Recently EA has announced its new subscription program called EA Access. It is in beta for the Xbox One. Sony has decided to opt out of the deal saying they don’t think it is right for their customers. Many believe this is trying to keep EA from offering their new subscription that would serve as competition to PlayStation’s Plus program.
Services such as Netflix and Pandora have opened the floodgates to other companies looking to capitalize on the trend of providing entertainment based subscriptions.
I’m reminded of a Family Guy episode. Peter and Lois go on a ski weekend as part of a timeshare seminar. In their mandatory meeting with the sales rep they’re asked to select a prize, a new shiny boat or the mystery box. The mystery box is tiny; obviously the boat is the better option of the two. Peter can’t resist the lure of the mystery box and picks it over the obvious value of the boat.
The joke is about how stupid Peter is. As seen in the next scene while the Griffin family is driving back home all his friends drive past his car with their boats and ask him where his is.
It does bring up a good potential question though; how much would you pay for a mystery box?
Looking at the number of games I have in my Steam library I am no stranger to digital media. With a strong bandwidth I prefer getting video games over the Internet than having to find a way to get down to the store and have the same conversation with the Game Stop employee whom is trying to up-sell me on some new deal they have going on.
Being the owner of a PlayStation I take part in Plus
As of this date I’m very happy with their program. I’ve gotten a lot of games for free or nicely discounted as a result. Much like Christmas morning it’s nice to know a shiny new package will be waiting for you at the beginning of every month.
Much like Christmas morning, it’s nice to know a shiny new package will be waiting for you at the beginning of every month.
The game could be total crap. The game could be that game you always wanted from last year but never got around to picking up. It’s the not knowing that fun. Though that’s the appeal of Mystery boxes, just ask Peter.
This is also true with Netflix. They never really announce new available titles, unless it’s one of their original titles. A few years ago I remember hearing on the pod cast that Netflix has Star Trek episodes available for streaming. Not just an episode or two but all the original series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and the rest of the series associated with the franchise. Being a big Star Trek fan to know that I could watch these when I wanted was a thrill.
I might go a month or two not finding much to watch. The fact that something really good could pop up on Netflix keeps me looking back to see.
In a World of Early Access
In a world of early access there is no mystery anymore. You can buy into any game at any stage of development now. There is a whole trove of ways to help support and access unfinished beta type content. Help fund an indie developer on Kickstarter, Early Access on Steam, the endless string of betas that are just part of the release cycle of pretty much every game that comes out. This is all well and good, as an active gamer I like being brought in on the process and give feedback for games that I’m passionate about. Though where is the mystery when I have so much access to see the strings?
We like being surprised sometimes. Find something new that the developer intentionally put in for us to find. Use a mechanic we never thought of before and have no idea how we got by without it. Explore a far off landscape. Fight the biggest nastiest boss only to be up-scaled by what’s in the next dungeon.
In a way services such as Netflix, PlayStation Plus and this new EA Access provides this ‘look under the tree and opening up a new present’ experience in a new shell.
So what’s in the Vault?
EA Access calls the pool of games they offer to its members as the Vault. Currently there are only four titles in that vault. The implication of calling something a vault is that it’s a big locked room that houses many valuables.
The only other company that used this term in media that I’m aware of is Disney, though their interpretation of a vault is of a place where you put something you put away, away from the public. When they wants to increase sales of a DVD or video (man I’m old, I remember video tape) they would make a big announcement. “Snow White will be going back into the Vault” for example. A computer generated golden vault door would swing shot and Tinker Bell would fly away would play at the end of the commercial. You were left with the impression that there was a big Disney vault somewhere, like Scrooge McDuck’s Money Vault on Duck Tales, where the only copy of Snow White, Bambi, Dumbo, ect… is housed. Talk about gate-keeper.
From calling the list of free games the Vault you get the impression it is EA’s back catalogue. A more accurate illustration might be the subscribers stand in front of the vault while a bank manager brings out a sample of the vault’s supply out for them to pick from. The more often the bank manager does this the better for the people standing outside the Vault. This is pure speculation of how this access to free games might work.
If they allow their subscribes to keep those titles as long as they are subscribers like PlayStation Plus subscribers do then that could offer a nice library of old EA games for those people.
It’s a mystery box. Subscribers will be kept guessing each month, or how ever EA wishes to release new games. For now there are many packages under the EA tree that could be curated to their subscriber base. Only four of those shiny packages have tags written on them at this time; Peggle 2, FIFIA 14, Battlefield 4, Madden NFL 14. Here’s hopping EA writes a lot more tags.