The people who closely follow video games spent a lot of time last year discussing and talking about what constituted a next generation console. At the time, people thinking about purchasing a PS4 might have assumed that next-generation console gaming meant being able to play the latest titles in high-definition with as many framers-per-second as possible. Potential Xbox One users were looking for an all-in-one entertainment experience. Both of them are wrong, and Electronic Arts’ reveal of the new EA Access subscription service proves it. Next generation gaming isn’t just about high-fidelity graphics, it’s about getting games in different ways.
Last year, both Microsoft and Sony talked at length about digital video games. Behind the scenes the idea is a bit complicated, but to the user it’s rather simple. In the right circumstances, digital video games are the perfect replacement for disc based games. Users simply purchase a game they have their eye on through stores on the PS4 or Xbox One. They can start playing the game when a particular amount of it has downloaded, and go about their business.
When Microsoft shared its plans for digital video games last year, some hardcore users were quick to point out that going all in on digital games could be more expensive in the long run. The idea was that digital video games are usually sold at full price and that none of the publishers who create games for the PS4 or Xbox One routinely make their digital games cheaper. EA Access proves that where there is a will, there is a way.
EA Access is all about using digital games to make it more affordable for Xbox One owners to pick up multiple titles. $4.99 gets EA Access subscribers copies of Madden NFL 25, FIFA 14, Battlefield 4 and Peggle 2. Users also get trials of upcoming games a week before their final versions arrive on store shelves. Four games might seem a bit small today, but Electronic Arts promises that the number of video games available through EA Access will grow overtime.
Even in this early state, it’s clear that EA Access is the start of something special and it wouldn’t be possible without digital video games. They’re a catalyst, a way for publishers to get out of the rut they’ve been stuck in and I think the video games business is quickly going to fall pray to user’s new understanding of how content in general should work. Generations of gamers have been conditioned to think that titles should cost $60 brand new and come on a physical disc, but EA Access on the Xbox One is a tacid admission – at least, by Electronic Arts – that model can’t be sustained forever. That at some point, both the people who make video games and the hardcore users who still purchase disc based games are in for a day of reckoning.
The situation is kind of funny. Just before the Xbox One and the PS4’s reveals, many were asking if it was smart of Microsoft and Sony to be launching video game consoles. Many more were wondering where game consoles fit in a world where everyone has an iPhone and decent tablets costs around $299. Clearly we have our answer. High sales of the PS4 and Xbox One have proved that people still want detailed games with story, and multiplayer. Now subscription services like EA Access seemed poised to deliver on that, to bring console video gaming into a new age and save it from the weight of it’s now antiquated business model.
It’s not all roses. For EA Access and therefore digital gaming to be successful we’ll all have to be comfortable with some things that just fly in the face of commonsense. We’ll have to be comfortable with not owning the majority of the games we install on our Xbox One or PS4. Having those games disappear when we stop paying that monthly fee is probably going to be a shock too. Those are going to be show stoppers for some and good for them.
These things haven’t proven to be too controversial in other markets though. Millions of users subscribe to music services instead of paying for physical albums. Video services like Netflix have quickly put a damper on sales of DVDs and Blu-ray discs. Digital downloads are the key to services like EA Access, and EA Access is the key to modernizing video games in general. Sony may have rained on Microsoft’s EA Access parade a bit, but that’s only because the company has it’s own PS Now game streaming service to think about. That also takes advantage of digital video games.
You can buy an Xbox One or PS4 because you want better graphics and anyone who purchased the console to watch television without picking up a remote probably think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. If you ask me though, it’s digital video games that scream true next-generation gaming. We just all have to be willing to listen.