EA recently announced the implementation of its EA Access program; a service that will be exclusive to Microsoft’s Xbox One and will allow players access to EA’s “Vault” of video games. This service will cost $5.00 a month, $30.00 a year and will allow members unlimited access to a host of EA’s gaming catalogue, a 10% discount to other EA games and downloadable content, as well as the ability to start playing new games a week before they are released to the public. These are just the features that are being released with the Access service, EA intends to add even more benefits for subscribers in the future.

The service is still in its testing phase, so the available catalogue is still small. The games initially offered include: FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2, and Battlefield 4. More titles will, of course, be added soon.

Membership to EA Access will be available through both Xbox Live as well as through retail stores and online vendors, like Amazon.

Now you may be asking yourself, why is this service exclusive to the Xbox One? With Sony’s Playstation 4 leading sales figures since the consoles’ release, wouldn’t it make sense for them to pick up such an attractive service in order to prevent Microsoft from evening out the competition? There are a few reasons Sony passed up on this new service for its own console.

In an interview with Game Informer, a Sony spokesperson opened up about the company’s decision to exclude EA:

“We evaluated the EA Access subscription offering and decided that it does not bring the kind of value PlayStation customers have come to expect…PlayStation Plus memberships are up more than 200 percent since the launch of PlayStation 4, which shows that gamers are looking for memberships that offer a multitude of services, across various devices, for one low price. We don’t think asking our fans to pay an additional $5 a month for this EA-specific program represents good value to the PlayStation gamer.”

While this may seem like a harsh judgment of EA’s Access service, Sony does boast the sales figures to back this kind of response. The first quarter numbers have recently been released related to the sales of both Sony’s Playstation 3 and 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Sony has sold 3.5 million units of its two consoles, up from 1.1 million sold in the same quarter of last year. While this increase in sales may seem impressive in its own right, it is also important to note that Microsoft has only sold 1.1 million of its two consoles in the first quarter of this year. This means Sony is outselling Microsoft 3:1 in the home console market, stretching out the already impressive gap between the newer consoles’ lifetime sales figures.

Sony hasn’t backed out of EA Access just because of impressive sales figures and an issue of value, however. Sony has recently announced and implemented a subscription service of its own. Sony’s Playstation Now is currently in its beta operation phase and allows players to pay a small fee to rent games on the Now catalogue for as little as $2.99 for a four hour rental. Rental agreements can span from 4 hours to 90 days, with a price change at each of the four pre-established time durations.

While having its own onboard program to allow players access to a catalogue of games is a great idea, claims of the system being overpriced have already been leveled at Sony. Many of the 90 day game rental prices cost more than the gamer might pay for a used or an on sale copy of the game. This combined with individual and variable prices for each of the games on the catalogue has brought about a host of complaints from beta testers. Hopefully, Sony will be wise enough to reformat its own service to a payment plan more akin to EA Access.

EA, as a company, is the target of criticism, as well. For example, EA’s game formatting has resulted in nearly every game being accompanied by a host of micro-transactions, which require gamers to cough up a few extra dollars for each piece additional in game access. Many gamers believe these micro-transactions should be included as part of the original purchase. With EA offering its Access service for a measly $30.00 a year, there has to be a catch with the program. While no evil hang-ups have been revealed yet, a company that is so well known for strangling all the money it can out of customers, releasing a new system to access games for a small fee seems too good to be true. As we draw closer to the holiday season, it will be interesting to see if EA access gives Microsoft the ability to close the gap in console sales.

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