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Gaming's move away from ownership model is inevitable - EA

Publisher's VP of investor relations says the technology is already in place for a shift to an access model like Spotify or Netflix

Electronic Arts is in the business of selling games, but it could soon be more appropriate to call it the business of selling access to games instead.

Speaking at the Deutsche Bank Technology Conference today, the publisher's VP of investor relations Chris Evenden said EA has been laying the groundwork for a shift to streaming games through the cloud for some time, from its 2015 streaming service offered through Comcast Xfinity to its EA Access and Origin Access Xbox One and PC subscription offerings.

"We've been building an infrastructure both from a product and a marketing perspective so we can move our slate across to new platforms, and we can move with our games across to new platforms as well," Evenden said. "So all of these things, we've been working on for five or more years now, actually. But I think it's inevitable that the gaming entertainment world will move in much the same way that the music and video entertainment worlds have already moved, in the sense that people have moved from an ownership model to an access model. And you'll see that in gaming, just as you've seen it with Spotify and Netflix in other media businesses."

The technology for such a shift is essentially in place, Evenden said, noting that EA has been running a demo with one major internet company showing a streaming Battlefield experience indistinguishable from a locally rendered one. However, he acknowledged that test wouldn't work in areas without a robust online infrastructure.

"That infrastructure barrier is still there, but it's shrinking very rapidly," Evenden said. "And we think in the next couple of years, you'll see some major technological announcements that will prove to be commercially significant in the next three to five years."

One of the big reasons EA is preparing for a switch to a more streaming-oriented industry is that it would provide a much lower cost of entry for potential customers.

"Right now if you want to play FIFA in the United States, it will cost you $460," Evenden said. "You have to buy the game; you have to buy the console. In a streaming world, it could be $9.99 a month. The commercial details have to be worked out, but whatever number it ends up at is very much less than $460. So that extends your market, because all you need locally is literally a smart TV."

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Latest comments (6)

James Prendergast Research Chemist 2 months ago
Well, I guess that's it. The future is set! Only...

1) Streaming is only as good as the connection to the server. With current trends, ISPs refusing to be "dumb pipes" and non-central locations (and I don't just mean the countryside) are massive arguments against this.

2) It doesn't cost $460 to play FIFA in the USA.... If you want to own all the silly, over-priced cosmetic things then yeah, sure.

3) Gaming is a situational hobby. The reason streaming services for movies and TV took off was because the "time slot model" was not good and actively put people off watching content (also, ever since movie theatres stopped enforcing good behaviour, they became much less enjoyable to visit - plus they're crazy expensive for that less-than-stellar experience).

Gaming has no such incentive to change. When I want to play a game, I play it. I'm not beholden to any publisher, ISP (talking about SP here) or time slot. Also, once I "own' a game, I don't need to pay more to play it.

With a streaming model, gamers are now dependent on all of the above. Internet down or slow? No go. Publisher or developer have an argument with a streaming provider? Game is gone. Contract has expired? Game is no longer on the list - no matter that someone was 40 hours into that RPG. ISP has a dispute with a CDN? ISP has terrible latency to the server or has caps or has 'bandwidth management policies in place? Tough luck!

Why would the majority of gamers switch to this model that actively penalises them? This is going to be a niche product for any logical-thinking person. Sure, okay, I can see the casual FIFA player who only plays a few games a month after release and then the game sits on the shelf until they shell out for the next year's instalment. But let's face it, I don't think the majority of gaming, or gamers, persue their hobby like that...
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Bob Johnson Studying graphics design, Northern Arizona University2 months ago
Wake me up when cloud gaming is ready for primetime.

I do imagine Battlefield would be ready before other types of games because it's an online multiplayer experience that depends on a server already and there is a certain amt of delay in that game that while often grumbled about is accepted.

So maybe they could pull that game off in the not so distant future. Still at peak hours you're still going to need a crapload of machines to render that game for everyone so I'm still am skeptical of the economics.

I think the exec is missing something in his comparison. The big difference between music & video compared to games is music and video's only obstacles are storage and bandwidth costs when it comes to streaming. Gaming has those obstacles plus real-time processing costs for each client. And the real time processing costs for games like a Battlefield don't decrease any over time because the games keep getting prettier, bigger, badder, louder, etc.

Then to make it work you'd have to localize the back end clients a lot more in order to keep latency down. And then you're losing scales of economy there. I mean if you could make a big server farm and share it between Europe and US whose peak hours are different and have acceptable latency for both then there would be a massive savings. But ...

Edited 6 times. Last edit by Bob Johnson on 12th September 2017 9:15pm

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 months ago
Content owners love streaming because it lets them keep total control over everything and there are zero resales. Customers do not.

People see movies and music as disposable. Games they do not. Streaming the former requires very little. The latter requires immense infrastructure.

Sony by all accounts is losing money hand over fist on Now. Meanwhile EA and Xbox are doing nearly the same thing at a miniscule amount of thr cost. As a way to continue to profit off of back catalog, it's super. Removing ownership? Oh hell no.
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Show all comments (6)
Ralph Tricoche Studying MA, CUNY2 months ago
So glad I got back into board gaming. Sadly this industry and hobby are just getting too bloated and big for its britches.
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damir CEO, Big Blue Bubble2 months ago
$460 ? What a ridiculous conclusion. Thatís not nearly enough. Where are you going to connect your console ? You need to buy a TV. You also need a power source, probably some chairs, apartment or house, etc. You would need to buy it all in order to play FIFA, right ?
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Murray Lorden Game Designer & Developer, MUZBOZ2 months ago
Things do change with the times, and I'm sure we'll see more casual, easy-to-use streaming services, where you can q
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