Sony’s Rejection of EA Access Raises Many Questions

Word recently got out about Sony turning down EA Access because they didn’t find it to be a good value. PlayStation Plus was cited in the statement, and that opens up some interesting situations. The first one being that when compared to PS+, EA Access isn’t as good a value. One year of PS+ is $20 more than EA Access by default, but it spans every publisher on a PlayStation platform and covers four platforms counting the occasional PSP freebie that is playable on a Vita.  EA Access offers up a lot of value in a different way, but it’s also only tied to to the Xbox One. Despite the Xbox 360 still being a viable console for the short-term, it’s not part of the EA Access program. While this is smart in the sense that it shows EA is looking to the future, it does burn Xbox 360 owners. Sure, the Xbox 360 may not have more than a couple of years left in it, but EA clearly cared enough about the system’s fanbase to deliver a version of Titanfall for it.

Xbox 360 versions of recent cross-gen games like Need For Speed Rivals still look good enough, and with the focus shifting to the next-gen versions, what would really be lost by making them freebies for EA Access members? Whatever money EA is going to make on them has already been made beyond a $10 Black Friday clearance, and they would engender goodwill amongst gamers by doing it. Right now, EA Access has been a very controversial program. Our own take on its initial announcement spurned a lot of discussion on the matter, and it’s clearly something people are passionate about. The system wars have come back big-time thanks to it, and it’s a shame since it seemed like there was a sense of harmony for a little while. E3 2013 brought the potshots back to a level that hasn’t been seen since the 16-bit days, and instead of countering with immature ads, Microsoft responded by fixing the problems cited by Sony and gamers. The great thing about this is Sony took shots without sacrificing the quality of their own platforms. 20 years ago, Sega took tons of potshots at Nintendo’s Game Boy and SNES platforms, and then followed it up with a year where they launched half-baked hardware in a steady stream.

SEGA Game Gear US commercial.mp4_snapshot_00.10_[2014.07.30_18.20.50]

The Sega CD was put on the back-burner after a flood of mediocre games, while the 32X was announced, released, and put out of its misery in time for the Sega Saturn’s North American launch in 1995. Originally planned for a September release, Sega launched it in May at E3 to get the jump on Sony. To say this backfired would be an understatement. No companies but Sega had anything close to ready, and Sega’s own games weren’t fully-optimized yet. Now, they could patch them up. In the pre-patch era, the best Sega could do was make up for a sub-par Virtua Fighter by completely reworking it and adding VF 2-style graphical upgrades alongside updated moves as a mail-in freebie. That was a great face-saver, but it had to cost more to do all of that than it would have to do just do Virtua Fighter right the first time. Publishers were upset because they had no notice, retailers were upset because they had no notice and thus no time to actually figure out a store configuration for this brand-new next-gen system, and Sony got one up on them anyway by announcing that the PlayStation would be available in September — and it would be $100 cheaper than Sega’s new console. The end result here were stores refusing to stock the system or its games, and EA deciding that the experience with the Saturn was such a disaster that they wouldn’t even support the Dreamcast.

EA had the ability even then to turn the tide for a console war, but it’s a whole different marketplace now. EA still has a lot of power within the industry, but Activsion has been around longer and is easily on par with them in terms of importance.  The era of patches has changed things for the better in some ways — games that have issues can see them get resolved nearly instantly. However, we’ve also seen games get released in far worse shape because developers and publishers know they can patch things up if they’re needed. There are also far more third parties out there, and digital distribution as a viable means of releasing things has changed the industry forever. Some things remain true forever though — you can’t screw over consumers too often or else they’ll revolt. They won’t picket your HQ, but they will refuse to buy your games. Now one wouldn’t realistically expect EA Access to extend to the Wii U, but it bypassing the PlayStation 4 was a genuine surprise.

SnoopVoice

EA Access being an Xbox One exclusive takes things far beyond a timed-exclusivity deal for things like Call of Duty DLC. That’s a short-term thing that Microsoft spends money on and gets whatever clout comes with having the DLC on its system first. If it’s sub-par, then PC and Sony platform-owners know they’re not really missing much and will likely skip over it. In that instance, Microsoft’s money was effectively wasted. EA Access is an interesting program for the Xbox One since Microsoft already has its Deals With Gold and Games With Gold programs — but unlike Sony, they’re not banking a lot on them. They’re programs Microsoft has out there, but they don’t shine as bright a light on them as Sony does for PS+. While it is flawed, Sony can hang its hat on PS+ being an absolute game-changer for consoles.

