Anthem will be a part of the EA's Origin Access Premier, meaning that Anthem will be available to subscription members days before the official launch date on February 22, 2019. Not only that but as part of EA's top-tier subscription service members will have access to the game for as long as they are subscribed to EA's service. According to a triple-A developer like BioWare, subscription services aren't just a way to open up audiences but can diversify the kind of games they can feasibly make as well.
"You know I really like the idea of a subscription," says Anthem executive producer Mark Darrah. "If you look at Netflix we live in—I was going to say a 'golden age' [laughs] ah fuck it—we live in a golden age of television because a subscription platform like Netflix allows Netflix or HBO or Amazon to take a lot more experiments, do a lot more different formats."
Darrah says that the variety on display at services like Netflix, which produces all format of shows from movies, to documentaries, to hour-long dramas, is better compared to the high-end video game space. "If you look at the triple-A space we've become quite risk averse because games are all basically—they have same bar... and it all kind of means that they all have quite similar budgets and quite similar expectations and quite similar goals. And I think once you look in a world of subscriptions it opens the door to new possibilities. Like games that aren't intended to be played by more than 300,000 people but are built and budgeted accordingly."
Anthem lead producer Mike Gamble echoed Darrah on the possibilities with subscription services for video games. "You have your House of Cards for Netflix, but you also have your comedy specials or like your true crime documentaries, and it's not just genre which is different. Size and scale of those things—budgets and everything are different things. And as a person who subscribes to Netflix you're like 'I get all of that for my subscription' And then I can dabble, and I can choose like, 'Oh well you know that was cool I liked it but it was only an hour of my life so that's all right.' I don't have to be super invested."
We've seen similar subscription services for video games like Xbox Game Pass impact first-party games positively. Consider Rare whose Sea of Thieves was the first Xbox first-party game to launch simultaneously on Game Pass at launch and saw positive correlations between players who first tried Sea of Thieves on Game Pass before purchasing the game. But Darrah and Gamble see benefits beyond just market accessibility.
"What you see in television homes is a de-homogenization," says Darrah. "There's more different television being made. And what I worry is happening in games, and triple-A in particular, is a homogenization. Games are getting more like each other. We're chasing, not the same audiences, but ever sort of convergent audiences—audiences with similar behaviors and play styles. And what I would hope that we see as subscription start to rise is the same kind of thing, a de-homogenization. Where more different kinds of things are targeted. Genres that don't even exist now can come into being and exist and maybe find a niche. Maybe that niche isn't very big, but it doesn't need to be that big because it can be addressed in a very different way."
Mike Gamble says that subscription services can help games like Unravel for example which will be available to players who might just subscribe to EA Origin Access Premier for games like Madden and Anthem. Like with Netflix, these players might dabble with Unravel, and become fans in the process. So instead of the next Triple-A game being marketed to the specific slice of players, the audience can be everyone (granted they're subscribed to Origin Access Premier).
EA Origin Access Premier is EA's highest-tier subscription plan which gives players access to all EA games days before launch for $14.99 a month, or $99.99 a year. The new subscription supplants the original Origin membership which is now being called Origin Access Basic, which only includes first-look previews of games and select titles from The Vault.
Xbox has a similar service called Xbox Game Pass which for $9.99 a month gives players access to a select library of games as well as same-day access to first-party games like Sea of Thieves. If rumors are true, Microsoft might even be working on a streaming-only console for its next-generation hardware.
Whatever the case it's clear that subscription-services for video games are ramping up after years of false starts. But while we've always heard the benefits for the customer, this is the first time we might have heard what subscription services do for developers and for BioWare at least the possibilities are quite positive.
For more on Anthem, check out our complete Anthem guide with all our previews, news, and release info. We'll have a bigger interview with Mark and Mike later today, but you can check out what they have to say about Anthem's post-launch plans here.
Anthem is coming out on February 22, 2019 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.