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EA Access – The good, the bad and a lot questions

By: Terry Terrones
July 31, 2014 Updated: July 31, 2014 at 4:50 pm
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EA Access has only been available for two days but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to form some initial impressions. After all, it’s not like the program is particularly complicated. Pay $5 a month or $30 a year, and get access (see what they did there) to some of EA’s biggest games on Xbox One. While you can read the official EA press release right here, the general gist of the Access program is as follows:

- This is a subscription service, you get whatever games EA offers. Kind of like Netflix or Hulu Plus but for video games. Right now in beta that includes “Madden 25,” “FIFA 14,” “Peggle 2″ and “Battlefield 4.”

- The service is Xbox One exclusive. Sony has already commented that they’re not big fans of the Access program, but they’re probably just ticked that EA asked Microsoft to join their secret club first. Ok, I don’t really know if EA hooked up with MS first. But their comments come across like Sony’s pouting in the corner like a middle schooler. EA is friends with both MS and Sony but chose to sit with MS at lunch instead. I have nothing against Sony, just have an over active imagination.

- Members of the program can try new games up to five days before their release date. This will start with “Madden 15,” which means the program should be widely available sometime in August. How long you can play a trial of a new game is still unclear. I’ve heard as little as two hours, but I’ve also heard it fluctuates from title to title. Either way, your progress will carry over once you get the full game.

Since I had access to the EA Access beta, I figured I’d spend some time tinkering with it. I wanted to determine if the program is really as good as it sounds. During the past two days I haven’t been disappointed but I have been left with a lot of questions. But first, here are some of the positives and negatives of this new partnership.

Pros:

- You get full access to the games you want that are available. I was concerned that with its low price point I’d only have access to some of the features of a game I was interested in. Not the case. I downloaded (Yes, downloaded. Surprisingly games are not accessed via the cloud.) “Madden 25,” “Battlefield 4″ and “FIFA 14.” I already owned “Peggle 2″. I’ve played each of these games before but no longer have game discs for them. In each instance, after downloading, I could access my old saves and keep doing whatever I was doing prior to getting rid of the game. In “Madden 25″ I picked up where I left off in my Connected Franchise. I was also able to play multiplayer online without any issues. As far as I could tell, my Xbox One treated each game just like I had popped in the original game disc.

- According to the Best Buy website, retail version of these games sell for the following – “Madden 25″ – $29.99, “Battlefield 4″ – $49.99 and “FIFA 14″ $49.99. So for $5 (I actually signed up for the yearly rate of $30) I was able to play three games with a value of $129.97. Pretty darn good deal.

Cons:

- Download times are still time consuming, at least for “Battlefield 4,” which had a 35.66GB file. The other two games were considerable smaller and loaded quickly.

- The content is limited. With the program still in beta this is really a just minor “con” but it’s worth mentioning.

- The Xbox One only has a 500GB hard drive. If this program is successful I see it filling up that space pretty quickly, something most gamers are already struggling with.

Lots of questions:

After kicking the tires of Access, I was pleased to see that the program worked as advertised. It’s VERY early but EA Access seems to be exactly what it states it is. But I still have a lot of questions. Questions that can’t be answered by the beta, but only by EA and Microsoft:

- Since the games downloaded to my hard drive, does that mean they’re mine forever? Could I sign up for one month, download everything EA has to offer and quit, all while keeping my games?

-  How many games will be available at any given time? Is there an end date to their availability? And will they only offer older games? The four games currently available all came out in 2013.

- Why can’t I play these games if I’m not connected to Xbox Live? When XBL went down yesterday, I tried playing “FIFA 14,” “Madden 25″ and “Battlefield 4″ but couldn’t play them when I wasn’t online. However, “Peggle 2,” a game I already owned, was playable.

- When will demos be available and how much time will I have to try games out? There currently aren’t any demos in the beta.

Some other, broader questions:

- Did Microsoft pay for console exclusivity? It seems from Sony’s comment linked above that wasn’t the case but this could set an interesting precedent.

- Will other major developers start doing programs like this? Will we see Activision and other devs and publishers start the same Netflix-y type programs? Will those be console exclusive?

I’m enjoying my time with the EA Access beta and as it stands, it’s a great deal for gamers. But there are still big questions lingering over the service. Access is still in its infancy so I’m sure all sorts of kinks and features are being worked out. Hopefully we’ll all get some answers soon.

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