Before it, sales were common for digital last-gen games, but were rarely worth caring about — even with Steam as a viable option on PC. The era of CheapAssGamer changed the PS2 era, and PS+ changed the next one by raising the bar for digital sales on consoles. Microsoft followed suit long after Sony introduced the free game setup by offering up games that were free forever, but were also generally older. While a PS+ sub got you unlimited access to games that were about six months old, and tied that access to an active PS+ account, you could have your Gold account lapse and still play 360 freebies forever. Of course, instead of getting a recent $30-$40 game for free with a catch, you got a years-old $10 game for free, so it still wasn’t quite 1:1. The Xbox One’s Gold account-tied freebies act basically the same as PS+ freebies do, and now that holds true for EA Access as well.

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Sony’s belief that EA Access wasn’t a good value for PlayStation owners is rooted in a bit of reality. Sony wants to be very publisher and developer-friendly, and making a deal with a top-level publisher like that could do them far more harm than good. If you’re an indie developer or even just a small third-party, how important are you going to feel with Sony making a deal with EA and clearly showing bias towards their products? Microsoft finds themselves in that situation now and will have to strike the right balance going forward. They’ve been derided for years for having ads all over the 360 dashboard, and if those multi-media ads change to just being EA ads, they could easily alienate people. There’s a world of difference between making someone aware of something and beating them over the head with it.

If either, or both of the modern Xbox consoles feature tons of EA-specific ads, then both companies look bad. Microsoft looks like it sold out for EA, while those who view EA as nothing but a big, evil company will have fuel added to their fire by the company themselves.  Microsoft has made Xbox Live, and later Xbox Live Gold, feel like essential parts of the gaming experience. However, even a decade ago, people were skeptical about that. After all, Sony offered up free online play for both the PS2 and PS3 on consoles, and with the PSP and Vita for their portables – only the PS4 has required a pay model for online play. Sony hasn’t gotten much flack for that from PS4 owners, and the general viewpoint is that PS+ is an amazing overall value. I was skeptical about the service, but a simple free month of it sold me on just how much of a value it was. EA Access is a much harder sell to PS+ users who are used to top-shelf freebies like Muramasa Rebirth giving them an excellent value for their dollar across all platforms.

There’s a chance that EA didn’t want to make it cross-platform for Sony, and that couldn’t been a deal-breaker. Sony’s in a very pro-consumer mode right now, and that kind of move certainly doesn’t fall in like with that mindset. If Sony went with a business model like that, they would risk upsetting the fanbase they’ve spent years rebuilding. I doubt there’s any amount a single publisher could throw at Sony that would make them betray the fanbase they have now, because that fanbase has given Sony the lead back in the industry that they lost during the 360/PS3 era. Sony had to rebuild trust with people and regain lapsed fans who had a PS2, but skipped the PS3 due to its high initial pricing. Sony was hurt greatly by the 360 being out a year earlier for far less money, and a lot of exclusives either being better on the 360 or not all that different on the PS3. Now, the latter-era exclusives were the proof that Sony’s platform was the most powerful, but by the time all-time greats like The Last of Us and to a more controversial extent, Beyond: Two Souls hit, everyone was in next-gen mode and people who didn’t already own a PS3 weren’t likely to buy one when that money could go towards a PS4.

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EA Access is one of the biggest gambles Microsoft has taken yet with the Xbox One, and that’s with the system’s entire lifespan being defined by them for better or worse. When it was announced, the DRM plan was met with great outrage, so they nixed it. When the Kinect was a clear albatross after months of hype about how essential it was to the platform, it was made non-essential. If EA Access doesn’t prove fruitful for Microsoft, there’s no guarantee (unless it’s in the contract), that they won’t just flip-flop on it and either open the door for it to be cross-platform on their systems, or opened up to Sony. Microsoft has made a ton of long term in theory, short term in execution moves and EA Access in its current form could be one of them. Since the program isn’t even in open beta yet, there’s plenty of time for EA and Microsoft to adjust things to either offer a better overall value (like 360 and Xbox One support), or just say it’s due to popular demand and give in to doing it so they come off better than just doing it because they feel they have to. Either way, Sony seems to have made a smart move by avoiding the hornet’s nest for the time being and just waiting to see what happens.

  • Illusive Man

    Sony spins it as if it would compete with PS+. It is a direct shot at PS Now.

    • Hates bad writers.

      The fact that they said “PS+ subscriptions are up” Blah blah blah. Yeah, that’s because you forced it on people. Removing a choice for the consumer is always bad.

