The EA Games Service

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The EA Games Service

Is EA's Online Pass a product or a service? Or neither? Or both?

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Heh. I've been arguing this for a couple of years now.
I'm glad to see a more comprehensive article on the matter at last.

Good work Shamus.

From a business perspective, EA's move about that whole online bit looks shady.
They are charging full price for a game, then charging for a service that traditionally is payed by a portion of the game's sale. Then they're charging for online content.

I would love to know what the actual cost-profit ratio is for that DLC, because if we suddenly see EA report a huge surge in earnings, it would be indicative of gouging.

Actually, thinking about it, its pretty weird the way they are doing the games service...I think in time it will evolve into one or the other, but, whilst in its infancy...

While there are some good points here, there's still some problems.

First, DLC (even day-one DLC) is almost always not something that was carved out of what would have been the full game at release.

Second, if you're buying the game new, you are getting the whole game (including online multiplayer) for the price of the game, so you aren't playing full-price for half a game. On the other hand, that was a badly-worded statement from EA's CEO.

Third, it's not that hard to show your buddy the multiplayer on your account.

That said, yes, EA does need to decide what they're selling. It's entirely lame that if your disk gets scratched you can't re-install the game.

Gosh, here I thought EA was doing all right, financially, what with releasing a new iteration of each game in every series once a year!

If it was a one-time fee, I think I'd be okay with it...that is, if I bought a lot of online-enabled EA games. Right now, I think the only current-gen EA game I have is NHL 10, so I would undoubtedly be an angry fan.

This would become a different topic entirely, if we were to raise the question of Sony charging for their online service. Then, it would have to rival Microsoft (hard thing to pull off, I think) and any problems with the network couldn't be hidden from. Right now, I don't expect Sony to give me a flawless online component in all my games, as it's free; if I'm paying for it, my expectations change. That's something EA might want to think about, as well - if they start charging everyone for their 'service', they have a TON of work to do.

Edit: if EA games continue to fill bargain bins like they do, they could see a lot of money from this venture. But the cost of maintaining their servers to the extent that buyers will expect is going to cost them, as well. Used games aren't free - I can see less people buying DLC when they have to pay to even be online. I don't know, but saying that he wasn't taking a hit at the used games market seems like a silly thing to say.

There's a thing I don't get, even if it isn't the main point of the article: Why will Shamus be pissed if something like Steam is introduced to the next console gen?

So EA are the bad guys again right?
And they'd been doing so well in letting Activision take that throne...

To be fair, they're only charging the ten bucks for multiplayer with used copies. New copies come with a code to unlock the multiplayer for free. It's not entirely unreasonable for them to not want to let people that haven't given them any money use their servers. (That was a mess of a sentence, but I'm sure you can decipher it.)

Otherwise I agree with this article.

There's a scene from a certain movie that I feel fits here:

Don Corleone: We have known each other many years, but this is the first time you've come to me for games or for patches. I can't remember the last time you downloaded one of my demos, even though your friends have. But let's be frank here. You never wanted my friendship. And you feared to be in my debt.
Bonasera: I didn't want to deal with the DRM.
Don Corleone: I understand. You found paradise in Steam. You had a good trade, you made a good living. The DRM protected you and there were free updates. So you didn't need a friend like me. Now you come and say "Don Corleone, give me DLC." But you don't ask with respect. You don't offer friendship. You don't even think to call me "Godfather." You come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married and you ask me to download - for free.
Bonasera: I ask you for the game.
Don Corleone: That is not the game. Your game collection is still alive.
Bonasera: Let me play it as my friend plays it.

Bonasera: How much shall I pay you?

Don Corleone: Bonasera, Bonasera, what have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? If you'd bought the game honestly, this DLC that ruined your game collection would be already on your computer. And if by some chance an honest man like yourself had to reinstall, we would let you. And then, you could play the game again.
Bonasera: Be my friend... Godfather.

Don Corleone: Good.

Don Corleone: Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to pay for some more DLC. But until that day, consider this game a gift on my daughter's wedding day.

As others have pointed out, this article is a little skewed due to the fact that (so far) EA isn't charging extra for the online access as long as you buy your games new. Granted, given the quote from Riticello it does sound a little more nefarious than that.

EA annoyed me with ME2. I bought it first hand from a small shop in my uni town who (simply to stay in the black) do not do refunds/returns, so my receipt was pointless.

Disc 2 was pre-scratched. This was a fortnight after release I'd bought it, EA wouldn't replace it because I had no proof I'd had it for less than three months. Two weeks after UK release, Three after US.

Physically impossible to have had it for three months.
Unless I'm a fucking Time Lord.

I'll say this, from a Retailer's perspective, it better remain a product. Otherwise there's going to be a lot of people out of work.

