EA’s laying the foundation for a Netflix-like streaming games service

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EA’s Access subscription service is pretty damned good value. For a small monthly subscription fee, it opens up a library of older (but not too old!) games that you’re able to download and play whenever you fancy, provided you keep that subscription active. It’s even better value on PC, where it not only offers games made and published by EA, but also games from elsewhere.

Is it a portent? A peek in to the future? Perhaps. Speaking at the Deutsche Bank Technology Conference this week, EA’s VP of investor relations Chris Evenden explained how the company has long been laying the foundations for a Netflix-like subscription service.

The “ownership” model we see in games right now will in the near future be a thing of the past. No longer will gamers buy games – digitally or physically. They’ll instead subscribe to services and stream them.

“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,” Evenden said. “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.”

Evenden asserts that the technology is already viable, and the company is able to stream Battlefield in a way that is indistinguishable from a locally rendered version. He does, of course, realise that there are caveats and barriers to the adoption of this sort of thing at the moment.

“That infrastructure barrier is still there, but it’s shrinking very rapidly,” Evenden said. “And we think in the next couple of years, you’ll see some major technological announcements that will prove to be commercially significant in the next three to five years.”

It is an eventually though. Most people within the industry believe that as streaming tech, broadband speeds and latency improve, there’ll be no need for consoles or PC – just Smart TVs.

“Right now if you want to play FIFA in the United States, it will cost you $460,” Evenden said. “You have to buy the game; you have to buy the console. In a streaming world, it could be $9.99 a month. The commercial details have to be worked out, but whatever number it ends up at is very much less than $460. So that extends your market, because all you need locally is literally a smart TV.”

I don’t really want to live in a world where I don’t own the games I buy (even though technically, I already don’t – I just have licence to play them), but I do see this eventually being how we get all of our games in the future. Whether we want to or not.

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Last Updated: September 14, 2017

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

  • I’m not so sure. People said the didn’t think digital would take over hard copies a few years back and now look at the situation.

  • If you think you own the hard copies you buy right now you are going to have a bad time.

  • konfab

    I don’t even think this needs a streaming component in order to work. You can have the monthly subscription, then get access to the games that are in their library. Once you stop paying the subscription, you don’t get access to the library.

    Netflix’s DVD rental model comes to mind here:
    You pay a monthly subscription for a certain amount of games you want to play at a time. Then those games are loaded onto your account and you can play them. If you want to play more than one game at a time, you need a more expensive account. Once you are done with the game, you can get deactivate it and get another game.

    • Viking Of Science

      You basically just described Origin Access, mate 😀

  • For the Emperor!

    Well, right now I play zero EA games…thanks to Andromeda being such a boring mess…

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