Online Passes Treated Every Customer Like A Shoplifter

Online Passes Treated Every Customer Like a Shoplifter

Every time I bring home a new video game I have this ritual: I take a fish boning knife and slide it under a fold in the shrinkwrap, then twist. Then I try to remove all of the cellophane in one piece, like it's the world's biggest peel-and-eat shrimp. If it's an Xbox 360 game, I slip it down under the obnoxious seal across the edge and lift that out. I have to do all of this because American retail packaging insists on treating every customer like a potential shoplifter.

In 2010, video game companies added a third step to remind you that your purchase was not yet legitimate: The Online Pass.

Publishers did a lot of dumb things on the last console generation but the online pass, an odious response to the imaginary crisis of used games, stands out even among their worst ideas. It's a one-use code, shipping free in every shrink-wrapped, store-bought and, more importantly, non-used copy of a game (though you could sometimes find valid codes in them.)

With it, you get access to the multiplayer servers and any features dependent on them. Without it, well, you either play only the offline portions of a game like the ungrateful potential shoplifter you probably are, or you pay $US10 over Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, ostensibly giving the publisher its cut (and the platform holder, too) of the resale of a used game.

The practice goes by many names, but "online pass" is the one EA Sports adopted in 2010 when it became the second publisher to restrict access to multiplayer features to a one-use code. As such, "online pass" became a shorthand for every instance of the concept — and perpetuated its Orwellian value proposition. Why, this isn't a restriction, it says, this is a pass. You're part of the club! The club of people who pay full price and get the same thing they'd always gotten in years past. It was like putting a velvet rope in front of a 7-Eleven just to make sure people weren't bringing their own cup to the Slurpee machine.

"Invariably, the consumer is getting a boatload more content to experience than they otherwise would," John Riccitiello, then the CEO of Electronic Arts, told investors in 2010. "We think it's a great idea. We think it's gonna build our business. And we think it's a positive consumer experience."

Within a year, Riccitiello would be proven wrong, and as the industry's largest seller of Online Pass restricted (oops, enabled) games, it also proved this had nothing to do with offering value to gamers, or even delivering revenue to publishers, and everything to do with protecting retail sales, particularly those on day one. Electronic Arts pulled in all of $US15 million in revenue from Online Pass sales in their first year, the equivalent of loose change found vacuuming under the passenger seat of a 1987 Buick Regal.

As for that argument about freeloaders sucking from the teat of servers and online modes that cost time and money to maintenance, well, most of these games had some kind of a trial period built in, allowing rental customers a weekend or a week to play the game's full spread of offerings — exactly what gamers got for their money in 2009.

For that first, glorious year, though, it was like the One Per cent of video gaming had found their magic bullet. It's probably no surprise that lacklustre editions of Madden in 2011 and this year still set year-over-year sales records. I'd argue that being conditioned to not buy used certainly helped their performance.

It wasn't just a sports thing, either; shooters like Resistance 3 and Homefront placed their multiplayer behind one-use codes. THQ actually went and raised the price of online access to UFC Undisputed 2010 — the first sports title to use the concept — from $US5 to $US10. Rage kept its sewer levels inaccessible unless you had a key to open them. Developers with cult-of-personality followings could score brownie points by saying they were all against online passes, until The Man came in and made their game use one.

There didn't seem to be that much value to lose from the resale price of sports video games, anyway, and sellers of them didn't suffer that much, either. GameStop still sold used titles at the same jacked-up price, and you still got the same pittance for a sports game once its newest version released and your old copy turned into a pumpkin. Eventually, we grew to accept it. New game. Boning knife. Twist. Insert disc. Input code.

In March 2013, Riccitiello was out as CEO of EA, and by May, the publisher had done away with them altogether. "It became clear that mainstream consumers didn't like them," a spokesman said at the time. The codes persist elsewhere — they're part of the problem behind getting to online multiplayer in Pro Evolution Soccer 2014.

The short, unhappy life of online passes is not a success story for consumers, though. It appears simply to have evolved. Instead of putting this kind of a gateway at the beginning of your gaming experience, publishers decided to place it at the end, or as a big "to be continued" sign, in the form of the Season Pass, which is perhaps even more pernicious. Season Passes accomplish two things: One, they advertise that a bunch of additional downloadable content is coming to a series; two, they let you preorder it, getting all of it at a discount relative to buying each component individually. We saw it today with the announcement of WWE 2K14's schedule of DLC, which includes wrestling move animations that had to have been developed alongside the main title.

At least there's something extra offered by a "season pass" of DLC. At least there's some kind of identifiable, additional effort, rather than walling off a key mode of a shooter or a sports title on the idea that, hey, so what if we already created this as a baseline expectation of a game? You ingrates have been getting this stuff for free, so now it's time to pay up.

We had some bad games in the current console generation, some games that shouldn't even have been made. None were as bad as what the online pass did, which took nothing and sold it right back to you.


Comments

    Every time I bring home a new video game I have this ritual

    And you don't take time to properly sniff the game manual Owen? WHAT KIND OF HALF-ASS RITUAL IS THIS?!

      Perhaps if they did like nintendo do, and offered rewards for registering (club nintendo,) people might not care so much. You buy the game second hand, you're likely to miss out, but at least you can still enjoy the full game as intended.

