Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) is opening up a buffet restaurant of digital gaming that is drawing comparisons to Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). You don't even need to get past the headlines detailing last week's rollout of the EA Access subscription service to see the comparison to the leading premium video streamer.
- "EA Launches A $30 Per Year Netflix For Games On Xbox One": Techcrunch.
- "EA Access May Be Netflix For Gaming On Xbox One": Forbes.
- "EA's Netflix for Gaming Arrives As Xbox Beta": GameSkinny.
It's easy to see why some are jumping to that conclusion. Just as Netflix offers a growing catalog of content at a low subscription price, EA Access will feature select titles from the video game publisher's massive vault at a low subscription price.
There are differences, of course. Netflix has made its content accessible across as many devices as possible. EA Access is limited to Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox One, which is a distant second place in this generation of gaming consoles. In its current beta -- with gamers paying $4.99 a month, or $30 a year -- EA Access is not available for Microsoft's Xbox 360 with its larger installed base.
Selection of titles is another major limitation. During the beta, EA is only offering up four of its more recent games: FIFA 14, Madden 25, Battlefield 4, and Peggle 2. Can you imagine how Netflix would fare if it only offered four movies on 5 million TVs?
To be fair, these are video games. Folks spend hours playing a single title, and even more in this era of multiplayer connectivity in which games have extended shelf lives. However, it's not right to call something "the Netflix of" anything just because it's a subscription model that is potentially disruptive as media migrates from physical to digital.
Gamers will be the first to tell you that EA Access isn't even close to being worthy of the Netflix tag. There are already cloud-based platforms gaining traction. There's Steam for PC-based gaming with thousands of titles. PlayStation Now is open beta for the more popular PS4 platform.
This doesn't mean EA Access will be a flop. If the company offers current versions of its soccer or football games shortly after they come out, the service could be a great value proposition to EA Sports fans who buy the annual installments. Then again, it would also be hard to fathom EA sacrificing that kind of customer, settling for the much lower streaming ransoms.
We'll see how this all plays out through the beta test. It will be a challenge. Media companies have struggled to push company-specific content as subscription models. We've seen record companies and movie studios fail in going this route. It's still too early to write off EA's chances, especially given the dedication of die-hard gamers. However, let's stop calling EA Access the Netflix of gaming. It's not, and it never will be.