence from the Vault. While we're on the subject, let's take a look at the terms of service. (3) access to a limited library of certain EA Content (“Vault Title(s)”) for unlimited online play (“Vault Access”) for the duration of their availability in the Vault. Limitations and exclusions may apply. Also: "EA reserves the right to change and update the EA Access Services, and the EA Content offered through the EA Access Services without any liability to you. In particular, Vault Titles are subject to change and may be removed, and the online services for certain Vault Titles may be discontinued." As if the battle for owning content hasn't been contentious enough, the Vault is offering up access to games EA deems worthy enough to provide, at their own beck and call.

Rounding out Access is the 5 days early access to select games. What does this mean? According to EA, "You'll never have less than 2 hours, but each trial is different & will often be longer." Or, your paid access will allow you to play at least a two hour demo of our game about a week before it comes out. But, yes, you can make a save during it and continue playing it after you give us another $55 for the rest of it.

I'm just shaking my head in general at this whole thing. While I can get behind discounts, the fact that it takes a minimum of 6 new game purchases per year to equal the $30 entry fee, and the further loss of ownership in the long run, makes this a bad deal in my opinion. I'm more than a little bit relieved that I don't have to worry about any of this right now, though. I can easily see it becoming the start of a slippery slope with more publishers should this take off, however. And the fact that several users on a forum that I frequent have already forked over money during this beta period worries me that the numbers of those outside that already small group are larger than I would dare to have nightmares about.

I'll say it again, I'm a cynic, and I'm downright scared.
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