      Also.. mmmmmm new manual smell!!! *drool*

      Last edited 22/10/13 6:22 pm

      What game manuals? All my recent games come with a 2 page leaflet with my key and maybe some basic controls. (Is console different? If so, then disregard)

        Nope Console is the same - I miss the days of Instruction Booklets...

          last week i unboxed my PS3 American "The last of us" i was really surprised to find "online pass" included. Felt stupid when i tried to put it into the AUS PSN store. Switched over to my USA account and code worked instantly. Then i noticed the "online pass" was a 100kb download... so i pulled out the ethernet half way and switched to my main account. Put the ethernet back in. Download resumed and installed to my AUS XMB. Worked, GG online pass.

            Pulled out your ethernet halfway through a 100kb download?

            Are you on 28.8k dialup? :/

            Pulled out your ethernet halfway through a 100kb download?

            Was this before or after you caught a fly with chopsticks?

              PS3 OS is pretty slow. Pressed "download in background" then pulled it at the moment it kicked in. 7/.30 QLD ADSL2. Wow i actually found a video of somebody actually doing that btw. http://youtu.be/O3DS6vNyKow?t=39s

    I may be in the minority when I admit to the fact that I didn't care about online passes all that much. Mainly because most of my games I bought were brand new - it's the only way for me to pay the developers as they didn't get my money through a pre-owned copy.

    And unlike the used car analogy, where quite frankly I don't give a damn about Toyota or Holden or whoever, I like to support my favorite developers (and publishers) by knowing that my money went to them via that sale.

      Im with you.
      Big deal, its an extra 3 minutes out of your day to use it.

      As for reselling the game, why shouldnt the developer get some money for a game that is resold?

      Talk about your first world problems.....

        "It doesn't affect me, so it's not a problem."

          Except it does affect him, and everyone that buys the game. So he does have a voice in saying if it's a problem or not.

            I wouldn't seek to deny Gaz his voice, but you missed my point. There is a difference between saying "I do not consider this a problem" and dismissing the concerns of others.

              I don't think there's anything unreasonable about addressing the concerns of other people directly. Outside perspective can often help in taking an objective viewpoint on an issue. 'Here is my position', 'Here is why I think your position is unjustified' is a pretty stock standard exchange in any debate, it's not inherently rude.

        I would prefer you argue for why SHOULD the developer continue to take a cut long after the original transaction has been placed?

        If it applies to games it should equally apply to DVD's.

          Not only that, PiratePete. If such a rule applies, others will demand it apply to all commercial sectors from entertainment to automotive to even utilities.

          People whole claim that producers of services should receive a fee from post-first sales fail to see the big picture.

          By the same reasoning, if I sold my old laptop off I have to pay a fee to the manufacturer of the laptop and a fee to the power company for any electrical charge still in its battery.

            Can't agree with you there at all. You say 'services' in your second paragraph, but your example is of products, not services. Services, such as those online passes are intended to protect, have ongoing costs that the developer or publisher has to pay for even after you sell your copy of the game. There's no equivalent with products like your laptop or its battery power.

              The terms tend to overlap. It all depends on the product.

              In most cases the product provides the service itself or a means at access it. So my view still holds.

              Some products are called consumables meaning they are used and worn out.

              At the end of the day, Online Pass are just a way publishers try to help themselves to a market they have no right to.

                I don't think your final statement follows soundly from anything else you've said here.

                  Your argument doesn't hold either ZJ. It is based on the assumption that once I buy a game, I continue to pay for a service (online/mp/whatever) and when I sell my game or give it away then the new owner gets that service without paying. It's crap. If I buy a copy of Midget Tossing 2014, then enter the code to play online that is all I do. I add no more value to the online service by extra payments. What is the difference if I continue to play online or give them game to someone else to play online? From a single game point of view the upkeep is the same. Online passes were purely about cracking into the second hand game market. And under that scenario Wisehacker's examples make sense.

                  Kato, I explained that below. The value of the online pass is based on a calculation of how much time the average buyer will spend in multiplayer. Some use it a lot, some don't use it much at all, but the cost of server operation is averaged out and factored into box sales or online pass purchases. When you transfer your copy to someone else, the amount of time in multiplayer increases but no additional money goes to the developer to help pay for that service. If enough copies are shifted in that way, it pushes the balance of expenses for server operation into the negative.

                  I know people like to believe there's a grand conspiracy with online passes to control the second hand market, but multiplayer online passes were never used for that purpose. Single player content made available through online passes is somewhat more rare, but was similarly not an attempt to control the second hand market, but rather to reward first time purchases and encourage that type of sale. That isn't unique to games at all, you see it in just about any industry; bonus gifts are thrown in with first time purchases all the time.

                Your argument is flawed. The developers/producers pay to maintain the online servers and provide customer support from funds obtained through the initial sales of the product, and that is included in the initial price based on the expected use of the average customer. Resale of the product results in extended use of the product with no further compensation to the developer, meaning they are then out of pocket for the additional use of the services by the new owner.

