This week EA are adding a new dimension to their Origin distribution platform which could, in theory at least, reduce the costs of gaming to users considerably. Priced at just £3.99 a month, Origin Access gives subscribers access to a Vault of classic EA, Play First Trials, and additional savings on purchases from the Origin Store.
First up, the Vault is a set of fifteen EA and 3rd party games which subscribers will be be able to play whenever they way. Headline titles are Dragon Age: Inquisition Deluxe Edition, Battlefield 4 Deluxe Edition, Battlefield Hardline and Fifa 15; the selection is quite wide however, and includes more casual faire such as The Sims 3 and SimCity. Single-player games will need an infrequent connection to the internet to verify that you're an Access subscriber, but apart from that each should play as if they were a full retail copy.
Origin Access also provides access to upcoming games before they're released. The Play First Trial initiative mimics early bird access privileges which have often been included in pre-order bonuses, but could work on a wider basis that doesn't have consumers stumping as much cash up-front. Game progress will naturally be carried over if/when a full purchase is made. Unravel, a whimsical platformer revealed at E3 last year, is the first Play First Trial and will be available on February 4th ahead of its launch on the 9th.
Finally, Origin Access subscribers are also eligible for 10% off purchases in the Origin Store, which is a nice sweetner. If you're a regular day-one buyer of new PC titles Origin Access could, in theory, end up paying for itself. The value you ascribe to the service should however be tightly bound to how much you want to play the Vault titles, which isn't without its downsides.
An early criticism levelled at the program is the question of DLC. EA currently leverage DLC heavily in their triple-A games, locking upwards of one-third of the content behind additional post-release pay-walls; naturally many are concerned that Origin Access will still wall off subscribers, especially in multiplayer titles.
More info can be found at the Origin Access FAQ, and subscriptions can be made through the Origin client and website.