Used Video Games Now Extra Used: Publishers Adding 800MP Fee To Play Online

Used gaming is under attack. This month Ubisoft and Sony joined the growing number of publishers who plan to start charging extra to play copies of used games online. Not every game... not yet. But Sony, Ubisoft, THQ, Electronic Arts, and Warner Bros. are all testing the waters for their own flavour of "online passport".

Here's how it works (in general): New games will comes with a code has to be used to play the game online. The code is free; it never runs out. But it's also one-time use - one code per online account. That means if you buy the game used, and if the previous owner played that game online, you will have to spend an extra $US10 to get a new code if you want to play it online, too.

So what?

For starters, it means that the game you buy loses value not just with wear but because you're unable to pass along the full experience when you're done with it. (Imagine a car manufacturer designing a car that once sold used no longer has functioning passenger seats - and can only be driven in your driveway.)

It's also a reminder of the increasingly intangible state of video game ownership these days. As the industry shifts from selling games on a discs in boxes to selling games sent over the Internet to your console, it's a good idea to clutch onto what few rights as consumers we have. If we're not careful, soon you won't own any piece of a video game. You won't be able to sell it, lend it to a friend, or give it to your son. Maybe you won't even be able to play it a second time.

Here's a look at some of the current slate of games that lose online playability once they pass to a new owner.

Bulletstorm Publisher: EA Cost: 800MP Description This is the paid version of the Online Pass that is included with all new copies of Bulletstorm. If you have purchased a new version of the game, check your packaging for a free Online Pass download code. Play on six bonus 'Echoes' mode maps and test your Skillshot and scoring prowess against your friends and the global leaderboards.

Dead Space 2 Publisher: EA Cost: 800MP Description The Dead Space 2 Online Pass will enable you to strategically dismember your friends in the all new Dead Space 2 Multiplayer experience!

Dirt 3 Publisher: Codemasters Cost: 800MP Description Online play. Unlock all DiRT 3 multiplayer modes, 5 cars and the opportunity to upload highlights of your best runs direct to YouTube with the DiRT 3 VIP Pass. With the VIP Pass you can prove yourself online across all game modes in competitive Pro Tour events and unranked Jam Sessions. Also included in the VIP Pass is the chance to upload highlights of your most spectacular crashes, gymkhana runs and races direct to YouTube. Finally, five amazing cars are also included; the Colin McRae R4, 1995 Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500, Peugeot 405 T16 Pikes Peak and Hummer H3.

Driver: San Francisco Publisher: Ubisoft Cost: 800MP Description The online code provides access to bonus content, exclusive offers and, most importantly, online multiplayer.

EA Sports MMA Publisher: EA Cost: 800MP Description Online Pass gives you access to online features and bonus content for your game. Choose your favourite EA SPORTS title to see what Online Pass offers for that specific title.

FIFA 11 Publisher: EA Cost: 800MP Description Online Pass gives you access to online features and bonus content for your game. Choose your favourite EA SPORTS title to see what Online Pass offers for that specific title.

Fight Night Champion Publisher: EA Cost: 800MP Description Online Pass gives you access to online features and bonus content for your game. Choose your favourite EA SPORTS title to see what Online Pass offers for that specific title.

Homefront Publisher: THQ Cost: 800MP Description Take your Homefront multiplayer experience to the next level! Continue earning XP past level 5 – Reach the maximum rank and gain access to new weapons, game modes, and vehicles in the Armory. IMPORTANT: A Battle Code is included with every new copy of Homefront, so please check inside your game box for a valid code before purchasing.

Madden NFL 11 Publisher: EA Cost: 800MP Description Online Pass gives you access to online features and bonus content for your game. Choose your favourite EA SPORTS title to see what Online Pass offers for that specific title.

Mortal Kombat Publisher: Warner Bros Cost: 800MP Description Activate Kombat Pass today to access all the online features! The first time you play online, you must activate Online Kombat via a Kombat Pass Card, which was included with the purchase of the game. If the Kombat Pass code has already been redeemed by a previous owner, you can purchase a Kombat Pass code or try a 48 hour free trial from the in-game menu.

