Electronic Arts and other top publishers have long been gunning for games as a service as opposed to games as a product, mostly because there’s a lot more money in forcing people to pay recurring fees to access games as opposed to only getting people to pay once to own a title. Well, EA’s CEO, Andrew Wilson, further cemented the point home that they really want to take away your ownership rights to your games within the next two to five years.
In a conference call following EA’s earnings being posted, GamesIndustry.biz captured a noteworthy quote from Wilson to investors, where he explained that within the span of two to five years, they want to further pursue streaming and subscription services…
“For many of those things, we actually think the time horizon is about five years-plus, but things like cloud and streaming we believe is in the 2-5 year time frame. When we think about subscription, we’re already seeing return from that and the combination of that with streaming in that 2-5 year time horizon could be very meaningful in terms of revenue addition for us.”
EA already has EA Access and Origin Access, one is for the Xbox One and the other is for PC users. Both services do the same thing: give gamers access to discounts on games, free trials, and the ability to download and play games from the EA Vault for $5 a month.
The “games as a service” maxim has been talked about a lot by most top publishers, but infrastructure never really allowed for it to happen conveniently. Services like OnLive and Gaikai tried, but they didn’t last very long due to the costs of operation versus the amount of users who could actually afford it both financially and bandwidth wise. Gaikai was later acquired by Sony and it was turned into PlayStation Now, which also has been struggling, due to high costs both on the financial front and on the network side.
For Wilson, bandwidth caps from ISPs and high costs of entry for subscription streaming services be damned. He believes that consumers will be subscribing and streaming games regularly within the next two to five years, saying…
“As we think about media consumption over the last five years, the greatest disruptor has been the combination of streaming and subscription. It’s changed the way we watch television, it’s changed the way we listen to music, it’s changed how we think about ownership versus access, and we believe that ultimately the culmination of streaming plus subscription will also be a great disruptor to our business. And you’ve seen us investing there for a number of years. It was some years ago that we started our first streaming tests, and we continue those tests and we continue to work with other key large scale partners on how we think streaming might work for our business in the future. We saw us launch EA Access and Origin Access, and you should expect us to continue to push in growing the opportunity in and around subscription and delivering more value for our players on both of those vectors.”
What’s bizarre about the statement is that there hasn’t been any added value for the end-user. The cost of subscription fees pales in comparison to what you could pay for a used game from Amazon, eBay or even GameStop. According to most survey data, people don’t even have enough time to play through the whole back catalog anyway, so from a content-to-price perspective, who exactly is the market for this high-end subscription streaming service?
It’s a bold direction in which to focus the company, especially given that PlayStation Now hasn’t really taken off. OnLive never really took off. And Microsoft’s cloud services still haven’t been a viable solution for delivering streaming games. Maybe EA know something the rest of the market doesn’t.