Fans of EA Sports games tend to be a dedicated lot, but now the publisher is launching a program that will help it find the most dedicated.
The company's just-unveiled Season Ticket program will give die-hard fans the chance to get a three-day head start on new versions of Madden, FIFA, Tiger Woods, NHL and NCAA Football games as well as discounts on any downloadable content.
But that access comes with a price - and a catch.
A Season Ticket membership costs $25 per year, which buys fans the chance to download a copy of new sports games (starting with this year's Madden) three days early. At 6:00 am ET on the day of release, though, that sneak peek expires - and the game won't work until you have a retail version of the disc. In other words, you can't pay to just unlock the digital version you've already downloaded. (Your game system will, however, hang on to your save games.)
Essentially, that means players are being asked to pay a premium for an early rental of the games. If they're fans (and regular buyers) of all of the EA Sports line, it's not a particularly bad deal - but if their devotion lies in a single title or two, the math becomes more questionable.
To sweeten the pot, EA's also offering a 20 percent discount on all future downloadable content, such as additional courses for Tiger Woods.
"This is not for everybody," Peter Moore, president of EA Sports told Reuters. "This is for a hardcore EA Sports consumer that buys multiple games a year and enjoys getting their hands on games before anyone."
EA's just the latest publisher looking to monetize its loyalist fan base. Activision-Blizzard got the ball rolling earlier this year with the introduction of Call of Duty: Elite. Both programs are designed primarily to boost DLC sale, an area where publisher profit margins are exponentially higher than retail sales.
One warning for fans, though: Season Ticket makes the most sense if, in addition to being a regular buyer of every EA Sport game, you also buy them all for the same game system. If you play Madden on the Xbox but prefer Tiger Woods on the PlayStation and want to get early access to both, you're gonna need two Season Tickets. The pass is platform exclusive.