THQ's decision to put UFC Undisputed 2010's multiplayer behind a "Project $US10" one-use code was controversial enough. Its slapdash implementation in the game couldn't make the publisher look worse.
Gamers have complained that THQ's messaging on the one-use code - which can be bought in the PS3 and Xbox 360's online marketplace - is unclear or incomplete, and has in fact led to purchases of the $US5 code even by those holding a free, valid one printed on the back of the instruction manual. Of course, these purchases are nonrefundable.
We'll detail the process below, but first, the most important information for those who have this game:
If you bought UFC Undisputed 2010 new, for either Xbox 360 or PS3, you must redeem the UFC Online code printed on the back of the manual through the Xbox Live Marketplace or PlayStation Network standard code redemption window. It cannot be done from within the game.
Further, if you go into the game's online menu and it asks if you want to redeem your code, selecting "Yes" directs you to a purchase window - not a code redemption screen - and the purchase window contains zero information that you may actually own the thing you're about to buy. Kotaku has copies of both games, and the code redemption process for both gives an impression that THQ made the decision to wall off multiplayer behind a one-use code very late in the game's production cycle. We've made these complaints known to a THQ spokesman, and have heard nothing so far.
The Xbox 360 redemption process is the most troubling. Selecting any option in the game's online menu delivers a prompt that explains the need for the code and the fact one is included with every new purchase. It asks if you'd like to redeem it. Click yes puts up a brief "downloading" notice but nothing else happens.
Then, apparently THQ pushed out a day-of-release patch for the game on Tuesday. (I had yet to redeem the online code provided with Kotaku's review copy until Tuesday.) After downloading the game update, the game displayed this message: "There is new DLC available. Would you like to update?
Clicking yes took me to Xbox Live Marketplace, where the download's price was listed as 400 Microsoft points. There was no mention either in the new DLC message, or in the sales window on Xbox Live Marketplace, that I already had the code to unlock this content for free. Obviously, I knew I did, and put two and two together, realising I had to redeem that through Xbox Live's code redemption and not through a game menu.
It's my opinion that a regular customer who bought the game day of release, took it home, and got the patch could get the UFC Online download notice without visiting the online menu, which is the only part of the game that tells you that you have the code for free. There have been unconfirmed reports in forums, message boards and comments of confusion about the redemption process, and even some customers buying the code at the prompt, either unaware they had a free code or how to redeem it.
On the PlayStation 3, the process is somewhat better but still doesn't fully inform you how to redeem the code for free. Going to the game's UFC Online menu brings up the same prompt to redeem or purchase the UFC Online code; clicking yes at least aborts the game and takes you immediately to the PlayStation Store, and the purchase screen for the code. But there is no advisory in the purchase window that you have this code for free. You're left to figure out for yourself that it has to be redeemed through PSN.
Many have also pointed out that there is no notice on either game's box case that a code is required to activate online play. The manuals themselves also don't specify that the code must be redeemed through each console's respective marketplace.
This morning I emailed THQ about these experiences and the complaints others have registered. There was no response at the time of publication. Should Kotaku hear anything, it will be updated here or published separately, as warranted.
In summary, the haphazard messaging and redemption process do nothing to build trust with gamers - many of whom otherwise had no problem with the one-use code, as they planned to buy new anyway. Such last-minute process flaws that make redeeming online access so confusing and opaque also inadvertently portray THQ's $US10 solution as a money-grab against even day-one customers.