EA’s Online Pass Targets Used Game Buyers

EA Sports may have to change its "It’s In the Game" slogan to the more appropriate "It’s in the Game (if you bought it new)." While some publishers and game developers continue to talk about how to deal with the used games market popularized by retailers like GameStop, publisher Electronic Arts is firing the first shot with EA Sports Online Pass. The company announced this week a new system that – it hopes – will compel consumers to buy its sports games new.  But this new scheme doesn’t target retailers like GameStop – it puts a bull’s-eye on consumers.  

EA Sports Online Pass will be a part of all future EA SPORTS simulation games on the PS3 and Xbox 360 beginning in June with Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 11. Each new game will come with an additional code for online play that will give you access to various online modes, content and more – but here’s the catch for consumers who buy the game used: you will have to pay $10 to access all the online games modes and additional content by buying a new code in-game, through Xbox Live or PlayStation Network.

Microsoft and Sony are playing a part in facilitating this additional cost to consumers who don’t buy EA Sports titles "new" by allowing EA to sell the Online Pass on its services. This is on a per-title basis, so don’t think you’ll be buying a subscription to defer any of the costs.

Using the upcoming Madden NFL 11 as an example, a new copy of the game should cost $59.99; the average discounted price of a pre-owned game is $49.99. If you buy the game used you will have to pay an additional $10 for online play. That gives EA an additional $10 in revenue (before any costs it might have in running the program) on a game it already sold once and it puts the price of the game back up to what a brand new copy of the game retails for.

This is just an opening salvo in a war against the used games market; but the reality is that it is a win-win for retailers who don’t incur any additional costs from EA’s newest scheme (and are perfectly comfortable with selling new games), while consumers are caught in the middle. Expect other publishers to adopt this new pay to play scheme and prepare for other EA titles to include the same kind of restriction to access (edit – I forgot to mention similar efforts in other EA Games like Mass Effect 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and The Saboteur)

EA’s Online Pass site offers an answer for those consumers willing to listen:

Is this intended to combat second sale?
We actually view the second sale market as an opportunity to develop a direct relationship with our consumers, and with Online Pass everyone has access to the same premium online services and content regardless of how and where you buy the game. In order to continue to enhance the online experiences that are attracting nearly five million connected game sessions a day, again, we think it’s fair to get paid for the services we provide and to reserve these online services for people who pay EA to access them. In return, we’ll continue to invest in creating great games and offer industry-leading online services to extend the game experience to everyone. I don’t think even the harshest cynic can argue with that and instead I think fans will see the value we’re committing to deliver when they see all the services, features and bonus content that is extending the life of their products.

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  1. cpu64 says:

     As much as I don’t like EA sports (or any sports games) I will say that this is a brilliant move on their part.

    Gamestop is making more money moving games back and forth, than the developers do for actually making the games. 

    When you buy a used car you don’t expect to get all the extras you get with a new car.. If you buy a guitar at a pawn shop, do you ask for the extra pack of strings, amp, lesson book and the instructional dvd?

    If someone buys a used game for half the price, why should they get the same product that I got when I paid full price? I’d say they should make it $20 instead of $10

    Developers/Publishers already get raped enough by gamestop as it is.

  2. ecco6t9 says:

    So our rights die a little more and people are cheering since it takes down "big bad Gamestop."


    This is the begining of the end, next generation everything will be digital downloads that will cost $60-$80 each, still last 6 hours, and no way to resell any of it.

    The only reason music took off as downloads are due to songs costing about $1 each.

  3. Baruch_S says:

    EA hating consumers isn’t a big surprise anymore. If they keep this up, they may be able to sink their own company without the help of the pirates or nefarious used game retailers they like to blame for everything.

  4. Hypevosa says:

    This isn’t the first game to do this.  Dragon Age: origins comes with "$15 worth of DLC" in with the code for shale if you get it new, and it’s the same exact thing since it’s an extra you don’t necessarily need to play the game.

    This is no different as you don’t need the shale DLC to really enjoy Dragon Age, and you don’t need multiplayer to enjoy a sports game.  As long as it isn’t a multiplayer only game, but still has single player and splitscreen/system link, it’s not so horrible.

    What this does allow is for people who just buy the game so they can play with their roommate or friends to just buy the game with the splitscreen and single player experience (I assume if they have system link this would be untouched since it’s not a service they’re rendering like online play is).  So they can buy used and get it even cheaper since the lack of the code will effect the game’s used price (though not immediately), and they can enjoy it without the online component.

    "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." ~Best quote ever, Albert Einstein

  5. hellfire7885 says:

    Not to mention it can also let a person experience a frnachise before buying in new. You whipe out the used market, the nless peopel are inclined to buy new.

  6. Frommonday says:

    I don’t play online, so the issue doesn’t effect me, but I don’t think EA has considered this problem very carefully. Curtailing the used market is good for their sales… In the short term. However, in the long term, it means they’re going to be selling less new games in total.