    • http://www.facebook.com/timJ.collins Timothy Collins

      PS+ is a good service, don’t knock Sony for that. I really dislike Sony and own a Xbox One, but I can’t knock them for that service at all – it’s a really great thing for PS4 gamers. But to be honest, passing on this just so that all games distributed digitally on the PS4 will be through it? Nope… Sorry Sony – you made a mistake.

      I agree – Right now this EA service isn’t all that great. It’s only a handful of games after all. As that list expands it’s going to become really compelling though.

      • extermin8or2

        If you think the ea vault will contain anything but year out of date yearly titles you don’t know ea. And the 10% digital discount-more is saved at retail as ea overprice all their digital content anyway

        • http://www.facebook.com/timJ.collins Timothy Collins

          In all honesty, a year out of date games are okay. If I were to go out and buy, let’s say, 3 of those games I’d probably pay a total of $40. This way I’ll have access to all of them for $30/year, which is a decent deal in my book.

          Let’s face it – it’s not gamers that are upset over this. It’s places like Gamestop that are panicking because of the encroachment of digital distribution on their business.

        • Ludwig Larcher

          that shows how bad you know ea games and ea gaes users. The EA access will have the new games every year. The players that bought Madden 25 last year will get madden 15 this year. For 30$ less they can get madden dragon age fifa and battlefield 4. EA Access is a great deal. And if you wonder why EA does that, i advice you to look at the money they made from in game transactions the last years. They are just going through the “pay to win” path. Cheap to own games, but pay to win products with ultimate teams.

    • You are flat out wrong

      That’s because it’s closer to XBLG and Plus than it is to Now.

    • Ludwig Larcher

      they only talked about ps+ because their psnow service is rubbish compared to EA Access.4 times more expensive. they know this and they know many of their players play almost only EA games. I think a lot of ps4 owners will sell it and go get an X1 if sony takes time to get EA Access

      • extermin8or2

        Ps now is a TOTALLY DIFFERENT SERVICE.Why is this so hard to get into people’s thick heads. They happen to have each gone into beta st similar times. Pricing on both is both finalised. There is no way ea are going to give people the newest titles it’s Ea and they sure as hell haven’t had a change in management so they will still be out to mickle and dime everyone. Ps plus is what ea access would compete with. Ea access requires Ms and would have required Sony to run all customer service enquiries and issues people may have with the service for a tiny income off it. Ps plus and ps now get you access to selections of slightly older games for a fee, ea access is ea only games and so far it seems only their yearly titles the majority of fans will buy day one full price anyway. Ps now is a streaming service that allows you to rent games for various periods of time and will also have a Netflix style subscription fee sometime in the near future. Ps now’s best comparisons are Gamefly rentals or in the UK renting games off say lovefilm. It really is this simple end of. Sony want all services under ps now people already need that to play online don’t want to be paying each publisher every month aswell. Atm ea access is ontop of xbox live gold and the free games they have started giving people like ps plus except ea games won’t appear on there unless ancient or you’ve paid for ea access aswell. That is why it’s bad value. It’s not like you don’t have to pay for xbl gold aswell as access.

        • Ludwig Larcher

          that long post shows that you are both ignorant and uninformed. First of all , EA Access will have the brand new games + a 5 early access on all of these games fifa madden nhl 15 and dragon age inquisition too which are about to come out. Second of all You don’t need ms live gold to have access to EA Access you just wont have the multiplayer. EA Access is a RENTAL of 4 games tops in their library for 5 a month or 30 a year. Try getting you facts right before starting to talk about something you don’t know. EA does that so more people use their In Game transactions to get the better players in the games they offer. PS Now is a rental that more expensive than EA Access and that has Older games. 30 for 3 months vs 30 for a year. how are people still trying to damage control that . PS Now is shit. PS + is a subscription like live gold to have access to multiplayer that has NOTHING to do with EA ACCESS that lets you play 4 games for 5 dollars a month and 30 dollars a year.

