EA Sports launches Season Ticket subscription

Pre-release access to EA Sports games on Xbox 360 and PS3, a 20% discount on DLC, and "premium web content" are amongst the goodies being offered in a $25 annual 'Season Ticket' subscription, launching today on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Marketplace.

Madden NFL Football, NHL Hockey, FIFA Soccer, Tiger Woods PGA TOUR Golf, and NCAA Football will take part in the EA Sports Season Ticket program. The benefits will kick off this month with early access to Madden NFL 12, so Madden fans who want to spend extra money beyond the $60 charged for each year's new edition can get right down to it.

Here's exactly what you'll get for your $25:

  • Early Full-Game Digital Access: Three days before a game's scheduled release, fans will be able to download and play the full version of all five participating titles on Xbox 360 and PS3. The digitally downloaded game will time out when the game is available at retail and consumers have the option to purchase the same full game on disc at retail. EA SPORTS Season Ticket subscribers can transfer all achievements earned during the three-day download period to the purchased disc, resulting in an early edge over the competition.

  • Discounted Downloadable Content: Subscribers will get a 20-percent discount on all available downloadable content for participating EA SPORTS titles. Downloadable content, which enhances and refreshes the core game experience, includes such items as Ultimate Team packs, accelerator packs and gear upgrades.

  • Free Premium Web Content: Premium web content extends the game experience beyond the console to a web browser. All participating titles will feature premium web content that will be free to EA SPORTS Season Ticket members beginning with the premium Creation Center packs for FIFA Soccer 12. These packs provide a deeper set of customization tools and abilities within Creation Center to build your own teams and tournaments, and will be available to the consumer until the membership to the program has expired.

  • Membership Recognition: Subscribers are easily identifiable with an exclusive membership recognition badge displayed both in-game and on their EASPORTS.com profile.

"EA Sports Season Ticket is an exciting program for our core fans — it lets our biggest fans play earlier, play more and play better than anyone else," EA Sports president Peter Moore said in the announcement. "EA Sports Season Ticket is an important step in our vision for transforming how deeply fans connect with the sports games they love through digital products and services. We're excited to continue evolving EA Sports Season Ticket as we listen to what consumers want most in their gaming experiences."

The online era is proving very handy for publishers looking to continue making money from players after they've bought the game. Downloadable content is now ubiquitous, more and more major publishers are launching online pass schemes to claw back money purportedly lost to used game sales. It seems subscription services are the next step. Activision is launching the Call of Duty Elite social service for its annualized FPS franchise, offering premium features to subscribers.

Some will scoff at the offerings, but there will certainly be an audience for this and similar programs. Let's hope they stay restricted to frilly perks, though, and we don't see core parts of the game become subscriber-only features.