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EA Sports Season Ticket: Smart, Ballsy and a Really Tough Sell Stuck
Posted on August 2, 2011 at 11:44 AM.

By now the news is breaking everywhere about the EA Sports Season Ticket program. Peter Moore, the president of EA Sports, has posted the info on his blog, and the EA website has all the info on the game. We also posted a synopsis of what the program includes earlier today.

It really is a different take on how to do things. People can debate the legitimacy of the program or who it is serving, but it is absolutely different. When speaking with Andrew Wilson, the senior VP of worldwide development at EA, he spoke about two types of gamers that would find a use for the membership.

The first sect of folks were "people that were going to buy the game anyway and would love the opportunity to get it three days early," said Wilson. The other sect of gamers were those "that always thought they might like to try a certain game but just never really got over the hump of going to buy it at retail."

At the end of the day, I feel like that "getting over the hump" portion is mostly irrelevant. Folks have plenty of ways to play a game before buying it. It can't hurt to give folks another way to play a game -- and, to be fair, Wilson was purely pointing out this particular portion of gamers as those who already bought into the program and were just trying out a game because they can -- but it's probably not going to lead to much in terms of extra sales for EA.

However, it's hard to put a price on early access when it comes to certain gamers. You can call it a lack of willpower, but some folks will pay a lot of money to play a game early. If certain gamers know a game is out there at retail already, having been shipped in advance of its planned release date, they will go to insane lengths to procure that title before its launch date. They will even pay exorbitant amounts of money to do so in some cases.

In other words, the early access EA is providing here could be considered exploitative or an act of charity. Spending $25 for a year's worth of perks will save some folks from spending $100-plus on eBay's black market to get a game a day before it is actually released. On the other hand, EA also realizes people are spending money to get games early, so why not just come to the actual drug maker for the fix and cut out all those pesky middle men.

(In fact, it almost seems like a form of brinkmanship when it comes to competitive sports gaming. If you know someone is out there playing the game early, are you going to fall behind or pay the fee and get the game early, too?)

This program also really comes into focus when considering the fact that everyone out there is trying to make their products into a brand or a lifestyle. In the gaming industry, this gets talked about the most when it comes to Call of Duty. Some people consider themselves Call of Duty players, not gamers. The same sort of thing could probably be said about certain folks that play Madden or FIFA. Those gamers will spend hundreds of hours with one particular sports title, and that is pretty much the only game they will play for the entire year. Early access, a badge of honor and discounted DLC are just ways to increase that bond of tying your identity as a gamer to EA Sports.

In addition, it really seems like that discounted DLC is a way to relate to a burgeoning Ultimate Team user base. It's surprising to me how quickly Ultimate Team has become the real game for many folks. Ultimate Team users are already some of the craziest and hardcore folks out there, and they have to be the ones buying the largest quantity of DLC on a per-title basis. I have spoken with EA about Ultimate Team users, and people working at EA have talked about certain users pouring thousands of dollars into Ultimate Team modes to buy packs of cards. (This micro-transaction model has also been quite successful for EA Sports on Facebook.)

Season Ticket is in its early stages, so it feels a little like an Underpants Gnome scheme when it comes to some of the perks in the program.

When it comes to selling Season Ticket to users, one of the more interesting parts of this initiative has to be that it is tied to a partnership with GameStop. This seems especially odd because Season Ticket seems like the first step towards cutting into retail's business. However, the partnership absolutely makes sense after speaking with Andrew Wilson.

"This program is designed to work with retail," said Wilson. "We have a very key relationship with GameStop. This is not supposed to circumvent or change that relationship that the consumer has with GameStop. They have 11 million PowerUp users they will market this program to."

Eleven million gamers will be bombarded with advertising and such about Season Ticket, all thanks to GameStop. Really, that's all the explanation that is needed.

In short, there are plenty of really fascinating portions to this program. Of course, there are also negatives that will be associated with this announcement.

Price and perception are two issues at work here. It does seem a bit unfair that users will be unable to pay $5 or $10 to get access to these perks for a single EA Sports game. On top of that, EA Sports has had missteps in the eyes of consumers when it comes to DLC, whether it be boosts that affect online OTP modes or paying a fee for certain Online Dynasty components in NCAA Football, which means negative feelings are going to be associated with Season Ticket.

But timing seems to be the biggest issue working against Season Ticket. There has been a lot of talk recently about how sloppy some sports games are on release day -- thanks to issues surrounding NCAA Football 12 this time around -- and whether or not people should even buy sports games at launch anymore. (We have talked about it, so have sites like Kotaku and PastaPadre.) So the biggest perk of this program can in a way be perceived as not even being a perk because of the negative feelings associated with being an early adopter. To put it another way, for something to feel like a privilege, you have to want to be a part of that exclusive group.

