Remember when games used to just, come out? They had a release day. On that release day, or potentially the night before, you’d go to the store, hand a person some cash, the same amount as everyone else, and walk out with a game that you could then go home and immediately start playing. That was nice.
Anthem’s release is not that. Instead it’s so convoluted EA released a chart to try and help people make sense of when people can play the BioWare-developed shared-world shooter. How early and how long you can play Anthem for in mid-February depends on things like which video game-playing machine you own and how much money you’ve agreed to have auto-debit from your bank account each month.
With an Origin Premier subscription for $15 a month you can start playing the full game on PC on February 15. If you only have an Origin Access subscription for $5 a month you can start playing on February 15, but only for 10 hours. You can also do that on Xbox One with a $5 a month EA Access subscription. Everyone without some sort of subscription, or if playing on PS4, will have to wait until February 22 to start playing.
It’s needlessly complex and a bit frustrating. The release of a new online multiplayer game feels a bit like a concert. Which is great. Concerts are fun. Except when you feel like you’re getting nickel and dimed to get the best experience, or when your friends are in the pit but you’re stuck off on the lawn.
To put it another way, part of the excitement around Anthem is getting to be part of a new community exploring a new world. It’s never fun when right out of the gate that sort of shared experience starts getting divided into tiers and gated based on the platform you’re playing on or how much money you’re paying.
This isn’t a new trend for EA, or other companies, but it’s certainly becoming more common and more complicated, especially as its subscription service tiers multiply. Things like EA Access, Origin Access, and even Origin Premier can be great on their own, providing a way for people to try out different games from an expansive library of demos and back catalogue titles available to all subscribers. When they become tools for further stratifying the audience for a particular game, however, they mar a game’s launch. If EA is using early access to get people to spend money on these services because selling Anthem for $60 isn’t profitable enough on its own, an easier way might just be to charge $70 and let everyone start enjoying the game together at the same time, no charts needed.
Earlier today, one player tweeted at the Anthem Twitter account and asked why players on PS4 didn’t have any options for getting a head-start like everyone else. Jonathan Warner, the game’s director, responded by saying that EA Access not being an option for PS4 owners is out of BioWare’s hands and strictly negotiated between EA and Sony. “If it were up to me we would ALL play on the same day,” he wrote.
Correction: An earlier version of this article implied Origin Premier subscribers also need to buy Anthem separately to play early. Access to Anthem is included as part of the Origin Premier service.