                Not only that, but in the EULA of most games these days, you will find the words: "Any commercial use is prohibited. You are expressly prohibited from sub-licensing, renting, leasing or otherwise distributing the Software or rights to use the Software". This line more or less expressly prohibits the resale of the license to use the product, which is, after all, what you purchased, not the product itself. In normal commerce you are buying the product. With software, however, you are only purchasing the license to use the product. The product itself remains the exclusive property of the developer and/or producer.. This is a difficult thing for some people to grasp, but it is the most fundamental fact of digital products these days. You may own the cd/dvd/blueray, the manual, anything else with the product. But the producer/developer owns the software/content contained therein. It is not yours to freely resale, and you are not authorised to redistribute the license to use the copy of it with which you have been provided. People agree to the EULA when they install a product, and they are in breach of contract in the event they attempt to do resell the product. That is another reason why Online passes existed.

                Last edited 24/10/13 1:10 pm

          Movie studio's however already get way more bites at the cherry to recoup costs, with Box Office sales, DVD releases, streaming services, TV repeats...

          Movie studio's get a slice of all these avenues.. where as game developers can only get money from original sale copies... So you can't really argue that reselling of DVD's has the same affect on studio's as reselling of a game... because the avenue for developers to recoup costs is so much smaller.

          Also most games have an ongoing cost, IE servers, updates, DLC... These things all cost money, costs that movies don't have... Once the movie is done and released, it's done...

          Hence why the movie industry haven't cracked down on second hand sales of DVD's... because they don't have such a reliance on resale profits because they've most likely already gone into a profit before the DVD is even released due to original Box Office takings.

          It's not comparable. Online passes protect a service the developer is providing to you that costs them money to operate. There is no equivalent with DVDs.

            What service - many of these passes were for single player content!

              Let's keep the terminology clean: online passes are codes that allow you to access online features like multiplayer. DLC codes for single player things are usually included in a game as a gift. Few online passes are for single player content, though EA blurred the line with them a little bit.

              There's nothing unusual about including free gifts in first time purchases, it's something that happens in any industry. Car vendors offer anything from movie tickets to smartphones and tablets, online training courses give access to bonus materials and resources that aren't essential to the course, etc. It's not just retailers that do these to boost their own sales, they're often sponsored by the manufacturer because it benefits them just as much.

        As for reselling the game, why shouldnt the developer get some money for a game that is resold?

        Because the role of the developer and the publisher ends at the point of sale.

        Authors do not see fees from second hand sales of books. Musicians do not see fees from second hand sales of their CDs. Actors do not see fees from second hand sales of movies.

        All of these industries still exist today despite second hand sales existing since the dawn of commerce so why should game developers be treated any different?

        On top of that, developers are paid (for the most part) during the development of the game. Your exchanged cash at the register is mostly (if not, completely) consumed by the publisher of the game. So buying first hand does not support developers. If you want to support your developer, see if the developer has a PayPal account and send your funds directly.

        Do not believe the fear mongering. Second hand sales do no harm to the game industry or any other industry. The real harm comes form (of all things) retailers who take the second hand sales market for a ride. See case in point, EB-Games where they encourage people to buy second hand games because they (the retailer) gets the whole portion even though the chain is more than cashed up enough to sell solely new games.

        Last edited 22/10/13 2:41 pm

          Because the role of the developer and the publisher ends at the point of sale.

          Your argument is valid for single-player, standalone content within games. And the online-pass's didn't effect this at all!
          You are correct, like DVD's, books and other media [even cars], a publishers role does end at point of sale.

          Except when it doesnt.

          If you are offering online services which customers connect to for multiplayer gaming, then your role has NOT ended after point of sale.

          The real harm comes form (of all things) retailers who take the second hand sales market for a ride. See case in point, EB-Games where they encourage people to buy second hand games because they (the retailer) gets the whole portion even though the chain is more than cashed up enough to sell solely new games

          That is the exact point the online-pass system was supposed to address. It isn't against people playing the games. It is against other businesses making money off their product with no kickbacks to the publishers and developers.

          From a publisher/developers point of view, second-hand retailing is *worse* than piracy. Not morally, of course. But think of it this way, someone is still willing to pay for your game [only $10 less than new for EB's case], yet you receive as much for that purchase if they had pirated it anyway. It's a massive kick in the nuts.

            If you are offering online services which customers connect to for multiplayer gaming, then your role has NOT ended after point of sale.

            Online services should be (if I remember the term correctly) a value-added service. A service offering that is added to the original product for an additional fee.

            I know I sound mean, but to expect an online service for free is unrealistic as the income stream from game sales alone is not enough to keep the servers running in the long run.

              I agree with the fee for games that clearly require long term server support however with games where the servers are hosted by our ISPs or even just P2P connections I don't think they should expect payment.

              I happily pay for WoW.

              That's precisely what an online pass does. The initial fee is part of the box sale (like the free month you get in an MMO), and fees for subsequent users of the same unit are charged when they purchase the online pass for themselves.

                That still does not solve the problem of a constant income stream. That implies that a used copy is constantly changing hands.

                So once again, there is short term income but no fix for the long term.

                  That's right, it's not constant. The way developers work it out is on average playtime. They know some people will play it hardcore until the next version comes out, some won't play it at all, and most will be somewhere in between. They average that out to a certain value, and that value is your online pass value. Unlike MMOs, normal multiplayer games are actually very cheap to operate, especially in the US where national bandwidth is cheap, or in Europe where international bandwidth inside partner networks is completely free.