When it comes to the buggy nature of launch titles, I talked with Andrew Wilson about the potential pitfalls of exposing gamers to a buggy launch title, which could conceivably lead to decreased sales.

"It's a valid point," said Wilson. "But what I would say is we're committed to building great games, and if you try one of our games, you'll want to play more. It puts the onus on us to make sure we make great games because if we don't that could be a possibility."

If this program leads to EA Sports being more focused on cleaning its games up before launch, then it should be considered a success. If all it leads to is those "privileged" gamers figuring out bugs three days earlier, then it's not a solution to the problem, it just moves up the timetable on a patch by three days.
# 1 adchester2829 @ Aug 2
way to just try and squeeze more money out of your customers, EA. smh
# 2 jlandryst @ Aug 2
i see it as good and bad the only problem i have is why not a week early because 3 days early is not going to keep someone from buying it on ebay or hunting it early else where.
# 3 chi_hawks @ Aug 2
Here is what EA should do. Release this game 3 days early, for free, so that after user testing and eventual user feedback, they can get started in on all of the patches that are needed 3 days earlier than normal. This way consumers, who spend 60 dollars on the game, can get the bug-free game after patching 3 days ealrier (which will of course, be 30+ days after release).

It's almost like paying 25 bucks to get a swift kick in the junk.

I am a bit biased though. I've never understood the desire to try and get the game a few days early (I work, have family, have other hobbies too). I also am disgusted with a company that has exclusive rights over the NFL, NCAA and contunies to churn out games that lack the proper testing.
# 4 eagskerfan @ Aug 2
So we are paying to be their test players because obviously their actual game testers don't do a good job. When is the last time they've released a game that was playable day one?
# 5 yanknicks @ Aug 2
WOW!!!!!! they're trying to squeeze every little dime out our pocket. I get madden a week before release anyway. 3 days before release is nothing
# 6 DetroitStyle @ Aug 2
stupid people will buy stupid things and there's a lot of stupid people out there....
# 7 DetroitStyle @ Aug 2
Actually, this may be a good thing. Three days early access means the forums will be flooded with 3 days worth of testing and the bugs and glitches thread will reach 100 pages before the game even launches.
# 8 Elgin2311 @ Aug 2
Who comes up with these ideas! Not even worth considering.
# 9 jmik58 @ Aug 2
Anyone else notice the shift in consumers in the past 10 to 20 years?

It used to be about the item being purchased. Consumers have turned it into simply "having" it and having it sooner than is possible.

Used car salesman: "Not only will I sell you this jalopy, but I'll speed up the paperwork so you can tow it home today instead of on Friday...if you pay a $25 that is."

What is up with this generation of consumers? Just throw a date out there and it's not even about playing the game anymore, it's about "having" the game.
# 10 vln13 @ Aug 2
All it is is 15 days total per year of playing the games early for a price of $1.66 a day. Not unreasonable but not that worthwhile either.
# 11 Bull_Dozer @ Aug 2
I can think of a million better ways to blow 25 bucks
# 12 kc10785 @ Aug 2
I look at it like this every year people go crazy to get the game early. I have seen countless of people pay an extra 20 dollars to just get one game early. I have seen countless of people pay a extra 20 to get NCAA early and turn right back around and pay another extra 20 dollars to get Madden early.

The average person get there game early the Friday or the Saturday the games comes out. Mom and Pop stores is not a for sure thing anymore like a couple years ago so if you get it off ebay you paying at least $60 for the game and $20 for shipping and handling which is a $80 total. By letting us being able to play the full game I find this to be a steal. You pretty much paying 5 dollars to pay for the game early this gives me a chance to play game the Saturday before it comes out and still take advantage to all these pre-order deals Amazon and Gamestop be having for trade ins.

I will be taking advantage of this I actually give props to EA for catering to those people that go crazy and pay crazy prices to get the game early. If you not into getting games early this doesn't benefit you then
# 13 sparkdawg777 @ Aug 2
Wow, this almost makes me not want to buy EA's games anymore. I know this is a business but this "offer" should be an insult to the consumers' intelligence.
# 14 therockstar2005 @ Aug 2
Question: if they can provide the full game digitally for download 3 days before the release date, why can't they provide the full game for digital download on the actual release date for $60? I wouldn't mind just downloading it when it comes out, and then they just make it that much easier for people to get.
# 15 scottyo60 @ Aug 2
I like the one point about EA sports day one releases being so buggy... So essentially we are testing the game, but EA gets their cake and eats it too here. If they get you on the season pass and the games good people will go pay 60 for the game from the start. If it is not well they still have your 25 and could care less.

@kc They say they want to go at the casual market. Very few people in the casual side could care less about getting the game a few days later. I don't know if there is that hardcore of a market out there. Although the DLC discount all but says they are targeting that sector

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