NCAA Football 11 Publisher: EA Cost: 800MP Description Online Pass gives you access to online features and bonus content for your game. Choose your favourite EA SPORTS title to see what Online Pass offers for that specific title.

Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Publisher: EA Cost: 800MP Description The Online Pass grants you access to the Need for Speed Hot Pursuit online multiplayer modes, two exclusive cars (Lamborghini LP550-2 Valentino Balboni and the Lamborghini LP570-4 Superleggera), and ten times more storage space for your game photos.

NHL 11 Publisher: EA Cost: 800MP Description Online Pass gives you access to online features and bonus content for your game. Choose your favourite EA SPORTS title to see what Online Pass offers for that specific title.

Resistance 3 Publisher: SCEA Cost: Not yet announced. Description The PSN pass is a network pass program that grants the account holder full online access for the game.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters Publisher: EA Cost: 800MP Description Online Pass gives you access to online features and bonus content for your game. Choose your favourite EA SPORTS title to see what Online Pass offers for that specific title.

UFC Undisputed 2010 Publisher: THQ Cost: 800MP Description If you haven't already enabled Online, when you try to access an online feature in your game, you will be prompted to enter your code.

WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2011 Publisher: THQ Cost: 800MP Description There is a seven day trial to check out online multiplayer, after that you'll need a code to play online.


    Good. I think it's only fair that the companies that make the game get something back from the used game market after all this time.

      Why is it fair? When you buy a 2nd hand car, the manufacturer doesn't get anything.. ditto for books, CD's, DVD's. When you buy a 2nd hand house the original builder doesn't get anything.

      The game has been sold at retail price once already, the developer has made their profit from that copy of the game, why should they get a slice when that game is on-sold? It's not like the developers aren't making massive profits....

        When you buy a second-hand house, car, book, DVD or CD you're buying a product - when you buy something with online multiplayer you're buying access to a service.

        You need the passes for multiplayer, not singleplayer. Multiplayer is what requires constant maintenance and money.

          Absolute garbage. There's only an ongoing maintenance cost to a publisher for multiplayer because of another anti-consumer choice that they are making -- not supporting community dedicated servers.

          If a game offers third party dedicated server support then multiplayer costs the publisher nothing because the customers (and their ISPs and other server hosts) pay the bills for the servers and bandwidth.

          Publishers just don't want to do this, because its not in their interests for people to still be playing FIFA 05 online when they're trying to get people to buy FIFA 12. They want to retain control over their games so they can switch them off when the time comes.

          Ask id Software how much it costs them to still allow people to play multiplayer Quake, a 15 year old game. Zero. Because it's the community that has always operated the servers for the game.

          It's a terrible copout excuse to charge extra for secondhand games.

            Hey now, it's not as if I like the idea of an online pass - I'm just speaking from the logical viewpoint about the difference between goods and services.

            "If a game offers third party dedicated server support then multiplayer costs the publisher nothing because the customers (and their ISPs and other server hosts) pay the bills for the servers and bandwidth."
            That's never going to happen, though, for the same reasons that cross-platform play will never happen. XBL is for P2P or publisher-hosted servers; nothing in-between (I assume PSN is similarly policied).

            TSH's comment below about how "the seller and buyer can’t be playing at the same time" is a solid argument, but you have to consider that piracy (or any method that doesn't require a disc) can probably allow that to happen.

          You're right, it does. But the seller and buyer can't be playing at the same time, which means that even if the game is sold and bought on the same day, net server load difference is nil. If the game sits on EB's shelf for a week, a month, the sever load is actually *reduced* by the fact that that copy is taken out of online "circulation".

            Bad argument. There is virtually no secondhand market for PC games (at least in most games shops) and the console makers don't allow dedicated third party servers as a matter of course.

            But if you trade a game in it's generally because you were finished with it. So if you're not going to play it anymore, you're effectively removing yourself permanently from the servers. That would be a permanent reduction in users that need to be supported. You then go and on sell the game and the server load goes back up again but the publisher gets no revenue from it.