          • extermin8or2

            OMG are you on drugs or something NO ONE CAN BE THIS STUPID SURELY! A) I’m not trying to damage control anything I think Ps now’s prices have to come down however Ea access is not like ps now you download the ea games not stream them and you still have to pay what’s effectively full price for brand new games such as Dragon age. (10% off digital copy which is overpriced well it is in the UK… Will still be more expensive than if I preorder from online retailer or intore for example dragon age is £55 for digital preorder of standard edition 10% off makes it £49.50. I currently have it preordered online for £42 for a physical copy.) Now ps plus gives you access to generally old games (but not always) for £39.99 a year. Games for xbox gold does the same. You can only play these games so long as you have an active subscription new games rotate in every month but you can download the previous months games at any time as long as you downloaded them when they were free. Now Ea access gets you 4 ea games from the ea vault aslong as you have an active subscription just like ps plus and games for xbox live gold these services are all comparable. Ps now is a rental service you can CHOOSE which games you want to rent and for how long you then stream them over the Web you never download a copy you never own in any way a copy of the game-this is a totally different service to ea access end of. From songs perspective ea access isn’t worth supporting as they have to deal with all the logistics and customer service issues that could arise and it’s an extra fee ontop of the fee already in place for online play. The same goes for Microsoft who somehow see a way for this to make money. Also if you have ever had the misfortune to HAVE to use ea’s origin store you likely will have had some kind of issue that they will have taken forever to fix now imagine if when you phone them they redirect you to Sony customer support who when phoned discover the issue to be on origins network not psn and say they can’t help. It happens over far simpler issues that that already and I hope for their sake of xbox users that they never get any issues like this plus imagine if ubisoft and Activision etc join in and release their own subscription services. Then you are having to pay to play online and then pay for this stuff to each individual publisher potentially a fiver a month each or there abouts and this is before you buy a single new game. Also based on releases like battlefield 4 why would you want to play those games through early access I mean if the games often launch incomplete imagine what they are like even earlier, it’s an excuse to release unfinished games to a limited number of people and force you to pay their digital copy prices. Feel free to do so but I will protest because the aim will be to as time goes on remove the element of choice those people like myself who now choose not to have. So that it’s participate or don’t buy I’d rather stop it before that point like people should have done for online passes when Ea first started them….

  • http://www.facebook.com/timJ.collins Timothy Collins

    You know… something occurs to me…

    If MS is working on a way to make the Xbox One backward compatible for games bought online (Something that MS said was not impossible but would be introduced later when the XB1 first appeared) and this service is testing the waters for this distribution model and thinking of expanding the list of available games once that backward compatibility pops up – The Xbox One just won the console wars.

    • lassenwolf

      What do you think ps now is. there’s 123 ps3/psn games right now to play. And Sony has been testing NOW for 8 months. So, no Sony is way ahead of the game. Ps NOW works great ,plays well and usually has all the dlc and trophies. Move over ,Next Question

      • http://www.facebook.com/timJ.collins Timothy Collins

        PS Now is supposedly nice. But It’s also getting some bad press from a few quarters. I don’t use it, so I really don’t care one way or the other.

    • You are flat out wrong

      Yes, this is a constant pipe dream. Stick to the tier 2 straw.

  • AlexH

    As far as the newly announced EA Access, Sony said it did not accept the EA Access program because it felt it did not bring “good value”. That is bull! The PS Now is a freaking joke!!! With EA Access you pay 5 dollars a month and you have access to a bunch of games for unlimited time during that month. On the other hand with the PS Now you pay 5 dollars and you can only play ONE GAME for 4 HOURS!!!! What a freaking joke!!!!

    But Sony fanboys enjoyed this announcement:
    http://www.vg247.com/2014/07/28/gaystation-ps4-charity-auction/

    • You are flat out wrong

      Your constant copy pasting is dull, Al.

    • extermin8or2

      Ps now is beta price test
      Ps now is not what ea access competes with. You have posted this on every article recently on multiple sites even when article isn’t relates to either scheme. Seriously go get a life.

      • Ludwig Larcher

        it isn’t ? arent they both renting game services ? Ps now being the overpriced one.

  • Jan Compaf

    SONY has PSN+ where they also give EA games and PS Now means nothing to me, i already have or played those last last last gen games, PS Now is for kids these days that want to play old games…thats why it will fail.

    • Ludwig Larcher

      crisis 3 was 2 years old and not really played online anymore, battlefield 3 is 3 years old and not played online much anymore…. they give old ea games, when most ea’s fan base keeps buying the new fifas maddens nhls everytime the new one comes out. Sony had no right to refuse that offer.

  • http://www.xboxonedaily.com/ TheRedButterfly

    Dude, this author… Seriously.

    For starters, stop rambling. GOOD GOD stop rambling.

    Second of all, EA Access isn’t an Xbox policy, like Kinect and the initial once-every-24-hr check-in – it’s something EA is offering. And for you to think that MS may “flip flop” on it? XD What are you smoking? MS? Flip-floping? On an EA service? That’d be like if Netflix decided it didn’t want to be on PlayStation 4 anymore, and then everyone’s all “way to go Sony. Nice 180º”.

    Seriously. I just wasted hell knows how long reading this. – _ – A waste of time. You didn’t even touch on the one thing that EA Access directly combats – PS Now.