Yesterday saw an interesting business development in the world of video games. Publisher Electronic Arts announced EA Access, a new "all you can eat" digital game rental service.
For $4.99/month, or $29.99/year, gamers get access to a limited back-catalog of EA titles, 10% discounts on purchases of new digital games from EA, and early access to trial versions of upcoming games.
That's an interesting deal and we'll pull it apart more in a moment, but what really surprised me is that EA Access is offered only on the Xbox One. Sorry last gen and PS4 owners, you're out of luck. If the service takes off, will it be significant as a differentiator between the Xbox One and the Playstation 4? I guess it'll depend on how good the service is.
Right now it's in beta (by invitation only, and I wasn't invited) and there are only four back catalog titles available: Madden 25 (that's last year's Madden), Battlefield 4, FIFA 14 and Peggle 2. Three of these were $60 games last holiday and FIFA still sells for about $50 on Amazon, while Battlefield and Madden are in the $20-$30 range.
In other words if you're thinking of picking one of these titles up (and you're not worried about playing for more than a year) it's a good deal already, but EA promises that more titles will be added soon. Which titles? Well there aren't a lot to choose from, so I'm going to
guess predict we'll see Need For Speed: Rivals, NBA Live 2014 and Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. I doubt EA is ready to toss TitanFall into the system just yet.
Even if you're an Xbox One owner who must have everything at launch, spending $5 for a month of access and getting a 10% discount on a $60 game means you'll be ahead of the game even if you don't play anything from the back catalog. That assumes you're buying digital copies, of course.
EA refers to Access as being a partnership with Microsoft. That makes me wonder how long the service will be around. Is this Microsoft trying yet another way to give Xbox One sales a boost? If so, will Microsoft lose interest in backing the program if and when they get the Xbox One install base to where they want it?
It's going to be interesting to watch how this service develops, and to see what, if any, response Sony comes up with.
EA says the service will launch for everyone "soon" (on Twitter they've said 'this summer') and that you'll be able to buy EA Access memberships at Gamestop and Amazon (as well a EB Games in Canada). European membership is also mentioned, so for once this isn't a "US Only" deal.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.