EA Access is a new subscription service from Electronic Arts (EA). It’s available exclusively on Xbox. I hadn’t heard much about it until I stumbled across it when reading up on Star Wars Battlefront. I really wasn’t keen on spending $80 on BF without a single player campaign, as I don’t have much time these days to rank up in Multiplayer. One of the benefits offered through EA Access is extended demo’s, and there was a 10 hour demo for Star Wars BF. I wasn’t willing to pay just for 10 hours of access, but it was enough to get me to read more about the benefits EA access offers.
How does it work?
EA Access is a subscription service and you can pay monthly or annually. The annual pass was pretty cheap, coming in at $30 Canadian, which was a lot cheaper than the monthly $5 plan. For that you get a few different benefits:
The benefit I was most interested in was the Vault. This is where you can download and play a selection of older EA games for free (provided you maintain your subscription of course). Note that these are the full retail games and you download them, they aren’t streamed, so you can’t just boot one up to try it. I immediately found more than $30 worth of games I wanted to play in the vault, but YMMV depending on which games you are interested in and which you already own.
I’m a bit odd in that I enjoy playing the SP campaigns of shooters and never really bother with the MP. That typically means I wait for these games to be out a while and go on sale, because who wants to pay $60 for a 6 hour campaign! Both Battlefield Hardline and Battlefield 4 are in the Vault and I hadn’t played either. I’m a few hours into Hardline and really enjoying it, which helps me feel as if I’m already getting my money’s worth.
There are a few games in the Vault that I never would have paid for, but I’ll be trying out anyway, because why not! Peggle 2 and PvZ Garden Warfare both fall into that category. If they turn out to not be my cup of tea I’m not out anything except the download bandwidth.
I’m not much of a sports fan, but strangely I think this helps. If you do happen to be a huge sports games fan, I can’t imagine waiting a year for last years versions of Fifa, Madden or NHL to go into the vault is going to appeal. For me though, I can totally imagine downloading NHL 15 so I can have a quick game against my brother-in-law next time he’s over. If you had a few friends with EA Access I could see everyone grabbing last years Fifa or Madden and getting an afternoon’s worth of fun out of an impromptu tournament that would otherwise be hard to co-ordinate without everyone owning the game.
One of the other benefits is access to games several days before their release date through the use of limited time demo’s. These can also be used after the release date as extended ‘try before you buy’ periods. I am halfway through my 10 hour trial of SW Battlefront and I am really enjoying it, but I’ve played enough to know it’s not something I’d pay $80 for. Who know’s, perhaps it will get added to the Vault next year…
Any progress made during the trial period carries over if you decide to buy the game, effectively giving you a head start when the game officially launches. This wasn’t really a big deal for me, but I could see how it could be for competitive multiplayer gamers.
Special discounts and members only sales
EA Access members get a 10% discount on anything and everything EA sells. I don’t buy enough EA games for this to justify the yearly fee, but it’s a nice bonus. I think there are also member’s only sales where games are discounted more than 10%, but I have only heard about them, I haven’t seen one yet, so I can’t comment on the discounts.
Possible future benefits
EA Access is still fairly new, so to some extent you are paying for the future promise of the service as much as what is currently available. There are a couple of possible things I could see EA adding in to make this an easy decision for gamers. Note that these are purely speculative.
I have seen mention on the EA Access twitter that one thing being considered is adding backwards compatible Xbox 360 titles to the Vault. I think this would be great and would really go a long way to selling this service. The Vault selection today is still fairly limited and likely will improve slowly as EA’s XBone portfolio ages. However, EA could quickly boost the # of games by bringing in a selection of their best 360 games. Imagine all the Mass Effect, Crysis, SKATE and Dead Space games suddenly appearing in the Vault. This would be a huge bonus, particularly to anyone that didn’t have a previous generation console and missed out on these great series.
I’d also like to see more member specific bonuses, along the same lines as pre-order bonuses. Nothing game changing, but fun weapon skins, bonus missions or exclusive 2x XP weekends. These wouldn’t sell subscriptions themselves but they would help to create a sense of exclusivity and community.