Ubisoft likes this EA Access idea

No surprise, right?

The company is keeping a watchful eye on EA’s new Access program on Xbox One, and Guillemot sees benefits beyond the revenue.

“I think it makes the publisher more important in the player’s mind,” he says. “Often, people are only interested in one brand from a publisher, so they don’t look for other brands. When you buy into something like Access, you can try other things for free and discover other things you like. It’s a way to make sure gamers can get more info on what we do and the diversity of our portfolio.”

Guillemot likens the idea of publisher “Access” subscriptions to television channels. “When you look on your console, you have many channels and you want that diversity,” he says. “Instead of saying everything’s in one place, we can say ‘Okay, try these channels: EA, Ubi, Activision.’

He sees programs like this as a way to increase diversity and attract new users to the consoles. Interestingly, Ubisoft hasn’t yet signed on with the only platform-level program yet. The company is not included in the PlayStation Now library. “We are still in the process of studying what it can do,” he explains. “We are open to any way that can give players access to our games. It has to work well and be a smooth experience.”

I agree with Guillemot. Having used EA Access for over a week now, it really does feel like “The EA channel” of video games. I might have gotten it for Battlefield 4, but I find myself playing not only Madden and FIFA occasionally, I also find myself playing Peggle 2 sometimes. I’d never buy Peggle 2 in a million years after I hated the first one so much. But god help me, it’s like Channel surfing, and it just happened to be on the EA channel, and I wasn’t intending to play it, but then I couldn’t stop…

Seriously though, since Ubisoft is my favorite publisher, I’d love to have the Ubisoft channel on here too. I’m a few Assassin’s Creed games behind the current ones anyway, so Ubisoft Access would be perfect for me. And I can imagine a lot more people getting access to Rayman Legends and discovering what a joy it is (not as good as Rayman Origins, but great nonetheless) if they have access to it through the Ubisoft Channel. Similarly, I’ve never tried the Just Dance games, but I imagine they might surprise me if I had access to the Ubisoft channel.

And I would probably subscribe to the Activision channel too, though I’d secretly hate myself for doing it.

Ugh. No. No publisher fragmentation. I want at most one subscription service like this. You start having individual ones for each publisher, the value proposition dwindles to almost nothing.

This isn’t really a logical argument. It’s not clear how the addition of multiple subscription services would dilute the value of existing subscription services, but even if it did, the prices of the services would change to reflect that dilution.

Simple. Right now, there’s PS+ or Xbox Live Gold, one per platform (although of course Live Gold didn’t offer free games until relatively recently). A wide variety of publishers contribute games to these services. If these publishers instead elect to run their own proprietary subscription services, you can bet they won’t also contribute to Plus or Gold, meaning more subscriptions for less games per subscription. And EA certainly isn’t charging less for this EA Access thing just because they have competition. Any more than Netflix is cheaper because HBO has decided to do their own thing instead of contributing content to Netflix.

imple. Right now, there’s PS+ or Xbox Live Gold, one per platform (although of course Live Gold didn’t offer free games until relatively recently). A wide variety of publishers contribute games to these services. If these publishers instead elect to run their own proprietary subscription services, you can bet they won’t also contribute to Plus or Gold, meaning more subscriptions for less games per subscription.

You are describing a situation in which the product (subscription) provides less value, but you haven’t explained why you think the cost of the respective subscriptions would remain static in response to this dramatic decline.

And EA certainly isn’t charging less for this EA Access thing just because they have competition. Any more than Netflix is cheaper because HBO has decided to do their own thing instead of contributing content to Netflix.

I’m not exactly sure what this means. If EA Access had to compete with Ubisoft Access and Activision Access, its price would probably have to come down, or it would have to increase value in other ways (more games?).