            Say a game has 200,000 online players (who bought it new) after it's been out for a month. After another month or two half of them have had enough and stop playing. They now only have to support 100,000 players which might allow them to scale it down to reduce costs due to the smaller number of players. But then those people go and trade in their old copies, the online user base goes back up to 200,000 players which prevents them from scaling down the support, thus costing them more money on an ongoing basis despite receiving no revenue from half the players they're now supporting. It just doesn't make economic sense to support these people. And really, why should the publisher care? The people who bought 2nd hand aren't their customers so why should they support them?

            I appreciate your leveled response, but your presumption about the console manufacturers being the roadblock against third party dedicated servers on consoles is incorrect.

            Timegate studios' Section 8 (not the Prejudice expansion however) allows players to run and operate their own dedicated servers on a PC for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions.

            There's no cross-platform play, but its proof that community operated servers are still possible on consoles and at the whim of a publisher/developer to offer.

            So the "ongoing costs to a publisher for multiplayer" argument as justification for this secondhand sale fee is simply invalid.

        When you buy a 2nd hand car the manufacturer generally DOES get something out of it from spare parts etc.

          How do you explain refurbished parts then, Braains?

            I wouldn't expect the manufacturer of the car to give me any support if I had problems with my refurbished parts. You buy a used car and stick used parts in it, the manufacturer won't know or care who you are. And that's fine, because you're not actually asking them for anything so it's not costing them anything. You buy a used game and expect to play it online, you're asking the publisher to support that online play.

            The people who complain about this seem to be people who buy 2nd hand games and expect the same level of support from publishers/developers as people who buy new, even though they're not actually paying any money to those publishers/developers.

        The difference is that you don't buy a game on day 1, Rush through it in 10hours and then sell it back to EB who sell it for 5 dollars less.

        Then theres also the fact that a car is a long term purchase for many.

        It doesn't go day 1, someone buys it, day 2 person sells it. Day 4 person sells it again so on.

        I have tracked some used games and have seen them come back to the shop over 10 times. Which means the publisher got their Y profit of the initial copy instead of (10 times Y) profit

        I think used copies are fine, but there should be like a 3 month waiting period before a new release is able to be sold

      You logic is easily defeated by this simple fact - developers are more than well paid for their efforts *DURING* the creation of the games.

      This is all just money grabbing by the game publishers.

      That aside, this move will only lead to two things: higher piracy as people crack the games to make them playable online and a significant turn down in sales as people show they are not going to stand for this nonsense.

        You think developers are well paid for their efforts? There are a whole bunch of guys over at Team Bondi (or at least formerly of Team Bondi) who would like to have a word with you.

          So team Bondi represent developers as a whole the world wide?

            It's pretty well known that the majority of developers aren't paid well for the work that they do. Kotaku have posted several articles which mention this.

              OK, I admit I went a bit far with the word 'well'.

              But at the end of the day, they are still PAID and DURING the games' development.

              Most of these second hand arguments imply that developers see no money whatsoever until after the game is released.

              This is utter nonsense as to have someone do a job and not pay them is illegal in most of the world.

              As a game is made programmers are still paid, artists are still paid, composers are still paid, etc. When a game is finished it is the PUBLISHER that gets the significant cut of the sales - this assuming that the developer even gets any at all.

              Before anyone points this out, the independent scene is very different as most there do so as a hobby.

                A lot of developers get bonuses and other payments from publishers after release based on how many copies the game sells. That only counts new sales, not preowned, so the preowned copies do directly cost the developer income. I'm not sure if the developers actually see a cut of the online code revenue, though, or only from the original sale.

                That's an awfully shortsighted view. Sure, a developer may get paid during the production of a game, but if that game doesn't sell well (new copies) then there is no next game, or the next game gets a smaller budget, which means the developer makes less money.

                I'm not saying that everyone must buy new games, I'm just saying that your argument in defense of used games being that developers make money anyway isn't really valid.

      The publishers are double-dipping.

      When a game is sold new, the publisher must budget for the buyer playing that game online.

      When the buyer sells or trades in the game, that buyer no longer has access to the game online, reducing the number of online users.

