Electronic Arts have released their long-rumoured subscription service. Called the Season Ticket, the service will provide extra benefits to subscribers for EA Sports’ Madden, FIFA, NHL, NCAA Football, and Tiger Woods franchises. The first game to support the programme will be Madden ’12, but because Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’12 and NCAA Football ’12 are already out, they will not support the Season Ticket.
The Season Ticket, according to the press release, consists of the following four items:
•Early Full-Game Digital Access
Three days before a game’s scheduled release, fans will be able to download and play the full version of all five participating titles on Xbox 360 and PS3. The digitally downloaded game will time out when the game is available at retail and consumers have the option to purchase the same full game on disc at retail. EA SPORTS Season Ticket subscribers can transfer all achievements earned during the three-day download period to the purchased disc, resulting in an early edge over the competition.
•Discounted Downloadable Content
Subscribers will get a 20-percent discount on all available downloadable content for participating EA SPORTS titles. Downloadable content, which enhances and refreshes the core game experience, includes such items as Ultimate Team packs, accelerator packs, and gear upgrades.
•Free Premium Web Content
Premium web content extends the game experience beyond the console to a web browser. All participating titles will feature premium web content that will be free to EA SPORTS Season Ticket members beginning with the premium Creation Center packs for FIFA Soccer 12. These packs provide a deeper set of customization tools and abilities within Creation Center to build your own teams and tournaments, and will be available to the consumer until the membership to the program has expired.
Subscribers are easily identifiable with an exclusive membership recognition badge displayed both in-game and on their EASPORTS.com profile.
The programme costs $24.99 on the PlayStation Network and 2,000 Microsoft Points on Xbox Live. All subscriptions are annual and incorporate all five franchises. The codes for the programme can either be bought on their respective online network or exclusively through Gamestop. Subscriptions only work on their respective systems, which means someone who buys Tiger Woods on the PS3 and NHL ’11 on the 360 would have to buy two Season Tickets.
Analysis: Let’s take this massive cluster of a plan one by one:
Early Full-Game Digital Access – There are three things wrong with this, other than the whole point of “HOLY SHIT! THREE FREAKING DAYS!”:
1) The digital copy is officially useless once the game releases. You don’t have a digital purchase option, not even for full price (which is funny; personally, I would think EA would jump all over that, considering their infatuation with Project Ten Dollar). You have to download what I’m assuming to be about a 10GB file, install it on your drive (good luck if you still have an old 60 or 80GB drive, sucker), and then delete it two days later since fans who are buying this service are the ones that would go to midnight events. Hope you’re not on a tightly capped Internet plan, sucker. But of course, that likely means you’re getting a broken game, because…
2) EA’s sports games — especially this generation — are horrifically broken. After almost a month since its release, NCAA Football ’12 still has a critical, game-ending roster bug that will be patched “soon.” My old PS2 games weren’t this buggy; I don’t know if EA’s shorting on QA thinking they can patch later or if Programming Is Hard™, but either way, the last thing people should want to do is to play EA’s buggy mess of a game three days earlier than everyone else. In fact, I agree with Chris Sanner of Operation Sports in regards to buying sports games on day of release: I just can’t justify it anymore, not even for seriously competitive players, because patches usually render a game’s second month almost unrecognisable from the first.
3) Worst of all, the full game still comes at premium price. You’re still paying $60 for Madden, $60 for NHL ’12, $60 for every game you buy; and don’t you think about getting the used copy, sucker, because the Online Pass will still cost you $10. I could have seen this justified if there were a discount on the actual games themselves, but those still cost the same $60 that we’ve been paying this entire generation.
Discounted Downloadable Content – To break even on DLC, someone will have to spend $125 worth of digital purchases. Who in their right mind is spending that much money on DLC? The only way I can justify it is if people are buying a lot of Ultimate Team packs. And seriously, if you are buying that much? Fuck you. No, seriously, fuck you for contributing to this poisonous business model that makes inferior players superior because they have deeper wallets, and turn our sports games into “freemium” titles with a $60 buy-in.
Free Premium Web Content – The only thing EA’s stated in regards to this is a way to edit or create players for FIFA ’11. Other than that, this is the great unknown; we don’t know what we’re going to get. Does this mean perks on Facebook or something? Does it mean extra goodies in game? Or does it actually mean that the competent player creator we saw in previous iterations of FIFA is being taken away and put behind a pay wall? I would not put it past EA at this point.
Membership Recognition – Seriously? This is like the safety patrol badge of video games; if you have one of these, you’re basically asking for a swirlie. As long as they allow me to filter out the people that have this badge when I dare play online, I won’t be bothered.
What should be noted is that unlike past efforts by companies to bleed their customers out of $5 here and $10 there, this plan, so far, is universally scorned. 76% of respondents on an Operation Sports poll regarding the service have said there’s “not a chance” of them going onto the program, with only 10% expressing interest. Normally, these polls would be useless as gamers have shown time and time again that they will act against their best interests if it involves getting a shiny thing to show off. However, OS contains the most hardcore sports gamers around; their polls hold some weight.
My prediction regarding this is that EA ultimately sweetens the pot to make this more attractive. Either they’re going to add things to the package that are net positives (digital purchase rights of the full game, discounts, etc.), or they’re going to take away options and put them behind the paywall (multiple franchise files, multiple Be a Pro files, matchmaking options). Either way, much like PlayStation Plus, EA will find a way to make the product enticing enough to create lock-in. Whether they do that in a positive or negative way is yet to be seen, but as of right now, this Season Ticket is so bad that my intelligence is insulted by the realization that EA thought this would be a palpable idea that consumers would go for.