In fact, I’d argue that more subscriptions competing with each other will ultimately be good for the consumer. Much like subscription television, where the existence of Starz doesn’t diminish HBO. HBO used to basically be a commercial free movie channel. It was only when competition came into existence that it evolved into the single most critically acclaimed producer of original television today. Ultimately I’d like to be able to pick and choose the services that I will find value in, rather than have one subscription that did everything. The one that did everything would inevitably cost quite a bit more because it isn’t like Ubisoft wouldn’t be getting a piece of the pie if they put their games on EA’s service to begin with.

The moment EA announced it, I knew Activision and Ubisoft would be doing it as well. Knowing that most people will not subscribe to all three gives them a strong incentive to offer more free stuff, bigger discounts, and a lower subscription fee. Smaller publishers won’t have a cost effective way of getting in on this anyways, so it’s not like you are going to be looking at 500 subscription options. In fact, depending on how successful EA’s service proves to be, smaller publishers will probably just attach their catalogs to one of the larger companies eventually.

Lastly, there is the ultimate and irrefutable argument that none of these services are mandatory, so you can subscribe to as many or as few as you find affordable value with.

Because proprietary exclusive channels don’t mean competition in the strict sense. If EA, Ubisoft and Activision all have similar subscription plans, there’s no actual incentive to make any of them cheaper because they’re still the only game in town for the content they control. I am all for genuinely competing, open format subscription plans. If I have a real choice between PS+ and another Playstation-based game subscription service based on things like pricing, policies, etc, then that’s good for me, the consumer. Having third parties establish separate services just for their stuff isn’t. I didn’t see any consumers benefiting when EA and Ubisoft decided to lock their games to their proprietary PC stores, that’s for sure.

The content the publishers control are competing, though, as evidenced by the fact that a substantial non-transitory price increase on, say, EA Access would drive consumers to a rival subscription platform if one existed. If you think EA lacks incentive to keep price down, why is EA Access only $5? Why not $10?

I didn’t see any consumers benefiting when EA and Ubisoft decided to lock their games to their proprietary PC stores, that’s for sure.

I don’t think Ubisoft locks its games to a store – only to uPlay. Ubisoft games are still sold on Steam. EA has locked its new games to Origin, but I’m not sure why you think consumers haven’t benefited. Origin introduced a great 24 hour return policy that Steam lacks, and has integrated livestreaming. I guess the downside is consumers have to juggle two content providers, but I’m not sure this is a huge inconvenience for anyone.

Because they have virtually no content and their problem right now isn’t driving consumers to a rival platform (which doesn’t and never will exist because their consumers are necessarily there for EA games), it’s getting consumers to bother at all. Once they have a base locked in, they have much less incentive.

I don’t think Ubisoft locks its games to a store – only to uPlay. Ubisoft games are still sold on Steam. EA has locked its new games to Origin, but I’m not sure why you think consumers haven’t benefited. Origin introduced a great 24 hour return policy that Steam lacks, and has integrated livestreaming. I guess the downside is consumers have to juggle two content providers, but I’m not sure this is a huge inconvenience for anyone.

uPlay is a store. Ubisoft games sold on Steam run uPlay. And I’m not arguing that the existence of uPlay or Origin as stores has no benefit to consumers. I am arguing that EA and Ubisoft locking their games to their proprietary stores did not benefit consumers. (And no, Valve locking their games to their storefront doesn’t benefit consumers either. But I feel the scale is a bit different since they’re a developer, not a publisher, and they have a very limited game output.)

Theres no competition when Shop A and Shop B sell different games. Theres competition between Steam and Amazon when they sell DRM free games, so you can get the game where is cheaper, but not if the game is either only on Steam or only on Amazon.

So no free market here.

Outside of HBO, subscription tv sucks and is the entire reason people are doing everything they can to dump cable. In fact I’d argue the model cable tv uses is part of the reason the quality is so deplorable. Discovery Channel networks and history channel (A & E) are pure crap now with cheap reality tv baloney and fake documentaries. They claim they’re giving people what they want but the reality is, there’s so little quality content it’s all people can get so they just leave it on. It almost feels like all the tv networks (outside of HBO) got together to collude saying, "let’s all make trashy, cheap, reality tv where we have no need for talented writers and talentless producers so our networks will make increasing bank since American consumers have so little choice and most don’t know how to turn the tv off!