      When a second-hand gamer purchases the used game, that gamer gets access to the game online, restoring the number of online users to the original amount.

      Trading second hand games does allow access by more users; it simply transfers the license between users while keeping the total number of licenses (and therefore users) the same.

      Essentially, publishers are compensated once by the original purchaser of the game and then again by any subsequent purchaser, without having to provide any more resources (such as servers).

        I don't sell my games, but I also usually stop playing them after a while, which also "reduces the number of online users".

        The publisher would be counting on many users doing this to work out how much each online user is going to cost on average. That allows them to budget the cost of providing the service as a single one-off fee to each user.

        When a game is sold second hand though, the new user is likely to play the game just as much as the original user which throws those sorts of calculations out the window.

    So I've already paid my annual Xbox live Gold membership fee, and now if I want to save myself a few bucks by buying these games 2nd hand, I have to pay extra for the privilege of playing these games online? I don't think so..

    I want to get upset at this but I really can't. Anything that hurts EB Games' business model is fine by me.

    "I'm looking for a game for my fifteen-year-old son. And you think he'll like Sniper Ghost Mission Sector? I've never heard of it. $119.95? Seems a bit pricey. But if I trade in his copy of Black Ops and Bulletstorm it's only $69.95?"

      Yeah, that's what I think it comes down to. This isn't an assault on consumers but on the likes of EB, Game etc that make a killing on 2nd hand games.

      I think the effect of this will be to drive down the 2nd hand and trade-in value of these games. So ultimately once this settles in I don't think it'll cost the consumer any more - they'll just pay $10 less to EB and give that $10 to the publisher for an online code.

      Meanwhile retailers can't keep giving consumers $30 trade in for a near-new game then selling it for $95 and pocketing the entire margin. Especially when they (EB at least) actively push pre-owned games over new because they make a bigger margin on them.

      If you want to get angry over this, get angry at the retailers.

        Eh, the way things are going there won't be any retailers left. Digitial Distribution will probably take over everything: movies, games and television; even books with Kindle!

          Nah, they will still be around - I those who have crazy practices such as EB Games will either be forced to adapt or die out.

          Retailers are being shrill right now because our actions are marking the end of high profit margins.

    Yeah as long as if you buy them new you get the online code im cool with it TBH.

    I want the publishers to make good $ so they make good games. Just dont exploit us.

    Sort our digital distribution cuz currently is cheaper to buy retail online.

    I think its terrible, video game companies seem to feel as though they are different to book publishers or writers, movie producers ect, all have their work sold on the 2nd hand market.
    Plus its kinda just discriminating against online players, i dont do multiplayer but buy prreowned sometimes, what will happen when they want my money, 1s time free, $5 preowned disc-boot DLC?

      If you buy preowned but don't care about multiplayer then you'll probably be better off. I think this kind of thing will force down the 2nd hand price (and trade-in value) of games that use it to allow for the extra outlay required to get the code. So if you're not actually going to buy the online code, you'll probably find yourself saving a few bucks on the cost of the game without then forking out that money to get a code.

      They are different. Other industries don't have the same maintenance costs. Movie producers and book publishers don't offer post-release fixes, or multiplayer servers. That costs money.

        Movie wise, I am not so sure - there are disk damages from the manufacture process and given the state of DRM there are also issues where the keys used are incompatible with some devices.

          I don't know if damaged discs during the manufacturing process is really relevant, though. EVERY form of manufacturing makes allowances for a certain number of defective units coming off the line, and those costs are already factored into the price.

      Bad analogy. Whilst there are secondhand bookshops & CD/DVD retailers, they are a tiny part of the overall market.
      In comparison, go to EB or JB. At least a third of the store is dedicated to secondhand games. If other industries were in the same position, you can bet your last dollar that they'd be lobbying for a similar thing (just look at how the book industry prevented grey importing).

    what about if you buy the game and your brother wants to play online too?

    one account is dumb

    i wont buy any games that support this

    btw - ive never bought a used game.

      For all the online pass DLCs that have been released so far, there doesn't seem to be any problem with other users on the console making use of the pass. As long as the person who activated the pass has an account on the console and has downloaded the online pass DLC, everyone else can use it.

