Why EA Thinks ‘Online Pass’ Plan Is Good For You (And EA)

Why EA Thinks ‘Online Pass’ Plan Is Good For You (And EA)

Video game publisher EA has a new plan to squash used game sales, the Online Pass program, which requires a unique code to access online content and multiplayer. Why does EA think this is good for you, the consumer?

Electronic Arts boss John Riccitiello stresses the Online Pass scheme is not just a great way to make buying a used copy of its game less attractive. “We think it’s a great idea. We think it’s gonna build our business. And we think it’s a positive consumer experience,” EA’s CEO said during an investor call today.

“Invariably, the consumer is getting a boatload more content to experience than they otherwise would,” Riccitiello said. “We used to literally pull our teams off of a game within maybe four to six weeks pre-ship and they’d go work on something else because the game was done, it was going into manufacturing. Their jobs were done.”

Now, with EA’s adoption of “Project Ten Dollar” initiatives like Mass Effect 2’s Cerberus Network and Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s VIP program, things have changed.

“Our teams are being held in place up through and beyond ship to continue to create content to entertain the consumer with new content associated with the IP they like best,” Riccitiello says. Of course, EA’s going to benefit too… and not just from fewer used game sales.

“We saw a very, very high redemption rate of first time purchasers using the code redeeming the content,” added EA COO John Schappert. “By giving people this access code, we got them into the online world. So we’ve seen very strong uptick in downloadable content across all titles, because we have content available on day one and we seeded it with a bonus token for free content.”

You see? Everybody wins!


  • I’m behind Project Ten Dollar if it gives extra incentives to purchasers. Not remove content for those who don’t purchase brand new. Have you ever thought that I sell games in order to purchase new ones?

    • Yea, but this is a profit stance, and almost every publisher is going to support an idea like this.
      To you, you’re just reselling a game, to buy a new game, but to the publisher its lost profits, 50% each time someone does so.

      Not to mention most of the time you lose almost 70% of your money back doing so anyway.

  • I want my money to go as directly as possible to the game developers. Used game sale profits go exclusively to the retailer. EA’s move is a good way to get more money to developers (well publishers really), and is part of a larger trend towards DLC and other more direct transactions between publisher and consumer.

    Now, if publishers were brave enough to make the platform very cheap or free, and charge for the content, we’d get closer to the microtransaction future that was predicted 2-3 years ago. The Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises have taken some steps towards this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if EA continue further down this track. They have already done so with Skate 2’s film pack and Fifa’s Ultimate Team Mode and could easily do so with Tiger Woods courses.

    Selling the platform cheaply or giving it away as a demo would be the step that gains them some consumer buy in, rather than looking like penny pinchers when they charge full price for the game and then further for features and content that should or could have been included in that price.

  • Hmmm I am all for Project Ten Dollar – but i’m on the fence about this. If this is a plot to take even more away but also give more, then yeah, go right ahead!

    For example, giving even MORE content. Not just blocking some from second-hand users and we that buy it brand new get the content. I mean, we as brand new purchasers want a reason to buy it at a full price. Not just the content that comes along with Project Ten Dollar. They’ve got spend that money to make money – develop even more for it after release.

    But then, every game including Mass Effect 2, comes to an end where the content isn’t coming anymore and then some may feel the game is worthless and sell it on eBay or trade it in.

    Thats the issue gamers are gonna have with the whole scheme – ONCE the game is worthless and we don’t want it anymore, but EA are happy cause they got the sales.

  • Lets be honest here, they want people to keep buying the dlc.
    Thats the way Activsion and EA are desperate to push their business plan into the future.

    Buy the game, then keep buying the crap for it(and it is universally crap) as long as possible, then buy the sequel.

    Valve are the only big developer that seem to release content for free, and are loved for it, myself included.

  • They should offer the multiplayer pass as well to second hand buyers via online store.

    It would firstly either force pre-owned sales or prices down, and secondly bring back their profits via this solution.

    They would still lose out on those who only want to play offline, but you cant win everything right?

    • They are. Just like Ceberus Network and BC2 VIP you can buy the “Online Pass” on the marketplace.

      For me this doesn’t really effect me at all since i hardly ever buy pre-owned games and i hardly sell off any games. I can see this is going to make people who live off the pre-owned system pissed off because not only are they going to have to pay more for their pre-owned games if they want online, but they also will get less trade in value for any game that has this feature because it is “incomplete” to retailers.

      In my opinion though I fully support the reasoning why they are doing this – developers and publishers are seeing 0% of any money from the used game business and they will continue to never see any money until they did something like this. I expect to see this more on consoles then anything else – much less on PC because there is hardly a market for used PC games because the CD key is now generally tied to an account.

  • So what happens if I buy a new copy of the game, and then a little while down the track I get a new Xbox or new account? Am I then expected to pay another $10 to access online gaming? I’m all for the mass effect way of doing things; provide extra content to generate new sales. Taking away the online componant of a sports game to generate new sales? That’s pretty dodgy imo.

