Electronic Arts has launched a new PC gaming subscription service, promising ‘endless PC gaming’ for just US$4.99 (£3.99) per month.
Origin Access is the PC equivalent to the Xbox One-based EA Access service which has been running on Microsoft’s console for a few years now.
If you’re a PC gamer then chances are you’re utterly devoted to Valve’s Steam platform. But the big games publishers have been trying their damnedest to break the Steamy hegemony with their own digital platforms; Ubisoft’s abortive Uplay being the most reviled, while EA’s Origin has been accepted as a mostly harmless place to pick up its games not accessible via Steam.
The new Origin Access service though is trying to offer something rather different to Valve’s more straightforward games store. It’s a three-pronged approach, more in line with what Amazon is doing with its Prime membership.
The first is about unlimited access to all the full games available in its ‘Vault‘ of EA games. At launch there are 15 titles to choose from, with the promise of more being added over time.
The second is about getting early access to brand new EA games before anybody else. With Origin Access you get the Play First Trials, which offer time-limited gaming on the first few hours of a new title.
The gorgeous-looking Unravel is the first to be offered the Origin Access Trial treatment. From February 4 members will be able to play the first two levels for up to 10 hours.
The third, and final, part of the service is a simple 10% on all Origin purchases, from full games to DLC.
Unlike the Amazon Prime membership it’s looking to ape, there is a serious dearth of content to make the monthly subscription seem worthwhile.
Fifteen games is not enough to make it feel like you’ve got access to a wealth of titles, and they’re not even particularly recent ones either.
You have unfettered access to FIFA 15, for example, but with FIFA 16 having been on the market since September that’s not really that enticing. The same goes for the last-gen Sims 3 Starter Pack when Sims 4 is the de facto standard for Sim-torturing today.
There are three exclusive titles numbering in that 15 though, with Battlefield 4, Battlefield Hardline and Dragon Age: Inquisition not being available anywhere else.
The promise of more to be added later ought to be tempered with some managed expectations too. The Xbox One’s EA Access Vault still only has 14 titles in it despite having been around since mid-2014.
And the play first, early access Trials? Essentially we’re just talking about old-school timed demos, the sort we used to get on the cover of PC Gamer back in the day.
It all feels like Electronic Arts is just hedging its bets.
If EA wholeheartedly committed to the Origin Access model and presented the entirety of its library of games, including new releases, for a monthly subscription fee, that would make it a far more valuable service.
But it looks like EA simply doesn’t want to take the risk of Origin Access actually being successful and cannibalising higher margin game sales from the standard Origin store.
And without committing to making it really worthwhile for its members, making it something as a PC gamer you can almost not do without, then Origin Access is likely to struggle… especially given the hulking behemoth that is Steam.
EA really needs to add more value to make convince gamers to give it a go.