The first test of EA’s Online Pass begins soon, with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 in stores nationwide. Of course the real test won’t begin until first-time buyers dump their shiny new copies of EA’s golf game back into retails stores like GameStop and used game buyers either buy it or boycott it. In case you haven’t been following EA’s Online Pass, it is a serial code based system for Xbox 360 and PS3 sports games from EA Sports that charges used game buyers $10 to access online play.
While the industry and angry consumers await the results of this little experiment, Joystiq’s Law of the Game points out that game publishers maybe playing with a fire they can’t put out: government regulation. Here’s a sample, though there are more points worth reading in the rest of this article:
Many of you may recall that I’ve mentioned the FTC’s lingering desire to regulate more online content, as we’ve talked specifically about DRM and EULAs in the past. If the FTC is really looking to make a splash, all it needs are a few complaints about the Online Pass, especially related to multiplayer. Why multiplayer? The box will almost certainly list that as a game feature, and one of the things the FTC always focuses on is misleading advertisement or labeling. In fact, if anyone at EA is reading this, proper box text could be the difference between the FTC looking into the issue and choosing not to address the issue. Like so many other things, if other companies choose to start making similar systems mandatory for certain content and play types, then the probability that regulators get involved goes up significantly.
The one other important point made in the column is that Tiger Woods is not the real test for Online Pass; it is going to take a game like Madden to see whether or not Online Pass will fail and chances are that – if the FTC does look into this – it will be because some high profile individual or a player somehow connected with someone at the FTC will get burned by a used game.