EA's Online Pass: Used Games Just Became More Expensive

By Nick Young on June 9, 2010, 1:24PM EDT
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EA Sports have introduced a new 'feature' into their online sports franchises, dubbed the "Online Pass". This pass is a one-time use code that when entered will allow players to enjoy the multiplayer aspect of their games that have been a standard for many years now. Unfortunately, anyone who buys one of these games second-hand will not have access to the pass but can buy a new one for $10 through the in-game menu. Each game will have a ten-day free trial for players who simply rent the games, but anything more than that and they would have to cough up the money. This is a bold move from EA which is hoping to grab a piece of the used game sales, pie but is it a just cause? Or a greedy one?

It's no secret that game developers/publishers don't like the re-sale of their games, as they aren't entitled to any portion of the revenue. EA's Online Pass is looking to settle this problem by either making money off of people who would rather buy a used game or by encouraging them to buy a brand new one. This is rather daring of EA considering the only people to gain anything from such an idea would be the ones profiting from the $10 charge. There really is no silver lining for the consumers who now have the option to either pay the full price or save just a little less than they usually would.

After a considerable amount of thought, I would have to agree that EA have a pretty good plan to remedy the used game sales that have plagued the industry for so long, but like any plan, there will be problems. For instance, EA is notorious for shutting down old servers to allow for the latest sports games it releases, the problem being, what if a consumer buys an Online Pass several months before the server is shut down? Is that really worth the $10? While these people will be the minority, the issue is still important to consider. There's also the question of customers who unwittingly buy the game without the knowledge of an extra charge. These are by no means major issues but there may be more when the Online Pass is eventually released.

But like I said, EA have a very good plan - no other company has thought of a better idea at this point. That being said, is this the only true way of encouraging sales of brand new products? Game companies have tried to offer free DLC (Downloadable Content) and in-game bonuses to tempt consumers into purchasing a new copy to no avail. Some consumers simply cannot afford a full price game and companies like EA fail to realise this. Yes, this Online Pass will discourage people from buying a second-hand copy but it won't exactly tempt them into buying a brand new one either.

The Online Pass is a step in the right direction, well, for EA and their partners in any case, but what does the future hold for us consumers? If companies like EA are willing to charge for the multiplayer aspect of their games in second-hand copies, what's next? Will we be forced to pay for single player levels as well? Single player aspects of games will most likely be unaffected in the future due to the large player base who still don't play online. Other companies will likely adopt this pricing structure and continue to hold 'multiplayer for ransom' considering it's a key part of many popular games.

To summarise, EAs Online Pass allows developers/publishers to make some money from the used game market, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, consumers who rely on used games may lose out on this deal, as gaming is a very expensive hobby. Bottom line, if you do not agree with this Online Pass then don't pay for it, remember that consumers have the power to reject these ideas.

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