Electronic Arts has announced the EA Sports Season Ticket, a membership scheme that rewards users with early access to games and discounted downloadable content.
The Season Ticket gives members access to participating games three games before they hit store shelves by digital download, and a 20 per cent discount on DLC. EA also rather vaguely promises "premium web content" and "membership recognition" to those that sign up.
The first game to support the scheme will be Madden NFL 12, which is released later this month. Other participating series include NHL, FIFA, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, and NCAA Football.
EA Sports president Peter Moore said: "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 it as we listen to what consumers want most from their gaming experiences."
The move will further accelerate EA's much-publicised efforts to make its digital business worth a billion dollars a year. Giving early access to games increases margins by gazumping retailers, and it appears a safe bet that the PC downloads will only be available through EA's new Origin download store.
EA pioneered the concept of the online pass – which requires second-hand buyers to pay a further premium to access a game's online component – which Moore dubbed Project Ten Dollar. Several other publishers have since followed EA's lead in an effort to thwart trade-ins and second-hand sales.
Few other publishers, however, have a similar range of products that can be tied together in this way, so it remains to be seen how many others will follow suit. Activision is set to launch its premium Call Of Duty subscription service, Elite, alongside Modern Warfare 3 in November.
While FIFA devotees will doubtless jump at the chance to get early access to the latest game in the series, others will be concerned at EA's discovery of yet another method to further monetise its users in a financial climate where £40 is a lot of money.
EA Sports Season Ticket is available now through the Xbox Live Marketplace for 2000 Microsoft Points, and the PlayStation Store for $24.99.