Thursday, May 13, 2010

What if EA's Online Pass goes universal?

You might have heard about EA’s new system for purchasers of used games. Not only does this bring downloadable content to a whole new level, but it explores the idea of universal implementation

Starting with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, EA will make an “Online Pass” mandatory to participate in any online component of their sports titles. If you buy new you’ll have nothing to worry about. However, any consumer who buys used will have a seven-day trial period before being prompted to purchase the pass. Basically it’s downloadable content that’ll cost you $10 if you’re really into the idea of taking your game online.

Frankly, the idea behind this is ostensibly gross. Being strapped for cash, people working with a very limited budget definitely look to used games as a saving grace. It allows for an experience at a lower price as long as you’re willing to sacrifice physical quality and the shrink wrap. This is the way it’s always been. Games already cost a lavish amount and adding on an exclusive $10 fee to a discounted game seems pretty sleazy, but the thing is I definitely see where EA is coming from. That used game revenue goes straight to retailers and with how high production costs are, maintaining servers, etc it makes sense that a company like EA would want their consumers to buy new in order to gain the direct revenue.

Arguably, the more important part about all of this is whether or not the online pass will transition to other games beyond EA Sports titles. Obviously it’s much too early to tell if it’ll happen, but with all the security out there already I wouldn’t put my money on never seeing this “Pass” system implemented throughout the industry. 

Chris Johnson is worth more than $10If, however, it did manage to eke its way through then this whole debate would get a load more troublesome. Sure it might be okay now since it only affects sports games, but how would you react if you were prompted to purchase a $10 pass to play the next Battlefield game you borrowed from a friend? I think it turns the tables a bit.

I certainly understand the predicament companies have with the used games industry, but charging for something that has always been free doesn’t seem like the right way to do it. Sports games recycle faster than most conventional titles, so maybe the sting won’t be as bad as it could be.

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