                  It sounds risky, but it actually does a pretty good job of covering costs.

            I was under the impression that they have always factored this in to the price of the sale, that is why PC versions where you cannot resell are 40 dollars instead of 60.

              That could be a possibility, I'll admit I'd never thought about the prices like that.

              I dunno, I think mainly its that the concept of "second-hand data" still just doesn't sit right with me philosophically. Data is the same no matter how many times it has been read, it doesn't change.
              You aren't buying a physical object, you are purchasing the *right* to use said data.

              One of the reasons I hope digital distribution takes over completely is because I really want the practice of distribution of games on physical media to disappear, and in the process having this argument disappear with it :p

                Just for the record, I never purchase second hand and I purchase primarily through steam.

                I think it's the bees knees.

            lets pretend that a game has an online mode that will only last 5 years since this is the period of time that the developer or whoever has allocated to support the online feature. If I purchase the game new I am entitled to play it online for that 5 year period. However I decide that I do not wish to play for 5 years and that I only want to play for 3 years. should I not be entitled to forfeit my right to play the game online for the remaining 2 years? From the perspective of the company running the servers is there a difference between me playing for 5 years or me playing for 3 and my friend playing for 2 years?

            In their initial decision of price setting a business will taking into consideration the cost of running the servers for each unit sold. If they sell a unit they say we need to allocate X amount for server support. This cost does not change if a different person plays the game instead of the original purchaser.

            Logic dictates that if need to purchase an online pass for a second hand sale then their is no transfer of ownership possible for the online component. therefore even if you sell the game to a friend and it requires an online pass, it suggests that you may only sell the offline component of the game and therefore are fully entitled to continue to play the online feature even after you sold the disc. This concept would suggest that they are two distinct products an online product and an offline product contained within the box of a new disc.

            It is ludicrous to suggest that publishers deserve a second slice of the sales especially considering their forecast models would take this all into consideration when they set the price of the game.

          Authors do not see fees from second hand sales of books. Musicians do not see fees from second hand sales of their CDs. Actors do not see fees from second hand sales of movies.

          But we would start to question that if book stores made an industry out of only selling books within the first week they were printed, and then buying them back right away for resale. We do see that in some ways with movie rental, public broadcasting, etc rights (and lets face it, EB rent games, they don't want you to keep them). Those things became big enough to actually impact the ability to sell those things new so we had to make rules. They're not all great and fair rules, and plenty of people abuse them for their own purposes, but most of them are important to maintaining long term stability.
          It didn't matter when we were sharing NES games with our friends or even giving our friends pirate copies of our PC games. It didn't matter when we were taping songs off the radio and sharing CDs. It didn't really add up to anything. Then it all grew. Now not only can I buy any game I want for a pathetic-but-why-not discount that competes directly with brand new sales, but the stores selling games push pre-owned hard over new games (with the exception of pre-orders they plan to buy back). Game trading was fine when it was me and you just swapping games, but then it became an industry of it's own. Now it actually clogs things up for the people making the games it's a problem that has to be dealt with.

          I do agree with you on most of your points but I think the reality of the situation is that they've been backed into a corner and online passes are one of the less intrusive ways of stopping it. There aren't a huge amount of options on the table and it gets extreme pretty fast. Personally I don't care because I don't buy pre-owned. More importantly I don't view it as an assault on consumer rights (and I'm pretty easily offended in that regard). If you're only going to own the game for a few weeks don't play online, sell it back and use it as an excuse to actually get a decent price for your game.
          I guess in that sense I see it as more of a bundle. The game and the multiplayer are two items that are sold together.

          Mind you, I think you'll agree with me when I say it's their own damn fault, so they're being pretty gutsy playing the 'it's killing the industry card'. Where were EA's concerns about pre-owned sales when they were giving the exclusives/pricing structures to EB/GameStop/JB/etc that allowed them to kill off 99% of the independent competition? This wasn't an unpredictable outcome. They were raking in the cash from offering people $20 (store credit) for their week old $90 game, it was obvious the system was going end with the publishers being pushed out of the circle as far as possible, but the publishers didn't care because they were too busy looking at the sweet pre-order numbers.

          Note: I understand not every EB store is full of sleazy used car salesmen, the last two times I've been into an EB the sales staff have been nice and helpful, a little pushy, but their corporate structure really breeds a slash-and-burn attitude here.

        Why shouldn't the developer get some money for a game that is resold? Because they've already been paid once before. No double-dipping!

        Maybe Nissan should get a cut when I sell my car?

        The developer already got paid by the original owner. They are trying to double dip. What about buying a house, should you pay an extra $30,000 to the architect and builder in the second sale? What about the 4th sale 50 years later?

      it's the only way for me to pay the developers as they didn't get my money through a pre-owned copy.

      Oh boy, not this shit again...

      You do understand that when you buy a preowned copy of a game, the developer has lost one copy from their stock and been paid for it?

      This is different for digital downloads, but for physical copies, you have to be completely deluded to think that buying something preowned is the equivalent of torrenting it or stealing it.

      Last edited 22/10/13 3:23 pm

        Bleeding hearts will bleed.

