Electronics Arts (EA), a name that is divisive in the gamer community, always tries to create the next big trend in video games, and right now that’s a Netflix-like subscription model.
According to sites such as PC Aficionado and Games Industry, EA’s VP of investor relations, Chris Evenden, announced at the Deutsche Bank Technology Conference the company’s plan to make a new streaming platform.
“We’ve been building an infrastructure both from a product and a marketing perspective so we can move our slate across to new platforms, and we can move with our games across to new platforms as well,” stated Evenden. “So all of these things, we’ve been working on for five or more years now, actually. But I think it’s inevitable that the gaming entertainment world will move in much the same way that the music and video entertainment worlds have already moved, in the sense that people have moved from an ownership model to an access model. And you’ll see that in gaming, just as you’ve seen it with Spotify and Netflix in other media businesses…That infrastructure barrier is still there, but it’s shrinking very rapidly, and we think in the next couple years, you’ll see some major technological announcements that will prove to be commercially significant in the next three to five years.”
According to Evenden, EA’s streaming service would probably cost $9.99 a month and would preclude the need for a console or a computer, since, as he put it, “all you need locally is literally a smart TV.” This service sounds very similar to Sony’s PlayStation Now, a subscription streaming service that lets gamers stream from a large library of PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 games on either a PS4 or a Windows PC.
While EA’s plans are good in theory, we know very little about the service. Just as PlayStation Now lets gamers who don’t own a PS3 or 4 enjoy PlayStation exclusives such as Ratchet & Clank, EA’s subscription service could allow audiences who can’t afford gaming consoles or PCs to experience games such as Dead Space and Jade Empire. However, several burning questions remain that could make or break EA’s plans. Will the company provide games from its large and extensive library or just limit the selection to more recent titles? Do users need to buy a special “EA controller” to play these games on the smart TV? Will players need to pay extra subscription fees to participate in multiplayer matches? Until EA answers these questions, I will remain highly skeptical of the service and its viability.