The ways in which we are able to consume and enjoy video games is easier and more varied than ever before, owing plenty to technological advancements and that, well, people need immediacy in this day and age. You can stream games with PlayStation Now, invest in unfinished titles and watch as the updates (hopefully) roll in, and watch people from all over the world compete against each other for grand prizes in the millions.
Around two weeks ago, I decided to broaden my console horizons and pick up an Xbox One. It’s a system I had previously owned but never really grown fond of, partly because it wasn’t was it is now. Microsoft have worked hard to change perceptions of their once embattled black box, leading to sales victories over the PlayStation 4 for four consecutive months. There’s arguably never been a better time to own an Xbox One.
When I was restricted to my PS4 and the occasional game of Pong that my wizened PC could muster, there was a service on Xbox that really caught my eye: EA Access. Basically a subscription service for EA games old and new, Access gave early trials to subscribers, (admittedly pretty poor) discounts on recent titles, and free games from the back catalogue.
After picking up my console, I decided to give EA Access a shot; the first month came free with the bundle. It’s going to sound hard to praise EA without sounding like I’m under heel, but it really is one of the best ideas the polarising developer and publisher has ever had. When it first launched, Access was home to a smattering of sports titles and indies. Two years later, it has almost forty titles, a few of which are games that came out just this year.
Dipping into Xbox meant that I would have to dip into my wallet to catch up with what I missed – or so I thought. Aside from picking up State of Decay, Dead Rising 3, and Battleborn for under £10 each, I have spent less than £30 on games for the system so far. There are currently 27 titles in my library just two weeks after making the leap to two consoles. I’ve spent less than £50. No matter how you look at it, that’s remarkable value.
Of the “marquee” titles available, I have so far picked up Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, UFC 2, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2, Unravel, Titanfall and Need for Speed. A quick search on Amazon shows that I should be paying an estimated £127. With EA Access, they’re all available for just £3.99 a month. Going on yearly spend for the service, it’s £48. That’s still less than half the retail price for a strong collection games, some of which just came out in 2016.
And it doesn’t stop there, either. EA have been taking advantage of the backwards compatibility slowly becoming uniform across Xbox One by adding 360 games to the vault, too. The Mass Effect trilogy, original Mirror’s Edge and the first Dead Space have all been added, so there’s no need to go scouring eBay for copies that possibly have coffee stains on the box and even weirder stains on the inside.
Unlike PlayStation Now, which requires that you stream games, all titles you want from the vault have to be downloaded. This is good and bad. Sony’s service has a reputation for being pointless for anyone without high-speed internet, whereas waiting for a large file to download can take a while if you’re on Access. It’s really personal preference.
This is a subscription service, so of course it’s going to have its downsides. If you’re paying your monthly fee and seeing nothing new being added to the Vault, value for money might be something you rightfully question. It’s different from something like Netflix or PlayStation Now in that it doesn’t have an almost infinite pool of options – these are only EA games. Battlefront should be added before the end of the year, but apart from that, it doesn’t look like much else is lined up.
There’s a pretty big dark cloud hanging over EA Access and its sister Origin (which is exclusive to PC players) at the minute. A whole country, Myanmar, was banned from the service because the US had placed sanctions on it. The ban was lifted, but the service remained unusable, leading a customer to speak out about it on Reddit. The thread quickly went viral and resulted in the service returning to the country, but not before something was made very clear.
You don’t really own the games, just like you don’t own any of the films or TV shows you watch on Netflix. You’re paying a recurring fee for a service and if you don’t pay, you don’t get to play. If your account can’t be authorised, you can’t spend some time with Battlefield Hardline and wonder where it all went wrong as the service won’t allow it.
With that in mind, it’s still worth trying EA Access if you haven’t yet. Sure, EA may not always be the most trustworthy of companies around, but for what it is and the price you’ll pay, there isn’t much to lose if you just want to find out for yourself, even if it’s just for one month. Anything that helps them fund Skate 4 is alright by me.