EA’s program of randomly giving away games like Mass Effect 2 and Theme Hospital has ended, says the publisher. If you remember, the orange-faced cyber shop had an “On The House” program that would make a particular game free to download for a limited time. Dead Space was thrown out as a freebie, for instance, and so was Peggle, along with a good truckful more. In reality, the program has been dormant since it gave away Peggle in April, but is now officially finished. Users of Origin found this out last week when the link which once brought you to the On The House page redirected to a sales page for EA’s subscription service, Origin Access. But EA have now confirmed there'll be no more freebies, only demos and betas.
"Origin On the House will be retired and games will no longer be offered through the program," a spokesperson from EA told us. "This change won’t affect any games you downloaded from the service prior to that date—those are yours to keep forever."
The On The House program started back in spring 2014, when it gave away sci-fi limb-blaster Dead Space. Over the next four years it had some good ‘uns. On top of puzzlers like Plants vs. Zombies and fantasy dating sim Dragon Age: Origins, the program also gave away DLC for Battlefield 4 and Battlefield Hardline. It often repeated giveaways though. Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault was given away three times over the lifespan of the program, for example. Still, always sad to see a free lemonade stand get dismantled.
The timing for the quiet disappearance of the free games page makes sense. EA are re-launching Origin Access this week as a streaming service with a two-tier system of ‘Basic’ and ‘Premier’ subscriptions. The way they've described the new upper tier of the service - the excitingly-named Origin Access Premier - is a bit confusing but basically all the games in EA's big "Vault" plus any fresh headliners like BFV and Anthem become "yours to play whenever you want, for as long as you're a Premier member".
In other words, if you cancel your membership those games won't be playable anymore. On top of that, new games like Anthem and Battlefield V will be playable up to 5 days before they’re released to everyone else. The 'Basic' (and three times cheaper) version of the stream-o-matic service will still let you play these blockbusters 5 days early, but only for 10 hours. It's all a bit of a mish-mash but the differences between Basic and Premier are noted in this FAQ.