I wish EA would stop pretending that the Used Game Market is killing them. I work at an independent game store. If we sell an EA game at full price, we make a dollar. Sometimes less. I realize that big box stores are doing better, probably making a bit more than that. But even if thanks to wholesale they were making a 500% profit? That's still 5 bucks to them, and 55 to EA.
But the used game market IS the retail market. Without it, there are no retailers.

So let me get this straight, you can release annual titles at 55 dollars gross profit a piece, and you don't make enough money? I realize, I don't know what that is net. And I get it, I mean, I get that companies ALWAYS want more money, but instead of outdoing the competition or making better products so that people have to be day one buyers, or just cut the costs of your development. Y'know, talented designers have been making award-winning, sales-making, blockbusters on cheaper tech for awhile now. Maybe you can get some of that going on?

I just don't understand why retailers have to suffer. Remove the used game market and retailers wither and die OR games shoot up 30% in cost. Either way, its your customers that suffer. I spend my work days telling people to buy your product, and you're putting me out of business.

I'm sorry, but why is asking people who have never given any money to EA to pay to help maintain servers and patches a bad thing? If you buy the game new, EA get your money and you can play online. If you buy used, you haven't supported EA, so why should they let you play on servers others have paid for? I accept that this has been going on for years on the PC, but thats supported by individuals, and not the developers/publishers.

People argue that Pirates have a feeling of entitlement, but it seems to be the same for any gamers. People who buy games used expect the publishers to provide services (yes, multiplayer is a service because its an addition to the game) that they haven't supported. Personally I support EA in this and hope other companies start to copy. Remember, both Piracy and buying used means you've got a game without supporting the original creators, but at least pirates sometimes buy what they copy.

StriderShinryu:
As others have pointed out, this article is a little skewed due to the fact that (so far) EA isn't charging extra for the online access as long as you buy your games new. Granted, given the quote from Riticello it does sound a little more nefarious than that.

Yea, and Xbox LIVE made all downloads completely free when it started out too.

Whenever EA does anything, it's to screw people out of their money one nickle and dime at a time worse than any other company. They've abused the microtransaction system to make their games' final cost the most expensive, and they're the worst about giving minimal content for full price that has pay for DLC from the first day to month.

The longer these companies go, the more frustrating they make it to be a fan of video games. I just wish they and Activision would just collapse so smaller independant devs can compete.

Khornefire:
There's a thing I don't get, even if it isn't the main point of the article: Why will Shamus be pissed if something like Steam is introduced to the next console gen?

Well, I was actually poking a bit of fun at myself for always writing about this sort of stuff.

It actually depends on how it worked, but what if consoles required 24/7 internet in order to operate, you couldn't rent or borrow games, and games were forever locked to your account?

It's all speculation now, of course. But I'd be really surprised if nobody tried to engage Valve.

Shamus Young:

Khornefire:
There's a thing I don't get, even if it isn't the main point of the article: Why will Shamus be pissed if something like Steam is introduced to the next console gen?

Well, I was actually poking a bit of fun at myself for always writing about this sort of stuff.

One thing I cant help but notice about your articles is that you tend to make light fun of your constant ragging on the popular topic of the month, so I assume you have finally decided that everybody has now been made aware of your opinion. And you then proceed to reiterate the point again anyway. I mean, I must admit this may only partially be irritating me because I disagree with the opinion that digital distribution is inferior to packaged products (which is not so say that I do not consider it) but it is actually also getting in the way of enjoying your articles.

I usually quite like reading your opinions in Experienced Points but when I see that you are making the same point as you have done time and time again I have to fight an overwhelming urge to just flick over to something else on the escapist. I did stay and read the article which was as informative as ever, but if I think that you are going to say something that I already saw you say many times before it makes me loose interest quickly. Anyway sorry to be so negative just wanted to point it out.

Games being a service... that's fine. At a dollar per hour of playtime--say hypothetically that's how we were charged--I'd probably save a lot of money over $50-60 per game, on average.

If I get more than a month out of an MMO, and usually I get several, the $15 monthly fee saves me quite a bit of money over buying new games outright once or twice a month. Even At 25 cents for a few minutes, I have a lot of good memories from afternoons spent in arcades.

It's a reasonable model where good games would prosper and pieces of crap with nice cover art and hyped reviews would fall by the wayside.

Actually (being my usual pedantic self) I feel the need to point out that you don't need an online connection most of the time to play games from Steam, you obviously need one to sign up and download the client the first time, and you need one when you're actually installing the game, but apart from that there is an "offline mode" that legs you log in and play without any internet connection (obviously you can't play multiplayer games online this way).

