Depending on how attentively you follow the genre, EA Sports' announcement of its Season Ticket Program may or may not come as a surprise. It has been rumored or a while, and now, we finally see what it entails. This yearly offering has a few incentives, but the highlight feature is the ability to play all of EA's sports games a few days prior to launch. But at $24.99 a year, the value is coming into question. So, is this a fair price or has EA made a very grave mistake?
Let's look at what you get:
1) Access to Games Three Days Before Launch
Sports gamers will be able to download and play the full versions of all EA Sports-released games three days prior to launch. You'll have access to all content available in game, including the ability to "unlock" achievements and obtain other in-game bonus content. Once the game hits stores, said content is locked and the game is no longer accessible. If you decide you like the game, then you can buy it at your local retailer, and all accomplishments you completed prior are released.
Essentially, this is a paying for a full demo. If you're a PlayStation Plus user, this is nothing new; you've had the ability to try before you buy, and now EA is copying this method. For some, this can be viewed as both a good and bad thing. If you buy a lot of sports games and are very dedicated, then this three day advantage over others is a fantastic offering. But, if you only play one or two sports games a year, then paying for demos you probably won't even try doesn't offer any value.
What hurts this feature the most is the fact that there is no discount associated with buying the full-retail game. Had this been a situation where you pay early but get a 10 percent discount off of the retail game, then it might entice more people to use this feature. At this moment, paying for a full demo doesn't feel right.
2) Discounts on Downloadable Content
This is pretty straightforward: You get a 20 percent discount on all downloadable content. So, instead of paying $3.99 for a course on Tiger Woods 12, you only pay about $3.19; a savings of 80 cents.
If you buy a lot of DLC, then the savings starts to add up, but at this rate, it would take a lot to make it happen. Games like Tiger Woods do offer a lot of DLC with many courses, but historically, other sports games typically only offer DLC in the form of "cheats" to get the best players possible in your game. I have never used this feature, but for those who do, then maybe this makes sense. The real question here is this: What is EA planning on charging/offering as DLC in the future? That's something we will have to wait to see.
3) Premium Web Content for Free
With this, you'll be able to access to certain aspects of games for free, while others will only be able to use the most basic of features. This one is still questionable because EA hasn't talked too much about it. We know that Madden is getting Online Communities and FIFA has its Creation Centre, but what exactly is the additional content? For Madden, does this mean having more detailed information on your community stats? Again, EA is promising that nothing that isn't already free is going to be charged, but we don't know that what you'll get will make this worthwhile.
If Season Ticket allows for greater management of online aspects and user-created features, then maybe the price begins to make more sense. At this moment, we have to wait and see.
4) Membership Recognition
You'll be able to brag to your friends that you paid to get an early advantage. Not much to say outside of that.
From reading early responses toward the program, the problem EA is facing is that the general public is not looking at this as a bundle but is focusing on one aspect: paying for early access. When you look at Season Ticket and only view it as paying for early access, then of course it seems like a bit of a rip-off. But, in fact, there are other features.
I've already stated that the discounts on DLC might not be that great of a value, but the Premium Web Content could be; that is, once we learn more about its specifics. If you combine those three aspects: Early Access, Discounts, and Additional Content, then the pricing and value begins to show themselves. And it does even more so when you have five games that are included, not just one.
If you only play one sports game a year, then this offer makes little sense; even more so, if you're not the kind of person who plays online or is very serious about his franchise play. Season Ticket is certainly not geared toward those kinds of gamers. This is supposed to be for those who play more than two games a year. Expect to hear more as all of EA Sports titles are released and a proper judgment can be made.