EA announced today the launch of their EA Sports subscription program called EA Sports Season Ticket. For USD$25 or 2000 Microsoft points you get early access to 5 EA Sports games 3 days before release as a digital download, which will expire on retail release but all achievements and progress will carry over if you decide to buy a retail copy. The 5 sport games franchises involved are Madden, Fifa, NCAA, Tiger Woods PGA Tour and NHL. The other features of the program are 20% off DLC, free premium web content and membership recognition.
EA have teamed up with game retailer GameStop to market the program and keep intact the dicey relationship between publishers and retailers as digital downloads become more common. Having the early access full digital download expire on retail release is a concession to retailers but sooner or later we’ll see digital downloads day and date for new releases on consoles.
The question now for consumers like me is whether or not I would pay 25 USD for 3 days of early access. For me I only regularly play and buy FIFA and $25 is a steep price to pay for early access and the other features. But I do occasionally rent or pick up way later the Tiger Woods and NHL games and enjoy playing those games. I can see playing the full game of both of theses for 3 days and picking them up way later when they are discounted. So right now I’m unsure of whether I would subscribe to this program but it will mostly hinge on how badly I want to play the next FIFA early.
As for the ramifications of this I can see this being implemented with other multiplayer heavy games with regular releases such as the Battlefield or Call of Duty series. I think this a good idea that caters to the diehard competitive fans and has little effect on everyone else. As long as the multiplayer matching system correctly filters out the experienced players from the inexperienced it shouldn’t have too much of an effect on the multiplayer environment for regular players. I can already see the comments that are going to pop up as people decry this as another EA cash grab but what these people don’t understand is that fans will gladly pay the extra money to play the game early and be more involved in the game ecosystem.