Other than that a fantastic article as always, and a very interesting read, if Sony and Microsoft went down the Digital Distribution method with their next consoles I would REALLY hope they take a page from Valve's book and not EA's, I don't mind gaming as a service or digital distribution, but only if it benefits the customer more than it hinders them, which is what you were getting at also I guess.

The thing is...the games are finished, even at half finished.

I can hardly say that I felt ripped off my Mass Effect 2 in terms of size without the DLC. And I can't say that about Dragon Age, or Battlefield either.

Are games either a service or a Product?
The Answer is quite simple:

If classifying the game as a product gives the consumers any for of consumer rights - It is a "service".

If classifying the game as a service; giving consumers any consumer rights - EA says it is a "product". See? It is quite simple! Dont you guys love capitalism?!

Given the fact that EA can change between these two classifications when it come to their games to suit their own needs and rights to swindle people out of their money I would say it is indeed a dark age for consumer rights.

You know what? If they actually get consistent stable servers for games like NHL and Battlefield, I don't mind forkin out 10 bucks. Cause the servers they have right now are a fucking headache.

And yet NO ONE offers Linux support!

RMcD94:
And yet NO ONE offers Linux support!

Get a virtual system.

I'd actually be interested in a major game publisher deciding to market their games as a cable-like service: EA would have a very good chance of getting me to pay $10-15 a month to be able to play any of their games at any time (old and new releases alike). You might even convince me to pay $2-5 a month to subscribe to a single game. (Massive content like those found in an MMORPG is a different story.)

Re: Game consoles as Valve-like stores. In the last 5-10 years I've largely switched from PC to console gaming because I can actually still own the damn games on my consoles. The day when that stops being true is the day when I stop playing console games. (I don't mind having an online store as an option; although even those I frequent rarely. Never forget where your data is.)

http://www.thealexandrian.net

I noticed that you failed to mention that if you buy the game new, you don't pay the ten extra dollars. No additional tolls standing between the Xboxers and their multiplayer, so long as they spend the extra five bucks for a new copy.

FloodOne:
I noticed that you failed to mention that if you buy the game new, you don't pay the ten extra dollars. No additional tolls standing between the Xboxers and their multiplayer, so long as they spend the extra five bucks for a new copy.

Agree with this. You still get online free if you buy the game new.

I've always hated the whole 'you don't own your game' attitude publishers seem to have. 40 is a lot of money to be 'allowed' to play a game at the courtesy of some company or another, who reserves the right to just take it all away without notice. Hell, any money is too much really, given the actual lack of ownership PC gamers apparently have over their products.

That said, it's become the status quo. Console gamers don't care cos they've never had to deal with DRM and closing servers (well, Halo 2, sure...), but the moment a company tries to take serious advantage of us I would hope that we would all band together and, I dunno, sign an internet petition... or something...

RobCoxxy:
EA annoyed me with ME2. I bought it first hand from a small shop in my uni town who (simply to stay in the black) do not do refunds/returns, so my receipt was pointless.

Disc 2 was pre-scratched. This was a fortnight after release I'd bought it, EA wouldn't replace it because I had no proof I'd had it for less than three months. Two weeks after UK release, Three after US.

Physically impossible to have had it for three months.
Unless I'm a fucking Time Lord.

You know you were entitled to a refund from the shop right? Sale of goods act / statutory rights / contract of sale?

Atmos Duality:
Heh. I've been arguing this for a couple of years now.
I'm glad to see a more comprehensive article on the matter at last.

Good work Shamus.

From a business perspective, EA's move about that whole online bit looks shady.
They are charging full price for a game, then charging for a service that traditionally is payed by a portion of the game's sale. Then they're charging for online content.

I would love to know what the actual cost-profit ratio is for that DLC, because if we suddenly see EA report a huge surge in earnings, it would be indicative of gouging.

EA's sleazy, backhanded business ethics make Bandai-NAMCO's DLC-whoring look fair and honourable by comparison.

Jarrid:

Atmos Duality:
Heh. I've been arguing this for a couple of years now.
I'm glad to see a more comprehensive article on the matter at last.

Good work Shamus.

From a business perspective, EA's move about that whole online bit looks shady.
They are charging full price for a game, then charging for a service that traditionally is payed by a portion of the game's sale. Then they're charging for online content.

I would love to know what the actual cost-profit ratio is for that DLC, because if we suddenly see EA report a huge surge in earnings, it would be indicative of gouging.

EA's sleazy, backhanded business ethics make Bandai-NAMCO's DLC-whoring look fair and honourable by comparison.

What is that even in reference to? Namco-BANDAI releases a ton of extra content for free.

Capcom is the shadiest company when it comes to day one DLC. Versus mode in an action-horror game?

Though they redeemed themselves a bit in my eyes with the excellent and cheaply priced expansions for RE 5 a while back. As long as they chill with that day one shit in the future, I'll forgive them.