        One they I hope they will realise all they are doing is making themselves anemic.

        I don't recall mentioning anything about pirating, torrenting, stealing, morals, etc here so not sure how you interpret what I wrote that way. I never even attempted to imply that connection.

        I simply stated that I prefer to buy my copies new because I don't hold a grudge against publishers and this way is the best way to give my money to them. Both developers and publishers (granted it's mainly publishers because devs tend to get paid on contracts from what I've read).

        What others do is their business.

        Why is it such a negative thing for someone to want to pay for a new copy so retailers, distributors, whole sellers, publishers and developers all get their money? As opposed to just retailers for pre-owned copies.

        Sheez, burn me at the stake for wanting to distribute my money why don't you?

        Last edited 22/10/13 3:34 pm

          Ohhhh okay, that makes a lot more sense. I wish you had said "best way" the first time, because when you said

          it's the only way for me to pay the developers

          you ended up with a completely different conclusion. A chasm of difference there.

          I don't buy preowned games either, because I like having the manual and box and disc in perfect condition. But online passes are bullshit. There's no excusing them. It defies established business logic in the name of a few extra bucks that the publishers have absolutely no right to.

          Why is it such a negative thing for someone to want to pay for a new copy so retailers, distributors, whole sellers, publishers and developers all get their money? As opposed to just retailers for pre-owned copies.

          No, when you buy a preowned copy, the developers have all the money they deserve. They sold a retail copy in brand new condition, it was removed from their stocks, and they got their asking price for it. And no, when you buy a preowned copy, the retailer doesn't get all the money, the previous owner gets the money (or should, the amount distributed between pre-owner and retail store reselling the preowned game is a completely different discussion).

          If I sold you a game from my personal collection, I give it to you, you give me money, I already gave money to the publishers and developers. They have their asking price, they only lost one copy of the game. End result is identical to if you had gone to the store and bought a copy yourself and I had not except in the amount of money left in your pockets and my pockets. The developer's share is identical.

          Last edited 22/10/13 3:41 pm

            Yeah I probably worded my original comment badly but couldn't be bothered fixing it.

            And I totally agree that they're bullshit, I just never cared about them as the 15s it took to enter the code in never worried me. But I concur, the concept sucks for consumers.

          If tget eradicate used games that is fine, but customers should get something for it, cheaper games, for example knocking 50% off $89-110 physical console games would be a start.

        I don't think that's what he was saying. I read it that he wants the dev to get some cash so he'd prefer to buy new, and therefore the online pass rubbish wasn't a concern to him.

        Personally, having seen enough of my favourite studios closed down this generation, I was happy enough to buy new, especially after it became a better prospect to import a new game from the UK than to buy a used copy from EB/JB.

      I hear ya, but I think this misses the point. We always used to get all of this content for the same price. We are now getting less content without the price being reduced. This is my main gripe, I used to run a Video Game shop, and the P/O revenue is the only way they survive. The Online passes killed this market for a lot of games, which in turn hurts retailers, meaning less competition for selling you games (I worked for GAME, which is now no more.) But more importantly, as a consumer, you are getting less than you did not too long ago, for the same price. IT seems a bit rich for companies that we pay a lot of money too ($80 is still a decent chunk of funds) can dictate terms to us. If anything, it should be the other way around.

      i used to import 3-4 copies of a game from hong kong for the price of 1 sometimes. Online passes meant i was only able to buy retail. This meant it was lots more expensive for me to buy copies for all my PS3's

        Fuck it, while we're at it lets put a 5 or 10% surcharge on used cars so the manufacturer can keep cashing in huh?! I bet everyone would be complaining if that happened and not going "I dont mind helping out the manufacturer"....

    I refuse to buy a game that has an online pass. It doesn't really affect me that much though because I never felt XBL was worth the money anyway.

    Why is it free on PC but it costs money on their own system?

      Probably because there's no used game market on the PC.

        But they would make far more profit from a console game or so they say due to the volume they sell.

    Online passes were pretty much introduced just to get more people to buy brand new copies of games instead of pre-owned ones, since the publisher makes no money from pre-owned sales.

    Since on PC there's no pre-owned games, there wasn't really a need to introduce the same mechanism. That's what I gather anyway.

    This was for @piratepete but the reply broke.

    Last edited 22/10/13 2:33 pm

      Damn straight. The biggest whiners about second hand sales are the publishers who seem to have more than their fair share of funds while developers are being shut down left right and centre.

        My favourite is when they want an online pass for a game developed by a studio they have already closed down.

          Here's a big question.

          The argument made is I should buy a game first hand so the funds support the developer. If the developer is closed down, where do the funds for my first hand sale go? Who gets the proceeds?

          I've already given my answer to my own question in the past but I would like to see what others have to say this time around.

            The owner of the profit share receives it. Before the company was closed that could have been sold or transferred to another party, including an individual. In some cases the publisher picks up the developer's share, in others it's bought by another developer or a collection agency if the dev owed money when they shut down.

      Sorry, I was mostly referring to why XBL has a fee, I know why they put in online passes but I still feel its unethical.

        Oh, well that I'm not sure of. I guess it's for the servers and service they provide. Not saying it's worth it because MS probably make enough to offer it for free, but the party chat alone and how Live implemented game invites has been worth the yearly price I've paid ($40 - $50).

