JAN. 18, 2016 • Both Amazon.com, Inc. and Electronic Arts Inc. have put in place new discount plans on game title sales. Subscribers to the $99 annual Amazon Prime program now get a 20% discount on all physical game pre-order sales, plus 20% off on all titles purchased within two weeks after release. Amazon also guarantees release day delivery on all physical game pre-orders. Electronic Arts has taken its EA Access program for the Xbox One and created a PC version called EA Origin Access. For $5 per month, subscribers gain full access to all full-game computer downloads available from the EA Vault – currently 15 titles – access to trials of games before they are released, plus a 10% discount on all Origin purchases.
Impact: The whopper discount deal is Amazon’s thanks to the online retailer’s reach and its friendly policies that allow family members to share Prime memberships. Often missed in the discussion is that Amazon also has an Amazon Student program that makes Prime available for $49 per year. That this discount program is on physical product, with pre-orders delivered on the release date, there is potential for a significant boon to retail game sales. The closest subscription plan from a national competitor is Best Buy Co., Inc., which offers 20% off on new physical game sales for $30 over 24 months through its My Best Buy Gamers Club Unlocked program. Best Buy’s plan also gives subscribers a 10% discount on used game purchases, and a 10% bonus on trade-ins. EA’s 10% discount on Origin game purchases simply do not stack up in comparison. The access to Vault titles on Origin has the potential to be a decent value, but only one of them – Battlefield Hardline – was released during the last year. For the Xbox One, EA Access has added recent titles around six months after release. The publisher has not disclosed what the schedule will be like for PC titles on Origin.
As these subscription discount plans proliferate, the clear winners are game consumers. Ninety-nine dollars may seem like a lot, but Amazon provides a ridiculous amount of value for that annual fee, including free two-day shipping on all purchases, access to exclusive video content, plus free access to thousands of Kindle ebooks. Adding a discount to console and PC game purchases is a clear shot across the bow of all other retailers. Only Steam’s high frequency of sales and social connection features will immunize the digital distributor somewhat, especially since many of the PC games purchased through Amazon will still have to be authenticated through Steam. The other subscription discount programs will find their niches, but until a successful anti-trust assault is mounted, Amazon has the potential of gobbling up a lot of pre-order and launch window market share on physical game SKUs.