EA is shaking up the market for downloadable PC games with a new subscription-based service that apes some of the most popular features of console offerings like PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold. On Tuesday, the company made a surprise announcement of EA Origin Access for PC—not to be confused with the similarly named, entirely different offering on Xbox One consoles.
The new PC service will set players back $5 per month in exchange for access to full-game downloads from the “EA Vault,” which currently includes 15 games, so long as they maintain a paid EA Origin Access subscription. Only one of those Vault titles, Battlefield Hardline, came out last year; the rest are “legacy” titles from the past few years, including Dragon Age: Inquisition, Battlefield 3 and 4, and the 2013 reboot of SimCity (all sans DLC). EA promises to add more Vault games on a monthly basis, including third-party offerings.
The service’s FAQ claims that “some” EA Vault games will work offline, so long as players “periodically reconnect to Origin,” but it doesn’t clarify which games or how long “periodic” means. More troubling is the site’s lack of confirmation about whether or not Vault games ever expire for paying members; on the comparable PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Games with Gold services, members receive permanent access to unlocked games, so long as they maintain paid subscriptions. We have asked EA representatives to clarify this point, and we will update this report if we receive a response.
Update: An EA representative confirmed to Ars that Vault games can indeed be removed after initially being offered, while claiming that “we currently have no plans to remove any game from the Vault.”
Additionally, like on PlayStation and Xbox, paying members will receive discounts on various member-only promotions. Unlike the console services, EA Origin Access also offers an across-the-board 10 percent discount on every Origin store purchase. Subscribing members will also get time-limited access to “full trial” downloads of games before their retail launch (EA’s Xbox One version of Access offers a similar feature). Members can carry over progress from those early trials to the full version of the game should they make a purchase.
Since EA’s Origin gaming store is a Windows exclusive, Mac and Linux players don’t get to partake. EA has confirmed that the company is not currently selling subscriptions by way of physical gift cards, nor is it offering yearly discount subscriptions.