        Would be nice if it was free, but for $50 a year I must admit I never really cared.

    Am I the only person who's completely annoyed at publishers selling season passes for their games months in advance? The season pass for Battlefield 4, Call of Duty and Assassins Creed have been up for a couple of months, and those games haven't been released yet. Why should I buy expansions for an unreleased game that I don't know if I like yet?

      I cant stand season passes, its even worse when they make a good bit of content and are like "Oh that isn't part of the season pass, your crappy season pass DLC will be out at a later date."

      If a game has a season pass I will just wait for the GOTY version 9 months later.

        The only time I let it go was for Borderlands 2, because that series has always been praised for worthwhile DLC.

        Every other game is usually lame. Offering DLC that's either too short or so lacking in extra features that it's irrelevant.

      You mean the way they force you to buy them? Yeah, that annoys me too.

        Who forces you to buy season passes?

          This voice in my head... Oh hai Jesus! :D

            *cough* *ahem* *ghost voice* Miiiike.....buy Stanley Parable....you know you want to....and buy me a copy toooooo.....

              I already got it! Voices told me to try the demo and then I was compelled to get the full thing. :)

      I still don't even know what exactly a season pass does.

        A season pass gives you access to nominated future content DLC for cheaper than it would cost to buy them individually. A game might put out four content DLC at $15 apiece over the next year, but if you buy the season pass you get access to each of them for just the cost of the pass, which may only be $40, not the $60 it would cost to buy them separately.

      I hate the endless stream of DLC and season passes even more. I hate how the DLC quickly comes to cost several times more than the original game.

      I do not forgive borderlands 2 it's "season pass" as there was so much DLC it didn't even include. In fact I only bought it for the first time yesterday (the GOTY edition from India for about $9.00 as this finally included all of the important DLC up to August 2013). I like to play up-to-date versions of whatever games I'm playing, so Borderlands 2's constant stream of pricey DLC has kept me from laying down my benjamins until now.

      I bought the season pass for Max Payne 3 cuz they put it on sale for $5 a few weeks back and the MP is good! Everything else though I've given a wide berth

      It's just a pre-order for DLC. And if you're asking that question, you're not the target. It's for people who are really, reallllly into those franchises and believe it's a pretty solid bet that the original game will be what they're expecting (and for those franchises, they will be).

    Ok the premise of this article based on the title is ridiculous....

    What on earth do any of the things you just mentioned have to do with shoplifters?

    Guess what, publishers don't give a rats ass about shoplifters because the retailer has already paid for the game.

    Beyond that, if I walked into a store and stole a copy of Madden then guess what? I just stole the code inside as well.

    Online passes are to attack used game sales nothing more, which has been obvious since they were first introduced.

      I clicked through to say exactly that. The premise is logically unsound, there's no connection between the two.

      I think the connection was made because that is the connotation played within the consumer's role - that the sale/transaction was illegitimate without online-pass proof from the consumer. the retailer and publisher may already have had their cut, but the consumer is still treated as untrustworthy until they verify themselves.

    As for that argument about freeloaders sucking from the teat of servers and online modes that cost time and money to maintenance
    This is the only argument I think may be a valid reason to justify the pass. I completely disagree with blocking offline content. For online modes that require servers and continued support on the surface it “seems fair” to pay the people actually providing the service rather than the retailers.

    I wouldn't mind online passes that much, except they prevent me from playing the game under a different account. I wish they would apply to all accounts on the one system.

    an odious response to the imaginary crisis of used games,

    "Imaginary"?

    Owen's lost a lot of credibility there.

    What about the games brought through Steam? You would think they’d encourage people to on sell within their own network. Especially when you can trade the passes on the Steam Market.

    For example, I buy a Steam game, play it, hate it/get bored with it etc… so on sell it within the Steam community (much like the sale of Steam cards, etc.. currently on the Steam Market). Yes this would be at a greatly reduced price and likely paid onto ones Steam wallet, rather than bank/Paypal. Steam may even put on sell embargo restrictions for newly released games. But more importantly you would also expect Steam & the publisher to take a cut from this resale too prolonging it’s value.

    Season passes are the new online pass. They used to be for the odd game that was expected to have dlc down the line, and be well supported.

    Now developers are slamming together drivel just to get an advance payment. Plus, as seen in Bioshock Infinite, your season pass pays for as-undeveloped DLC, which you may or may not see six months down the line.

    Boycott season passes!

    Online Passes were just dumb. I've never ever needed to pay for multiplayer and don't see why I should. Server costs should be factored into the original revenue strategy of first sales. If they can't afford that then god damn put in some local multiplayer and player-run dedicated server software so the players themselves can keep the services they already paid for, new or used, running.

    Also people keep comparing to PC saying that "it has no used-games" as if that's just the way things have always been. They forget - PC games definitely used to have a used-game market. However the platforms own DRM systems like CD-keys designed to prevent sneakernet piracy (especially of multiplayer games) made used-game sales unattractive; you couldn't be guaranteed that your key would work.