    Someone buying a used game isn’t always doing so because they want to save money. Sometimes they do it because it’s all they can afford. Without those consumers to help bolster the sale of used games, players who buy new games and then trade them in weeks later will find that their trade-in doesn’t go as far as it used to. That means that they, in turn, will have less to spend on new games. Which, in turn, will effect EA’s bottom line.

    The simple fact of the matter is that the secondary market has a direct effect on the primary market, but it’s a form of symbiosis, not parasitism. EA is only going to hurt its own bottom line with this scheme. Just because someone is willing to spend $34.99 each on two used games does not mean that curtailing his interest in them will magically transform that money into a $69.98 sale of a new game. And without the $27 trade-in value someone else gets for their copy of Final Fantasy XIII, they might decide to pass on the next Tiger Woods game.

    It’s basic economics. A consumer’s willingness to pay for a product has to meet their percieved value of the item in question, or they’ll take their money elsewhere.

  7. gonzlamm says:

     Like others have said this is nothing new. Sony already did this with the newest socom:subtitle psp game. By what i read about the plan EA basicly copy pasted Sony’s idea.

  8. Baruch_S says:

    My analogy is perfectly fine. Free multiplayer is a long-established part of the video game industry. It’s not some sort of new-fangled add-on; it’s been around for pretty much as long as the Internet has been a viable way to connect with other players.

    Your Apple analogy, on the other hand, is garbage. Giving away iPads would cost Apple money. They’d have to make and then distribute them with no way to recover the cost. Game companies have already recovered the cost on used games back when the original buyer bought it new. EA doesn’t lose any money from used game sales; they just don’t directly make any, and they shouldn’t expect to since they’ve already been paid for the product once.

    I guess it’s the mentality of Company Entitlement that sees screwing the consumer and undermining his ability to legally re-sell the property that he legally purchased as an acceptable and commendable practice.

    And you can’t assume that all people who buy used games only buy used games. Most people buy new and used games, not just one or the other. You can’t assume that EA isn’t hurting its business by angering customers who buy used games.

    Every other industry gets by just fine with its used market. Car companies don’t complain about used car salesmen, and publishing companies don’t complain about used booksellers. Nobody complains about thrift stores or eBay sellers, either. The game industry is, to my knowledge, the only industry that thinks it’s entitled to undercut the used market for its product. What makes the game industry so special that they can’t deal with used sales?

  9. Vinzent says:

    But the book cover and table of contents are not bells and whistles. They are a long established part of the textbook. Removing them would indeed be scaling down the experience.

    To use your analogy properly, people buying a new textbook would be able to download a free PDF of the textbook including improved bookmarks and hyperlinks. Those who buy a used book would only get the book.

    And since when is it a crime for a company to do well? Apple does well, but I don’t see them saying "You know, we made enough money. Let’s start giving iPads away for free."

    EA has every right to reward people who are supporting their company. I guess it’s the mentality of "Gamer Entitlement" that sees this as punishment.

    And lastly, buying a used game is the same as not buying the game at all to EA. So why should they listen to those who buy the game used? You could boycott them, but that doesn’t hit their bottom line at all since they aren’t seeing any revenue from you to begin with.

  10. Glasofruix says:

    Except that in mass effect 2 your access to the game features is not limited when you’re playing without cerberus network, which btw provides cool but non essential bonuses…

  11. Conejo says:

    This is already in Mass Effect 2 (Cerberus Network) and Dragon Age (2 high-cost extras came free with new game).

    if used games weren’t so retarded expensive, this would be less of a factor.

    is the extra content worth the price?  probably.

    is the extra price just a "screw you" to customers trying to save a buck? yes.

    Here are we — and yonder yawns the universe.

  12. Baruch_S says:

    And maybe when you buy a used textbook instead of a new one to save a few bucks, it should come without covers or a table of contents. After all, you should be content with a readable book; if you want all the bells and whistles, you should pay the full price and support the publishing company instead of giving your money to the parasitic Used-Book Overlords.

    The consumer isn’t the problem here; EA and companies like it are. EA should man up, admit that they’re doing fine with money, and focus on establishing a happy customer base that is willing to buy games new. These game companies need to quit whining and screwing around with useless consumer-harming DRM and instead start focusing on making good games that people will buy.

  13. Vinzent says:

    I’d also like to add that what you get with the new game seems to be extra content. It’s not like they are scaling down the experience to weasel more money out of you. They could have put out this game without the bonus content and no one would be whining about it.

    And no, I’m not an EA shill.


  14. Vinzent says:

    I’m all for it. The game is still playable to those who want to save a buck. If you really want all of the bells and whistles, maybe you should try supporting the people who worked hard to build that game instead of supporting the parasitic Used-Game Overlords. It also discourages piracy a little.