I believe the answer is "it's neither a product or a service, it's a scam". It's basically EA trying to gouge gamers to spend more money on an already expensive product. For all comments about the costs of running servers and the like, game companies have been providing these things as part of the product for a very long time, and the inclusion of things like those servers is part of how they were justifying the high price tag to begin with. When your looking at a multi-billion dollar industry it's hard to really have sympathy for stuff like this.

I'm not really sure that gamers are quick to embrace/support this either. I think the issue is mostly that we're not given much of a choice, and so far the gaming populance is a big enough group of addicts where we have not actually refused to patronize the gaming industry as a result. That may or may not be coming for more people due to the fact that I have probably seen more anti-industry sentiment recently than ever before.

I will also say that while piracy is wrong, to fight it takes consumer support. You'll notice that in pretty much every discussion on piracy you wind up with tons of people that defend it. That defense comes specifically because of practices like the ones being discussed here, "is it a product or a service?" and "you need an internet connection" and "$10 for multiplayer access that used to be part of the product".

This is why I say with some frequency that the whole "piracy" issue is basically two criminal gangs going at it. Neither side can claim the moral high ground. The game industry is both greedy and engages in corrupt cartel-type behavior like price fixing. The same kinds of stuff that has the federal goverment constantly at the throat of the gas stations/oil companies. Then you've got the pirates who are outright thieves, however in their case it's careful not to make a "Robin Hood" type analogy because for all claims about the safety of piracy I think these "botnets" and stuff come from these guys using "warez" to infect people's systems, which in many cases is probably their motivation to begin with. Not in every case of course.

I think Steam gets the support it does largely when there is no other option, or they are running a major sale on a product. I, and others, feel that paying full retail price for a game you have no direct control over is ridiculous. I mean consider that some people like me still play games like "Arcanum", or the original Fallout games. Buy your game from Steam and you want to play it in 5 to 10 years you might be totally out of luck, for all we know they could go out of business... hey, people thought companies like "Origin Systems" (once a titan, Richard Garriot could afford private space flights for a reason) were unstoppable titans, but then they got bought out and disappeared.

What's more, since The Internet costs money (and is becoming increasingly expensive as companies find ways to charge more and more money, and the basic service requirements to function online increase) I'm wary about the entire idea of internet connection being required to activate a game, never mind play it, or obtain all of the initial content your entitled to when you lay down your cash.

Truthfully I think what we need is consumer advocacy, though getting enough gamers to organize for something like that would be very difficult. Then we need to see that advocacy challenge the industry on even terms and fight to get things defined fairly along the service/product lines, ensure consumer protection of what they are paying for, and similar things.

This article is a God-send, very in-depth and clear about this matter. I just hope EA stops pulling these kind of shit in the long run, sure I played DA:O and ME2 but the quality was just bad [ Except for Stone Golem DLC, that was ablast ]

And indeed, we hare being held ransom. Literally.

Just going to say this. Never will I do business with a company who charges for online play.

Plus, with this DLC business that's going on now, I feel that now more than ever we need some kind of Gamers' Union that can stand up for our rights in a more definite manner.

FloodOne:

Jarrid:
ote]

EA's sleazy, backhanded business ethics make Bandai-NAMCO's DLC-whoring look fair and honourable by comparison.

What is that even in reference to? Namco-BANDAI releases a ton of extra content for free.

They also release shovel-fulls of DLC content, much of which is literally nothing more than a 128K unlock code- but even more of which are incredibly trivial things like selling costume "packs" that consist of maybe two or three items or the entire soundtrack to a game, song by song by song... or worse yet, nigh game-breaking sales like selling in-game money and levels in an RPG.
In short, the point I'm trying to make is that Bandai-NAMCO are shameless whores that would do (or distribute) anything to make a few extra bucks.

Well, somebody probably needs to become a legitimate competitor to Valve because at the moment its only out of the goodness of their hearts that they don't crack the whip on us and introduces some more stringent policy but I don't know if anyone can. Nothing even comes close to how much of the market Steam has for whatever reason. Somebody needs to learn why and compete. Consoles could offer a blank slate to introduce steam like platforms. Console players are partially disjoint from PC players and could be used as an untapped resource, willing to try a new platform in the absence of Steam and assuming that Microsoft and Sony both introduce steam like products simultaneously they could create a new market that is equally divided and just as big as Steam. Maybe they can even move to PC from their and provide proper competition for Steam as it curb-stomps its current lowly rivals.
I still want to be able to hold a game in my hand and think that in 20 years I could still play it (Probably not since the TV hook-ups and wall socket might be different, but still) but I have the feeling that selling a service rather then a product is more lucrative and we may be at a crossroad.

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