EA is no stranger to the subscription model of gaming. It's EA Access service has seen trials offered for games (which has led to some conversion) and back catalogues published on the Xbox One for a monthly fee. However, the publisher may look at taking some of its games franchises and offering a subscription model rather than an annual release.
Speaking with Bloomberg TV, CEO of EA Andrew Wilson discussed the possibility with EA Sports franchises FIFA and Madden NFL. "There’s a world where it gets easier and easier to move that code around, where we may not have to do an annual release, Wilson said. "We can really think about those games as a 365-day, live service."
The focus of this subscription model would be based on cloud gaming, should it happen. The technology has been used for game saves for many years and the internet connections required for the data it needs is slowly coming. But the technology behind cloud gaming, for consumers at least, has been slow to take off. Many products such as OnLive and Ouya struggled to find users promptly left the market. However, the gaming services from EA on console and Xbox's Game Pass have been bringing some success according to recent financial results.
“The greatest disruptor to the consumption of entertainment media in the last five years has been the combination of streaming plus subscription. It’s changed the way we watch television," Wilson said. "It’s changed the way we listen to music. It’s changed the way I read books.
“When we design a game that lives in a true streaming world, we have to think about screen size and session time,” he said. “How does a Madden game that exists in the cloud manifest on your mobile phone, one minute at a time? How does that manifest on your 60-inch TV, an hour at a time?"
When asked specifically by Bloomberg if franchises like FIFA and Madden NFL could move away from yearly releases to online content, Wilson said yes. "There's [sic] a few different things that has got to happen first," Wilson said. "We do a lot in a FIFA game every year and a lot in a Madden game. There's a lot of code that we make available as part of a new iteration. When we look at what we do in Korea or China, we don't do it that way.
"Every four years we release a new big code drop, and we offer incremental change over time. So what we see in Korea and China, what we see on mobile, I think there's a world where that will happen in other parts of our business."