    Man up and buy the new game, or be content with a playable game that allowed you to save a few bucks.

  15. Thad says:

    Well, it’s not like EA has any choice; they’re in dire financial straits.  Just look at this Businessweek article, Electronic Arts Fourth-Quarter Profit Beats Analysts’ Estimates:

    "Profit excluding certain items was 7 cents a share, the Redwood City, California-based company said today in a statement, exceeding the 5-cent average estimate of 25 analysts compiled by Bloomberg. Excluding deferred revenue, sales rose 40 percent to $850 million."

    So there you have it.  Used game sales are bleeding them dry.

  16. CyberSkull says:

    I hate this. I already shell out for Xbox Live Gold, why do I have to pay in addition? What if I am renting the game? Multiplayer is a basic component of sports games and to deny it like this is just a bad move.

    For the record, I don’t play sports games, but I see this is going to spill over into other genres if successful here.

  17. ZippyDSMlee says:

    It is more DLC wankery than DRM wankery but the empisis ipon what we get is the same, a key is only to be look at by the publisher as a tool to limit abuse not force new sales and crap for any reason.

    Until lobbying is a hanging offense I choose anarchy! CP/IP laws should not effect the daily life of common people! http://zippydsmlee.wordpress.com/

  18. Weatherlight says:

    No Zippy views it as a form of DRM, and I somewhat agree. How many times do we have to pay for the same thing? Why cant I let my little brother play it on his account without forking over another $10?


  19. Weatherlight says:

    I dont like this one bit. I just paid for Xbox Live, so I could play online. Now your telling me I need to pay another fee if I bought the game used, or got it from a friend. I already paid for a console, Live, accessories, internet connection, the game (in some form), and your telling me that I need to pay you another $10? Where does this stop? To play a game online I am already paying a monthly fee to Microsoft why do I need to pay again?


  20. Weatherlight says:

    No I dont think gamers are, and please dont pick on Zippy, hes a Mew.


  21. MrBounce says:

    Judging by comments made by people on other sites, aside from the crazies who don’t even understand the issue (see the first poster on here as an example), I think gamers are generally on board with this.

    And I sort of agree, I think places like Gamestop will have to lower their prices a tad on used games if this becomes more wide spread for titles that have online play. But not all gamers use online components nor do all games have any real online content, so this wouldn’t affect the ones that fall under that category.

  22. UncleMidriff says:

    I’m wondering if the used prices on these games will end up being a little less because of this system.  With this system in place, the value of a a used game sitting on the shelf at a GameStop will be less, and the price of that used game should reflect that difference.  It’ll be interesting to see how GameStop handles that though.

    At the risk of incurring the wrath of everyone here, I actually think I might kinda sorta like this new system.  I shudder every time I buy a used PC game with a multiplayer component, because there’s no way to know if the CD key or whatever will be valid anymore.  Is the guy I bought it from still using that CD key on a pirated copy?  Did he get himself banned for cheating with this CD key?  Etc.  With this system in place, I could just tell him, "Look, you knock $10 off the price for that game since I’m going to have to buy a new ‘online pass’ anyway, and I’ll buy it," and then I wouldn’t have to worry about any of that.  Of course, I’m not sure if these issues are found in console gaming, so maybe this point is invalid.



  23. MrBounce says:

    What are you ranting about? This has nothing to do with DRM.

    If you buy the game new you get all the features and you don’t pay extra. If you buy the game used, if you want to play online you either can use the 7 day trial period (which is great for renters) or you buy an online pass for 10 bucks. Doesn’t really seem like a huge issue unless you’re the people selling used games.

  24. ZippyDSMlee says:

    All the more reason to not buy at all.

    Stop fcking with the consumer, sale games with passive DRM that checks the key for over use, no activations unless the consumer wants online access, no need to do anything but install and play for offline mode access,wake up befor you have no paying consumers left.

    Until lobbying is a hanging offense I choose anarchy! CP/IP laws should not effect the daily life of common people! http://zippydsmlee.wordpress.com/

  25. MrBounce says:

    Not one to agree with the corporate big wigs, but I agree with this one.

    Why should companies like Gamestop be allowed to cut such a huge (last study showed 46%??? are you kidding… that’s insane) swath from developers and publishers through used games. This way, just buy the game new, and everything is fine. Buy the game used to save you $5, then you don’t get full access including the online component. Seems perfectly fair to me.

    One caveat for me though would be to open up and allow access online to games that are a year or two old. That way used games can still stimulate the market. I find it ridiculous places like Gamestop buy almost new release games for less than half the price of a new one, then sell it back to users for only a couple bucks cheaper.

  26. hellfire7885 says:

    Ok, despite the fact that I don’t play EA’s sports titles, this will quickly bleed over to their other online titles, even PC ones I gather.

    So pardon my language, but, fuck you EA, FUCK YOU!!!

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