UPDATE: According to Eurogamer, not only will new games from EA not feature the Online Pass system, the old passes are going the way of the dodo as well. Over the next few weeks, older titles will either be updated to no longer require passes, or said passes will be available as a free download. On the surface good news for gamers, in practice, remember those draconian measures I mentioned? While the details of Microsoft and Sony’s DRM plans for the new consoles are still fuzzy, dollars to donuts the new system basically makes the Online Pass redundant.
Used game fans can breathe a sight of relief, as EA has announced that it will be discontinuing its Online Pass intiative. A backhanded attempt to stymie secondhand sales, the pass essentially added a multiplayer tax to used products. Buying the game new would give you a one-time code granting access to the online features (and in cases like Mass Effect 2, DLC content), while those who took the used route could purchase the code separately, usually for $9.99. The move forced retailers to label used games that required such a pass, and also prevented immediate $5 mark downs on used titles. Now however it seems EA will be discontinuing the program, though their given reason seems a little bizarre. In an e-mail to Gamesbeat (who first broke the story) EA senior director of corporate communications John Reseburg said “Initially launched as an effort to package a full menu of online content and services, many players didn’t respond to the format. We’ve listened to the feedback and decided to do away with it moving forward.”
While listening to consumer feedback is usually a good thing (especially when the internet apparently hates you), in this case it comes across as either incredible naiveté or a limp excuse meant to cover the real reason for the program’s dismissal (such as lost revenue and/or plans for more draconian measures). It was obvious from the minute it was announced that no one other than developers and EA stockholders was going to actually like the new Online Pass system. It was introducing a paid aspect to a previously free feature, with at best some token additional content as compensation. The best possible outcome would be support from developer-sympathetic consumers, the type of consumers who were most likely already making a conscious decision to purchase their games new. Everyone else would either be indifferent or angry over being charged more, and so a largely negative response was seemingly inevitable.
While the move to abolish used games on consoles may have been paused for the moment, the march towards a “one time buy” future seems inevitable. Even before the advent of digital delivery supremacy the PC market had abandoned the used game model, and while that sort of brute force approach obviously won’t work with console games, the increasing incentives of online sales may be the honeypot necessary to break the influence of retailers. Either way, physical media fetishists should brace themselves for game discs one day going the way of vinyl.
[Credit to ansik for the image]
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