    How does this work when your Xbox dies and you need to replace it with a new one?

    Is it tied to your Xbox Live/PSN account, or to the console?

      My understanding (hope?) is t hat the licenses on any xbox are transferable once per year. Correct me if I'm wrong though.

      It's tied to your account and can be downloaded again at any point.

    And secondly, if you push gamers too far, implementing stuff people WILL pirate your games and pay the $10 instead, then there is an extra pre owned floating around at a cheeper price

    I don't buy 2nd hand games so this doesn't really bother me that much, but I dislike how the industry seems to be heading towards us buying a license for the game rather than the game itself.

    Will it get to the point where if the compoany goes down all of your games become unplayable because they can no longer connect to the mother ship? If we get to that point I think I'll be finding a new hobby.

      We've ALWAYS been buying a licence to the game, not the game itself. The difference is that games haven't always had online functionality. Without that connectivity there just wasn't any way for publishers to implement this kind of thing.

      This is pretty much a glimpse of the future. Once it goes to all-digital distribution (which is a matter of when rather than if, whether we like it or not) then we won't even have the option of trading in old games or buying preowned, so the online pass will become redundant at that point.

    You can include Red Faction Armageddon somewhat, you need to redeem a code online in order to unlock the destruction sandbox mode.

    I support this move.
    If you don't like it you could always trade your consoles as well as your used games.
    Then you can use your trade in money to create your own company, develop and publish a game then give the game away for free!

    I generally buy all my games new, but I refuse to pay to use Xbox Live solely to play other people, so my xbox is a loner.
    Why should I have to pay for something which I'm already paying my IP for and every other gaming system provides for free?
    Honestly, I don't really care one way or the other, but it does reduce the value of the game's multiplayer component, replayability for some people, the value for those who wish to sell it on and likely lowering the number of new copies sold as a result.
    If this really affects people, they'll speak by not spending.

    If they stick with this, there's likely to be a market correction in the used game market anyway - you'll get $10 less for the trade-in price if the code is missing or used.

    Something I see as an interesting possibility is an online code marketplace. If you don't want your multiplayer code, sell it online for, say, 650msp! Then used game buyers can save a couple of bucks and get it for 700msp. It seems like it should be yours to sell, but the same could be said for the disc itself, so how would the publishers react to that?

      I agree. I buy new games habitually but seldom take them online. After playing through the single player portion I trade them in. Code or no code I'm over the insistence of publishers to include a multiplayer mode in every game. I don't play it, I don't want it and I don't want to pay for its development - especially if its been shoehorned in to prevent second hand sales. Last night I got so sick of Dirt 3 aggressively advertising it's add on sales to me I took my console offline. This initiative may be put in place to encourage users to buy games new - I have routinely done exactly that for the last 20 years - and this is really pissing me off.

    I would say this second-hand stuff can't really be compared to other products (e.g. DVDs, books, etc.) due to the differences between them and games.

    As Richard said, it costs money to maintain multiplayer services and it costs money for developers to provide patches and updates (though, to be fair, the fact they have to patch something often means they are to blame). When talking about say, books, when you resell a book, the publisher and author don't have to pay for the new owner's usage of the book.

    Consider this: You make a popular game with a very strong multiplayer feature. Soon afterwards, as it gets older, more and more people will be able to buy for and want second hand copies.

    Your earnings from that game gradually lessen as people start buying second hand games as more second hand copies are available in the market or just borrow from friends/family.

    Now, you've earned a lot from this game, but now it becomes a liability and starts draining these earnings to maintain the servers and provide updates, support and patches (no game is perfect. StarCraft: Brood War still gets patched). Depending on the costs of development, sales and DLC, your profit will vary, but it still means you have a drain on resources on a product you no longer make a lot of money off.

    What's more, if you stop the support or the multiplayer services, people will write angry letters, be all pissed off and you'll end up having ex-fans who now hate you.

    Obviously, it may happen this way. People may still buy new copies, the multiplayer may not last that long, etc. But this was an example.

