[Column] EA Access Is A Pretty Good Deal

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EA Access is a side-service available for Xbox One that trades a subscription for access to numerous Electronic Arts titles. $5 monthly or $30 annually grants access to the EA Vault, a number of full games, and ten hour trials of games that recently released or in many cases haven’t been released yet. There are other perks that have shown up, like a 10% discount to EA titles when buying digitally, occasional sales, and more likely on the way.

As someone who doesn’t exactly play many of EA’s games, I bought into the annual subscription with some doubts. After a few months of using the service, I am confident that it has paid itself off between the free games and free trials, and I wanted to offer my experience because a cursory glance around the web shows numerous people having the same reaction I did: “A subscription to play EA games? What a ripoff!” As I’ve learned covering MMOs, the very presence of a subscription service tends to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths, especially when stacked on top of another subscription (in this case Xbox Live).

And let’s be clear about one thing, I’m not saying that this service is for everyone. For some, EA Access will objectively offer nothing of value, and I make that clear in my points below. For everyone else, it’s a matter of weighing costs and benefits, and I promise not to dive into the though processes of “at $2.50 a month, you can’t afford not to subscribe!” This article specifically covers the Xbox version of EA Access.

1. If You Like Sports Games…

Let’s be fair, the girth of sports titles in the EA Access vault is because Electronic Arts knows exactly how quickly sales drop after a new Madden or NHL game releases, but if you’re a sports fan on a budget then $30 a year to play all of the previous year’s sports titles isn’t a bad deal at all. Right now a subscription gets you access to Madden 16, FIFA 15, NBA Live 15, NHL 15, Madden 15, EA Sports UFC, Madden 25, and FIFA 14. Three football, two soccer, one basketball, hockey, and MMA fighting.

The inclusion of Madden NFL 16 to the list last month is probably a sign that you won’t have to wait until the next game in the series is out in order to keep up with your sports rosters, you’ll probably just have to wait for the sales to diminish to within the margin of error. If you consider pricing, $30 for a year to play a number of sports titles, so long as you’re willing to be six or seven months behind the latest release, isn’t a bad deal. If you do buy the current sports titles, EA Access gives 10% off of those Ultimate Team packs that sell so well according to EA’s reports.

In addition, you have UFC 2, NBA Live 16, FIFA 16, NHL 16, and Rory Mcilroy PGA tour available as ten hour trials, so in addition to the previous year’s sports titles you also have access to a fair amount of play on the current list of games to give you an idea on whether or not you want to buy up. And look at it this way, by the time Madden/NHL/FIFA 17 comes out, 16 will probably be playable in the vault for free.

2. 10 Hour Trials

I was surprised to see EA offering ten hour trials on some of their newest games, since it clashes with the push on opening day/week sales being the most crucial to a title’s success. Having some form of trial system makes sense, Playstation Plus offers full game trials in the realm of an hour or so to give a nugget of gameplay and then cut it off while the momentum is still going. And while you might assume that the trials are of older titles or EA Partner games, the list is populated by Star Wars Battlefront, Need for Speed, Unravel, and Plants Vs Zombies 2. In fact, many of these games are pushing ten hour trials before launch day.

A 10 hour trial is risky business; it’s more than enough time for many gamers to burn out on a title they would have bought and lost interest in the same time frame, with the only difference being EA loses on a $60 sale. The presence of very new titles showing up on EA Access can groom customers into putting off pre-ordering to wait for the demo, thus harming game sales even further. Finally, it means that the game has to engage the player on a level that, after the ten hours, they are still willing to go out and pay full price for the title.

I suppose in a way that the game trials could at least improve sales further down the line. Someone who plays the game through the end of the trial period must have liked something about it, otherwise they would have stopped playing by then, and that person might see the game months down the line at $30 and pick it up. It isn’t a full priced sale, but it is a sale nonetheless. Or they’ll just wait for it to hit the EA Access vault.

For me, this function saved me the money of buying Star Wars: Battlefront. After playing a good eight hours of the trial, I’m glad that I didn’t throw down any real money. Sure EA lost a sale, but they saved themselves a disgruntled, disappointed customer for future games.

3. The Vault

I’d be willing to put money down on Dragon Age: Inquisition being a big factor in many EA Access purchases, at least considering the game was added to the vault less than a year after its launch and happens to be the only game apart from Titanfall and Popcap’s games that isn’t part of an annual franchise. The list of titles in the EA Vault are games that the hardcore fans already picked up on day one, meaning the subscription is a way to pick up some revenue from the moderately interested.

Currently the vault includes Madden 16, Battlefield Hardline, Dragon Age: Inquisition, NBA Live 15, FIFA 15, NHL 15, Madden 15, UFC, Titanfall, Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, Peggle 2, Need for Speed Rivals, NFL 25, FIFA 14, Battlefield 4, and Plants Vs Zombies. Many of the games on the vault are showing up less than a year after launch, as low as six months and likely well before they hit $30 retail.

The downside is that EA’s vault happens to target a very specific demographic: Shooter and sports fans. If you have no interest in Battlefield/Titanfall or EA Sports, there is literally nothing here for you outside of a couple of Popcap games that can be bought cheap elsewhere and Dragon Age: Inquisition that can likely be picked up pre-owned on the cheap. Since many of the EA Sports titles abandoned the PC platform years ago, they’ve been replaced in the Vault library with the full Dragon Age and Dead Space series, as well as Sim City and This War of Mine. If it weren’t for the annual $30 price being unavailable on PC, I’d say it was a better deal than the Xbox One version.

On another hand, many of the games in EA’s vault play better with the knowledge that you didn’t pay (specifically) for them. No, I’m not technically playing Battlefield 4 for free, but as part of the bundle there isn’t a specific value to attach and say “I spent $x for this?”

4. Sales

I put this one low on the list because it targets a smaller, but growing audience if you read sales numbers: If you buy multiple EA games at launch every year and don’t mind buying digital, EA Access is a bargain. 10% off of digital orders means you’re paying off your annual subscription after five games, not considering any expansions or microtransactions you buy in between, and also not factoring in the free games added to the vault.

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