      Also people keep comparing to PC saying that "it has no used-games" as if that's just the way things have always been. They forget - PC games definitely used to have a used-game market. However the platforms own DRM systems like CD-keys designed to prevent sneakernet piracy (especially of multiplayer games) made used-game sales unattractive; you couldn't be guaranteed that your key would work.

      I was beginning to think I was the only one here who remembers getting second hand PC games back in the day.

      *Looks at the used copy of SimCity Multimedia Edition and others.*

        The market still exists for special editions with fancy extras.It's ebay of course, where a sellers promote that their goods are still unused or uninstalled and where they can get a bad rep for keeping their keys.

    I must say, I really disagree with this article. Yes - games adopted the Online Pass in 2010, computer software adopted it a long time prior with their software activation. Enter your CD key and activate it "somewhere" and you're good to go. So popular was this process that Microsoft jumped on board with Office 2002 to do just the same. Normally a one-time activation which gives ALL access to the software, not just for the online portion. This process single handedly obliterated the preowned market for PC games long before digital distribution came into play. I buy my games new, so I have no problem with an online pass. Its no worse than a game forcing you to play over Xbox Live when PC versions of the game work perfectly fine over LAN/System Link - you're still forced to play "online" even if you're in the same room as others. Online Passes were a way for a game publisher to recuperate costs on preowned sales where Microsoft was previously the only one gaining the benefit.

    I will never understand why Online Passes have given such negativity. How hard was it to enter a key to validate the game you just purchased now belongs to you.

    The other part of this article I disagree with - the "everyone is a shoplifter" remark has a very different meaning to me. For me, cracking open that plastic seal on a game is what tells me the game is new. Untouched. I'm popping its cherry. A certain retail store here in Australia cracks open this seal before the game hits the shelf under the guise that they're protecting the disc from theft by keeping it behind the counter. This is LIES because the same store lets you return a game after playing it for a week if you're not happy with it. How can they do this? By selling what is essentially USED copies at full retail price to the next guy that comes along. There is no seal around the game, you get the disc behind the counter that countless others have tried out before you. For this reason, I will never buy new games from this particular retail outlet, if I'm paying full retail price, I want my plastic wrap. Complete with unactivated online passes thank you.

      Online Passes were a way for a game publisher to recuperate costs on preowned sales where Microsoft was previously the only one gaining the benefit.

      Recuperate what costs? You mean to say the publishers expend money into the market they dislike?

      This is getting rediculous. The publishers and developers (like every other manufacture/service provider) are only entitled to the first hand sales. If more money is needed then make a new expansion or create a post-release service that can be purchased for a nominal fee that extends the existing product.

      I will never understand why Online Passes have given such negativity. How hard was it to enter a key to validate the game you just purchased now belongs to you.

      This is not about having to enter a key. And further more, the product (game in this case) does not belong to me. I bought I license to use the copy. And if I sell it off, I am required by the EULA to pass the game along, along with all materials and remove any and all installed copies of the game from my computers.

      The problem here is publishers are trying to squeeze a buck out of a market they have no right to be in. Once the first sale is complete, their role ends monetary wise.

        The problem here is publishers are trying to squeeze a buck out of a market they have no right to be in. Once the first sale is complete, their role ends monetary wise.

        Why doesn't this logic apply to game consoles? Should Xbox Live and PSPlus be free? Should MMOs be free? You're not just buying the content as it appears on the disc anymore.

        Once the first sale is complete, would that also waive the publisher of responsibility to provide support, patches and online servers to play on? If a publisher pays to keep a server running and maintained with a 99.9% uptime where do these costs come from after years of development in the game? What about unanticipated development costs to push out a patch to fix unforeseen exploits as soon as possible?

        These are the ongoing costs, these services are being expected and demanded to be provided free of charge after the first sale and to preowned customers.

        I happily pay my Gold subscription because of the service and availability of Xbox Live. It was obvious why the PS3's online service was free to begin with, there was no comparison. Even now, PSPlus offers more in discounts and free games than it does online presence.

          You are mixing two offerings her. XBL and related are the same as add ons and if they can be offered for free then good for the provider.

          If the cost are on going then the provider should look at the model and try to have a constant revenue stream coming in. The second hand market is out of bounds. If the service is to be on going then the logic solution is to use a subscription model and proper in game purchases.

          Once the first sale is complete, would that also waive the publisher of responsibility to provide support, patches and online servers to play on?

          That is their choice. If they choose to make updates free, they have to bear the consequences of the costs. Like wise they have to bear the consequences if they charge for updates.

          Last edited 22/10/13 6:21 pm

        If more money is needed then make a new expansion or create a post-release service that can be purchased for a nominal fee that extends the existing product.

        Again, they already did this. It's called an online pass. You either get it in the box when you first buy the game (cost factored into the game price) or you buy it separately. I know you seem to think it has to be a subscription, but it doesn't.

          Again, they already did this. It's called an online pass.

          No, an online pass is a cash grab and an attack on the second hand sales market. In some cases the Online Pass is to grant access to content already on the disk.

          See case in point, the Cerberus Network in Mass Effect 2. The functionality was there but one had to enter the code to use it. Furthermore it nothing important (it just allows one to access some news and DLC in game) yet EA still saw this as a $15 (or equivalent in points) purchase.

          In some cases, the Online Passes even expire. There was an uproar a while back when consumers got new yet older copies of some games only to find the Online Passes were invalid due to their age.