I’d like to also note that is this takes off for EA, then the quality and progression of their sports franchises will stall worse than we see now. If half the population plays last years version of the game, what incentive is there to make real strides in next year’s game? EA has already shown that their only real tool for success in sports is to buy exclusivity. Any time they’ve had to truly compete they’ve been pathetic and abysmal (NBA basketball, MLB baseball).

The only big things they change each year are a tiny bit of physics, then the other 99% of the effort goes into modeling faces and updated rosters. Madden gameplay has been stale for years now, the primary camera views have looked terrible when you compare to all the “official game screens advertised”, and I used to LOVE that series.

I also see a grave danger in this. $60 is too much for a game right now in this economy. If EA has an alternate way for people to get older games, they will feel justified to raising prices for people that want to own their new games. We already have all these stupid preorder pushes to force us from the $60 threshold to much higher costs to get the complete experience. I see it getting much worse. Less content for more money… like what the Sims IV will ultimately be.

You’re not wrong about things like A&E, Discovery and History, but you’re ignoring a huge amount of really good television that probably only got made due to competition between networks like HBO, FX and AMC.

I think this is the reason EA Access exists. It’s not as likely to displace new game sales as it is to displace USED game sales. If I can get a game for a fraction of the cost of the used version ($5 for a month of Madden or FIFA might be all of those games you ever wanted) and have it ready to go on my console without being pestered at GameStop, why not throw some cash their way?

If you’ve been watching the sales on the 360 and PS3, a lot of companies are offering digital copies of older games that are competitive or undercut the used prices. Right now, GTA5 is $30 for a 360 digital download, which is the same price as “acceptable” used copies on Amazon. This is about directly monetizing the long tail and screwing GameStop out of at least some of their post-sale revenue stream.

Wow, that never even registered to me and your’e absolutely right! But, I think EA is going to find their sales of new products drops if people get accustomed to his.

Can you elaborate why that would happen?

If I had to guess, it’s the wait and see attitude that I am experiencing with Sony platform games when I tell myself that it might show up on PS+ before I get to play it. Which has happened a couple of times already.

But sports games as a genre age quickly and hard, and with the EA Access package currently being sports games about 11 months old, I’m not sure the true Madden and FIFA fans can maintain their self-discipline that long. Peggle 2 is a low-cost throw-in (I’m not sure if its “in” the Vault if it will come out eventually, or whether they are counting on an expanding library), and the Battlefield 4 base game is a loss-leader to get you to spring for the $50 Premium (woops $45 after your 10% discount) package.

This is false, at least by any conventional understanding of market economics. Shops do not need to sell exactly the same games to compete in the same market. All that’s important is whether consumers consider some games sufficient substitutes for others. The conventional test economists use to determine whether consumers believe a substitute exists (and whether two competitors are fighting over the same market) is whether a significant % of consumers (i.e. enough to make the price change unprofitable) would switch to a different game if the first game increased substantially in price (10-15%) for a nontransitory period. If Madden suddenly cost $75, would a significant number of Madden consumers buy a different game instead? The answer is yes (which is why Madden is $59). The test is not whether there is another NFL-licensed football game available – it’s whether a substitute exists.

Out of curiosity, what do you mean “no free market here”? I’m puzzled most by that. Is the suggestion we are in some sort of communist regime or…?

Because they have virtually no content and their problem right now isn’t driving consumers to a rival platform (which doesn’t and never will exist because their consumers are necessarily there for EA games), it’s getting consumers to bother at all. Once they have a base locked in, they have much less incentive.

Which is exactly why you should want more subscription services, to provide this incentive.

I am arguing that EA and Ubisoft locking their games to their proprietary stores did not benefit consumers.

Nothing’s free. The innovations Origin provided came at some (very minor) cost to consumers.