Electronic Arts this week surprised the gaming world by unveiling a new subscription download service for Microsoft's Xbox One. Called EA Access, gamers can pay $5 per month for unlimited access to the company's latest titles on the video game console. Gamers in for the long haul can buy an annual membership for $30.
EA Access currently features recent games FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2, and Battlefield 4. Additionally, EA Access members will get a 10% discount on digital content. The service has begun rolling out as a limited beta, but EA said in a press release it will launch exclusively on Xbox One in the near future. The final benefit is that members will get to play free trials of upcoming titles five days before release.
Is EA Access a good deal or not?
Depends on who you ask
Subscription models are a great way for companies to monetize older content. Look no further than Netflix for evidence of that, as the company's video streaming catalog primarily consists of older movies and TV shows. The content owners that license these older flicks to Netflix are happy to bring in some extra money. Even Disney's Marvel offers its Marvel Unlimited subscription, allowing unlimited digital access to thousands of older comics.
The big difference with EA Access is that it features brand new titles, so the value proposition is much more compelling. EA noted that buying all four of the titles currently offered would cost over $100. If you're a gamer who beats games and shelves them without looking back and enjoys EA titles, then EA Access could be a steal of a deal. EA will hope to maintain that value as it adds new games to the catalog.
However, Sony doesn't think it's that good of a deal.
If you ask Sony
A Sony representative told Game Informer that the company "evaluated" but rejected EA Access as a subscription service since "it does not bring the kind of value" that Sony's game base expects. That's at least one reason why EA partnered with Microsoft instead.
Sony's competing PlayStation Plus service has taken off after the launch of the PlayStation 4. Sony says membership has tripled since the next-generation console launched late last year, underscoring the value that PlayStation Plus brings to the table. Much like EA Access, PlayStation Plus includes unlimited access to a catalog of games and discounts on digital content. However, PlayStation Plus is not limited to EA titles. It's worth noting that PlayStation Plus does cost more: $10 for one month or $50 for one year.
Meanwhile, Sony is expanding its subscription offerings, such as PlayStation Now. Unveiled earlier this year at CES 2014, PlayStation Now streams games to a variety of Sony devices. PlayStation Now also leverages the company's 2012 acquisition of streaming start-up Gaikai. Pricing for the service appears a little high right now, but Sony could quickly adjust the cost if demand proves tepid. PlayStation Now is a different type of service than EA Access, and Sony appears more interested in pursing its own subscription strategies.
Everyone has an agenda
Microsoft also has its own Xbox Live Gold subscription service. Just like EA Access and PlayStation Plus, it offers access to games and digital discounts. Xbox Live is widely considered one of Microsoft's biggest strategic successes with the Xbox, and it has been around much longer than EA Access and PlayStation Plus. One important factor is that Microsoft requires an Xbox Live Gold subscription to play online multiplayer games.
Sony seems to have taken this lesson to heart, recently implementing a similar requirement for PlayStation 4. That could help explain why PlayStation Plus membership has tripled since last November. At the same time, the PlayStation 4 continues to outsell the Xbox One, which could make Microsoft more open to partnerships that could differentiate its console.
Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Netflix, and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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