For years the video game industry has handled sports franchises in a routine fashion. Whether a football or soccer or basketball franchise, you could rely on getting a new release for your favorite sport’s franchise every year around the same time. As the industry evolves and the way in which we consume games changes, that routine may be abandoned for another method, including the requirement to purchase a subscription.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson discussed the possibility of not having an annual release of a franchise like Madden NFL or FIFA. Instead, EA could instead offer updates to members of a subscription service and rely on distribution of digital updates to purchased games in between official releases.
“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 to Bloomberg. “We can really think about those games as a 365-day, live service.”
That may be a bit of a shock for gamers who can schedule their calendars around the release dates of signature franchises like Madden and FIFA, but the influence of digital downloads and digital purchases across the industry on PlayStation, XBox and now the Switch has led to companies like EA to evaluate their best possible plan of attack for their releases. Going to a subscription model would make some fiscal sense as it would cut down the number of physical releases drastically every other year across various franchises.
Doing so may be a bit of a risk, but it does seem like a doable option and would actually be a benefit to gamers. Consumers who purchased a copy of Madden NFL on an annual basis for years no longer would be required to shell out the cash for an annual purchase, and the subscription updates would likely cost less in the long run, especially if the same subscription model could lead to updates for multiple titles. Maybe it cuts into EA’s coffers a bit, but there is potential to make up for it by not having to produce annual physical copies of certain games. EA could make up the lost revenue pretty easily if that is the case.
EA has already seen the benefits of its EA Access subscription service, and it has experimented with a mobile Madden NFL game that is regularly updated. The tools are in place for one of the top third-party companies in the video game industry to try something revolutionary with some of the biggest third-party franchises.