If you like a lot of big-budget on your biscuit, join this club. Enormo-publisher EA just announced that its previously console-only Access service is now available on PC, as a bolt-on for its Origin game store. Pay a monthly Origin Access subscription fee of $4.99/€3.99/£3.99 and you'll get all-you-can-eat access to a (currently) small archive of recent EA titles. Perhaps more likely to flog subscriptions is that they include access to 'trials' of new releases five days before the full games go on sale, as well as 10% off Origin purchases. The walls around the garden just got taller.
The games available right now are essentially the last round of titles from EA's biggest franchises - Battlefields 3, 4 and Hardline, The Sims 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition, FIFA 15, Dead Space 3, Need For Speed Rivals, SimCity and, a non-EA title, This War Of Mine. More games will be added in time, but I feel that they're missing a huge trick by not including well-loved archive stuff like System Shock 2, olden Command & Conquers and Mass Effects.
Then again, £3.99 a month isn't much, especially if you're able and willing to binge-play - you could, for instance, get through the entirety of Dragon Age: Inquisition for £3.99 presuming you have plenty of spare time in your month. So I can understand why they chose not to fling open the library doors.
The aforementioned 'trials' subscribers will have at apparently exclusive access to will carry over progress and achievements to the full game should you decide to stump up for it. Not a new idea, but the EA blurb reads as though they're trying to make this the new normal for their stuff. "Real games, not demos," the site blares proudly. They're pushing the idea that trials will be time-rather than content-limited, but heartstring-tugging platformer Unravel, the first game out the gates for the system on PC, will have a trial that is restricted to both two levels and ten hours. So, uh, a demo then.
The Unravel trial is due on February 4, five days before the public release of the full game.
Over on console - where the service is instead called EA Access - that five days lead time is the norm, so I guess before too long we'll be seeing it happen across the board on all platforms. It'll be a big deal when it happens with a Mass Effect or Battlefield.
None of this is particularly surprising - EA has been dabbling in similar concepts with pre-orders and season packs - but I have to hope at this stage that it's not a precursor to artificially delaying the release date of full games in order that subscribers have a few days' head start. Fortunately Square-Enix backed down in the wake of criticism they held Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's release date to pre-order ransom, so hopefully the industry is mindful of that. I really don't want seven different £3.99s direct-debiting out of my bank account every month in order to be sure I can keep up with every Jones come 2018 or so.
If Origin Access' archive of olden games expands significantly there won't be any arguing from me in terms of value. Hell, I never got around to Battlefield 4, and four quid for a month of play would entirely scratch that itch. I can't say I'm delighted at the prospect of paying extra to have access to a new release as soon as possible though, even if it is only trials. That said, £3.99 to establish whether you want to then spend £40 is infinitely more wise than blindly pre-ordering because the trailer had lots of explosions and an ironically-juxtaposed downbeat song playing in the background.
More details and sign-ups here. Anyone tempted?