I Don't Trust EA Access

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Recently EA announced EA Access, a subscription service offering a selection of EA titles up for "unlimited play" at a cost of $4.99 a month. It's comparable to the PS+ Instant Game Collection or Xbox Live's Games With Gold, but is perhaps more analogous to Netflix and their streaming service. EA doesn't have a good history of being up front with consumers, so I'm trepidatious about accepting this new service as it is.

Most of the press releases sent out regarding Access tout it as a cheap and easy way to play all of EA's latest games. The perpetuated idea is that of an unlimited well of EA games available from The idea of it seems nice enough but I don't think the actual product will line up as well with consumer expectations. Have a look at the surprisingly short Terms of Service and the cracks in this little golden egg start to show.

Most of it is standard terms of service stuff; statements giving them the right to change the cost of the service, change the terms of it, etc. The interesting part is towards the end:

       "Please note, unless required by law, all EA Content (such as in-game entitlements, add-on content, and downloadable content) purchased in connection with the EA Access Services (including, without limitation, purchases made during Vault Titles) are non-refundable and non-transferable. If your subscription to EA Access is cancelled or otherwise terminated, you will not have further access EA Content until and unless you purchase the EA Content or Vault Title separately. In addition, Vault Titles contain functionality designed to disable access to those Vault Titles in the event that (i) your subscription is canceled or otherwise terminated or (ii) EA decides, in its sole discretion to remove certain Vault Titles..."

The clause provisions that vault titles can be removed or have their online component disabled. All content acquired through EA Access requires an active subscription to use. Presumably, that could extend to DLC purchased at the 10% discount offered through Access. So should your subscription to Access lapse, any DLC you purchased with the discount could be disabled. It's a garden of games laced with DRM landmines.

I don't really like digital transactions for my console games. I prefer the physical media. It is something that I can (for the most part) loan out, trade or replay at will. I've always felt that was part of my gaming ethos. I've been conditioned for years to accept digital transactions for PC via Steam, and most indie games don't even see a physical release. For some it may be better to go digital. It seems that this move by EA is focused more on greater control of their content through more aggressive DRM.

There hasn't been much comment from EA about the particulars of Access so far. They've done so much to erode their consumer base in the past that I feel like any news or update of service is a double-edged sword. There is some substantial worry from the community about the viability of this strategy. Should Access really catch on, other major publishers could follow suit.

At this point, I don't see much value in EA Access. Unless you're a die hard fan of EA Sports titles, there isn't a lot to offer. On top of that, the EA Sports fanatics out there are used to having their online functionality unceremoniously shut down and having to pick up the latest version every year. I can't think of any other person that would find this to be a really beneficial thing.