  • This is garbage. This company is completely bottom-line driven. …and the nerve of them, to try to justify this! I’m not going to be TAKEN BY DISHONESTY.
    EA has been doing a lot of that, recently…..MAYBE THAT’S WHY THEY ARE GETTING SUED SO MUCH.

  • Am I the only person who actually thinks the idea of pre-owned games is good? Come on some games, you just don’t want to pay full price on release for but why does this mean I should then have to PAY again to access online features?

    I would be fine with losing content like in Mass Effect 2, but to make me PAY to access online multiplayer (often the selling point of a game these days) is ridiculous, there was outrage when RE5’s online multi was released as DLC, how is this any different for anyone who buys pre-owed games?

    • I respect that you think this is idea is ridiculous.
      I buy pre-owned games myself sometimes when my pocket is a bit shallow.
      But dont you think you yourself are getting ripped off by the third party who gets all the profits when you buy the game?

      You trade it in 3 months later for what… $30 or even less?
      They resell it at almost top market price, none of that said profit goes to the publisher/developer.

      The only person who wins is the third party selling a used product.

  • I think the idea of on-line multi-player only coming with the original purchase is fair enough. If I buy Tiger woods used, EA get nothing from the sale but still have to support me with the on-line resources.

    As Publishers and Developers are the ones that support the online service they have every right in my book to get money from anyone using the service whether through the initial sale or an unlock code purchased later.

    • If you buy a used game they have already been paid for that copy of the disc. Its not like the original purchaser is still playing with it.

      If they want everyone to purchase thier own copy make games worth keeping.

      Should car makers demand to be paid money from the second-hand market? its the same thing.

      • Except it’s not the same thing as a used car. At all.

        With a Car, and manufacturer, the value of the item is in the car itself. The cost goes into the materials and assembly of the car, and that is what the price tag is attached to. When you buy the car you are purchasing a tangible thing, and the money you give the manufacturer is to reimburse them for the cost of making the car.

        Video games are different, because what you are buying is not a tangible thing. On a technical level it is, and that’s where the confusion comes from. “I bought this game, I’m holding it ergo: it belongs to me and I am it’s owner”. It’s very easy to get that impression with a game. What you have really bought is the rights to play it. You have bought the entertainment derived from the game, and given your money to the developer for affording you that experience. The reason a video game is not tangible is because the core of the product is the experience you have paid for. That cannot be sold, or returned, or traded or swapped.

        The problem behind all of this is the discrepancy between what you morally own (the experience) and what you physically own (the tangible product). This discrepancy is the cause of all the problems associated with second-hand sales, DRM, piracy and this new project from EA. Really, you shouldn’t be able to resell a game, and you shouldn’t be able to buy anyone else’s game. The transaction should involve you giving the makers of the entertainment money, in exchange for them giving YOU the entertainment. If someone else wants the entertainment, then that someone should perform the same transaction with the maker instead of another customer.

        Once you have finished with your game, exhausted it to your own satisfaction, you do not gain the right to sell it. The game was only ever intended for you. Just because you have the disc, and can physically give it to another person, does not entitle them to play it. It makes no difference if the game has a limited and brief lifespan or provides continual hours of entertainment, the game is still intended to reach one person.

        This is the root of both the pre-owned market and the piracy problems. Both systems, reselling and pirating, allow a game to reach more players than is intended. More specifically, the game has been ‘used’ more times than it has been ‘bought’, and the publisher ends up with less money then they should have. You might argue that reselling a game does not involve making replicas of the game, so it does not harm the publisher because they have still been payed for every copy in circulation. This logic does not hold true when you actually apply it to reality. If 50% of a certain game’s sales are first hand and 50% are second hand, the game has reached two times more people than the developer has been paid for. Because even when a customer sells their game they do not sell the entertainment it provided. They entertainment is replicated, and it is the entertainment which goes unpaid for.

        And that is why video games are not the same as cars.

  • There was a time when I was without internet. We had some kind of wiring problem outside our house and none of the big phone companies or our original internet provider could fix the problem, for almost a year!

    I was playing FF3 at the time and was so angry that I couldn’t get the best weapons and armour in the game because I didn’t have internet access.

    I think developers and whoever else need to remember that not everyone in the world has access to the internet.

    I still have never gotten those weapons..(boohoo)

  • Hmm, I’m a big advocate of second hand games. In fact 75% of my XBox 360 games are second hand or in the discount bin.

    Simply put, $80 (the absolute minimum you can buy a new game for in AU) is ridiculous (read $110 if buying from EB). Why don’t publishers understand that if they force a drop in retail prices (say to about $50 – $60 a game), they will see a huge influx of money.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but a game costing $50 is a lot easier to justify than $100.

    For buying new games I’ve taken to buying from PlayAsia where NEW games cost about $56 plus a small shipping fee (almost nothing if you group together with mates).

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