It's easy to hate on EA. Really, it is; not so long ago it won The Consumerist's award for worst company ever two years running, losing out on a three-peat this year to Time Warner Cable. But EA may have just had an idea that's about to shake up the industry, especially if the rest of the field starts to learn from it. EA Access is set to charge a $5 monthly fee—or a $30 annual fee, which is about a 50 percent savings over the monthly version—to allow access to several EA titles, allowing users to play certain titles right from that single interface.
Right now, the titles are somewhat limited, offering up access to FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2 and Battlefield 4, all of which are extremely recent in nature. The beta version of the program is starting today, and is expected to go worldwide “soon,” according to EA. What's more, EA Access members get a 10 percent discount on any EA content purchased through Xbox One, where EA Access will pretty much only be available. That includes pretty much anything from full games like the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition to extra content like maps for Battlefield 4.
While this may be useful in terms of getting more gamers into Microsoft's camp—the pricing model is sufficiently exciting that it's easy to see gamers getting behind this, especially if said gamers have Internet connections of sufficient quality to support such a platform—it's not so much the drive for Microsoft that gets my attention so much as the idea itself. Not long ago, we broached the idea that something like this could be a huge draw for the Wii U, drawing on Nintendo's enormous body of classic games to get gamers back in the hunt on the new system. But for other companies to take this particular ball and run with it, well, that's not a bad idea at all, especially on older games. Consider how many games from even just the PS2 generation are tough to find these days, let alone original Xbox titles. I still have no idea where to find Morrowind outside of eBay. Go back even farther; original PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Super Nintendo, Sega Master System...all of these and more could be making appearances on streaming platforms, but why aren't they? Why is the only way to get some of these games an illegal means like piracy? There are decades of games to draw on that aren't being used; why aren't more companies putting these games into action and making a couple quick bucks on material that already exists? It's a shame that a perfectly good resource is sitting idle, particularly in an economy like this one.
Still, there's a possibility that this may change, and not too far from now, either. After all, if EA is putting it to work, it's entirely possible that the final result could be just what we were looking for. We might well start to see companies, even groups of companies, get together to offer up their older gaming experiences for a dirt-cheap monthly fee. That's going to fundamentally shake up gaming as we know it...and the odd thing is, we may well ultimately have EA to thank for it.