          The only thing Online Passes support are the coffers of the publishers and are damaging the gaming industry as I and many other gamers are tired of being treated as pirates first and walking ATMs for publishers next, and an actual consumer 42,000 places later.

            I'm sorry you think that, but that's not the purpose of online passes. Hyperbole is a waste of energy.

            The only thing Online Passes support are the coffers of the publishers

            Yes, they support the publishers. The publishers who, as frustrating as they can be, get the games made. It's unfortunate but all not having an online pass does now is support the leech industry of used game sales. Publishers are annoying us but they're doing it because they're backed into a corner. Like I mention in my other comment, I think it's totally their own fault, but no matter how we got here this is where we are.
            Things were fine, then game vendors decided they could take most of the publishers pie and everything got thrown out of whack. Now we have to deal with one of the less invasive methods for publishers to make money in a market where used games thrive by taking away sales from new games.

            This entire thing could be resolved by used game vendors just giving publishers $5 for each used game they sell. It'd be self regulated but even cooking the books a little will work out better for publishers and gamers. Gamers don't have to deal with online passes, publishers get a more satisfying taste of the action without bugging us (they know nobody responds well to this stuff) and used game vendors still get more than their share of the pie. $5 per game isn't much, but considering you can only really charge $15 maximum for these passes before people stop buying them completely it's not too bad.

            Alternatively publishers could just band together and say 'screw you retail guys, if you want to sell used we're not going to sell you the new games which draw people in to your stores', in which case they could knock this online pass stuff off and let us trade, sell and buy used games like we used to, provided it's done privately and not through game retailers, but that will never happen.

    The one thing that aggrivated me the most about online passes was, More than 3 times I received online passes that were either blank or invalid. How does this even happen!?

      Some codes on Online Passes are only valid for 1 year, regardless of them being activated or not.

        I understand that but these were new release titles. Very strange but oh well.

          Sorry, I must have misread. New as in new to you or hours old release wise?

          If only hours old then sorry about that. The error is mine.

          But if it was new to you, then I can understand your frustration. From what I recall, there was an uproar with one of the EA games (Need for Speed I think it was) where older stock had to go back because the Online Passes were over a year old and the code no longer valid.

            EA did drop the ball on that one, but they did admit afterwards that it was an error. The codes in standard retail copies weren't meant to expire, that was intended for review codes and some types of promotional copies.

            The other one from memory was Dragon Age 2, where all the online passes had expiry dates. I don't remember off the top of my head what EA said about those ones, but I fully agree with you that an expiry on normal retail passes is a bad move.

            Sorry I wasnt clearer, I meant day one release titles that contained either no online pass or a blank online pass slip. The feeling of having the game on its day of release and missing parts of it, is aggravating.

    Bullshit, the OLP was designed to do two things;
    1. get money from people who were buying a second hand game, from which the publisher would not see any money.
    2. Be enough of a pain in the arse as to encourage the purchase of new games.

      Yeah but it was a pain in the arse for the purchasers of new games - instead of having some system that could recognise a used copy and apply the pass then - they just assumed every cop was used until you coughed up the magic code.

    I gotta say Owen nails it here - having to enter codes just to get basic stuff like access to multiplayer or Catwoman, is one of the most anti-consumer things to come out of the game industry in the past generation.

    Even though I happily buy games new (unless they're only available used which is the case with older games) I find it annoying to have to plug in a bunch of codes before being able to get in and play - all because they want to generate extra revenue for themselves.

    I think the Season Pass is the best option going forward. This way, you're getting a sense of value the player sees in your game, a more constant revenue stream, and you won't get the backlash that came with online passes.

    I agree that the developer should get the lions share of the profits and should be rewarded for a job well done.

    So I suggest to everyone to buy the game directly off the website, or off gog.com or Steam or whathaveyou - as the developer and publisher get a greater share than that of retail.

    Retail has a place for physical goods, I love that mine has cool figures and nice strategy guides.

    You're lying to yourselves if you honestly believe publishers deserve a slice of the pre owned market. If the cost of the game includes server maintenance then someone else playing in my place is the same as if I had continued playing myself - no extra costs anywhere. To even suggest that a lost "potential sale" is somehow the consumers fault is absurd and in any other industry, piss poor business. I've purchased a game full price, the full experience is mine to use or give/sell to someone else at the cost of me no longer having it. As offensive as the car analogy is for pro-pass types, I wouldn't smash a headlamp and say "sorry, you're a lost sales opportunity, and Ford has to pay for the updates to your 'Sync' software, potential recalls and GPS maps, please order a new headlamp that is strictly compatible with this car only through Ford's website. Cheers."

    I'm still pretty angry about how I paid $120 for the PC Limited Edition version of Mass Effect 3 only to have the codes be used, fail miserably at activating my game and never get any of the multiplayer or DLC stuff that I paid for. Access codes for games were terrible. Access codes for games on Origin was even worse. Glad that's over.

    Hopefully, we can get rid of the season passes that you have to buy to finish a game's story.

    Reading these articles just makes me sad at the fact i have no internet to enjoy all these wonderful online pass thingy majigs. I Fear i will miss out on heaps with my PS4 and no internet.

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