    As a consumer, I really dislike this idea of paying for a preowned copy to play online. But I can see why they're doing it.

    Though it's obvious that this is a concerning issue and may lead down to a path of greed and extortion.

    We'll have to see.

    No different to when you buy games off Steam. You can only use those on one account, and they make you pay for the whole game, if you want to use it on a different account. Noone is complaining about that.

    EB, GAME and JB killed the second hand market for me years ago. I'll be glad to see them take a hit, after years of ripping off consumers. But they'll probably just end up buying online passes off Sony, etc, and offering them on a discount, or for free.

      but i consider steam a personal account, and while consoles are more shared than others.

      me and my brother share a PS3, but i've got my own steam account, and if he wants to play a game on it he just uses my account...

      and some games catter to this, if it's a singleplayer game, you can have multiple saves, and on games like battlefield bad company 2, you can just log into a different EA account.

        There's no reason why you and your brother can't do the same with your PSN account.

        In fact, all my friends with a PS3 or Xbox 360 just share accounts anyway. I don't personally know a single household that has separate accounts on their console.

        Hell, thats the whole point of a console: just put the game in and play. No one wants to muck around switching accounts before playing a game. Its bad enough that we have to wait for goddamn updates!

          I don't know about your living conditions, but each of my housemates as separate accounts on both of our consoles.

          Re: account mucking around.
          360. 'nuff said.

    I'll just do what I do now - buy from overseas for NEW titles at SECOND HAND PRICES and not give publishers a cent more.

    Since November last year I've spent nearly $975.00 at alone USD $2226.00 on Steam since my first purchase.

    Viva la consumer choice!

    Heaven forbid these companies actually try to make money in a capitalist society. The hide of them.

    I don't think it's such a terrible idea either. When buying a used game none of that money goes back to the publisher and with some titles costing upwards of 50 mil to make it's got to be harder to break even, let alone make a considerable profit when people can just buy used. Paying extra to unlock this feature is certainly better than adding microtransactions that can unbalance a game, say by buying an epic sword in the store that out ranks any found in the actual game. That's just my opinion anyway.

    I can see how this could be frustrating for people who pay $40-$50 for a new-ish release used game and only to pay another $10 or so when they get home to unlock something that came with it in the beginning but if we want more games coming out companies need money, a lot of it.

    So what if I buy a game and go to exchange it if I don't like it? How do I prove the online code hasn't been used?
    Also, will this be used as another form of region control? What if I buy at a lower price from overseas and find I can't use a US online code?
    This does not bode well.

      AND.. is this a stepping stone to paying for single player as well as online on second hand games?

    At this particular time, you're an idiot if you buy secondhand anyway. If you go to Ozgameshop or any of the UK based online sellers, you can get a new game for cheaper than secondhand - $50-60 for a new release - and the dev gets some money from it. You get all the content. Everyone wins, except for Australian retailers (and who really cares about them? ;) )

    So what stops people just slipping the multiplayer details inside the box on resale?

    Also, with how cheap you can self-import games I've never visited a second-hand gameshop.

    (Imagine a car manufacturer designing a car that once sold used no longer has functioning passenger seats – and can only be driven in your driveway.)

    Thats stupid, does a car manufacturer provide you with an ongoing service that costs them money???

  • As long as stores like EB continue to rape the gaming industry, the developers have a right to do this.
    EB selling the same game multiple times and making 500% profit in the same game and the developers not seeing a single cent after the first sale will kill off developers.

    Unless you buy a game from EB on launch day, they can not be trusted. No game is ever sealed from EB, how do you know you are buying a new/unused game?? I have been a victim of their dodgy practices and have seen many more, I no longer buy from them..

    I don't have a problem with this, in fact, if the publishers decided to enforce this model for pc games in return for getting rid of the shitty drm I would be stoked

    I'm actually surprised that they're gearing to fight the resale of discs. Why not just put all your time and effort into an upgraded download service ala steam so people cannot trade games in at all.

    Actually that raises an interesting point - if they successfully kill second hand sales, then wouldn't that also kill video game shops that depend on it to keep their doors open?

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