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Is the EA Online Pass the Future of Console Video Game Pricing?

By (view all posts by GuyCopes)
at 11:52AM Thursday July 7, 2011
under Stuff We Like

Sitting here holding in my hands an early copy of EA Sports' NCAA Football 2012 (the game officially drops on July 12th), I'm reminded of the new state of online gaming that is quickly becoming the norm. Included with every copy of the game is a code or online pass that allows you to access various online features. This is free with the purchase of a new game. But, if you buy this game or games that feature some form of pass used, you'll have to pay an additional fee.

As we look at what's down the road for video gaming, the future looks to be slightly more costly.
The EA Sports Online Pass is activated through a simple code redemption process available once you sign in after booting up the game. Unfortunately, the pass is not a universal unlocking tool that gives you free access to all EA games now or in the future. It's good just for the video game title that particular code was packaged with. Therein lies the first bummer.

The second bummer moment occurs when you realize that if you wait to purchase a used copy of this game in a month or two for $40, the EA Online Pass will not work. You see, it has already been used. So the code you see is now invalid. Here cometh the bummer: You will now have to purchase an online pass to gain access to cool things like Online Dynasty, Teambuilder downloads, head-to-head online matchups and the like. That new pass will cost you $10. Where you originally thought you saved $20, now you've really only saved $10.

Consider also that with the ability in this year's game to take your dynasty online via your laptop, (you had a similar ability last year, but this year sees the addition of a few more bells and whistles), like never before, there will be an additional cost associated with that.

As explained by  Ben Haumiller (Go Noles!), Producer of the NCAA Football series via the NCAA Football '12 EA Sports blog:
"The site itself, and everything you could do last year continues to be free to use. Recruiting online, writing your Dynasty Wire stories, email alerts, stats/standings, etc. are all there for you to use simply by being a member of an Online Dynasty. Also, while access to Advance Week and Super Sim from the web do each come at a price of $2.99 it's important to note that this is a onetime fee for the life NCAA Football 12. If you purchase access to Super Sim and participate in 20 different Online Dynasties over the course of your time playing NCAA Football 12, you will be able to Super Sim games in every one of those Dynasties. There is also a free 7 day trial for you to check out the Super Sim app for yourself and see what it's all about before making the decision on purchasing access for the life of the game."

So, just $3. But waiting, as you can see, now only saves you $7. By the way, these online passes have nothing to do with your existing online access via Xbox Live or the PSN. These are game specific access passes.

Other companies have also adopted similar online passes recently. Warner Brothers recent Mortal Kombat title comes to mind as a title that charged purchasers of used copies for the right to play online. The cost to play online using a not-so-new copy of Mortal Kombat is $10. Other WB games expected to utilize an online pass system, according to 30ninjas.com, are Batman: Arkham City and F.E.A.R. 3. THQ is another company that was at the forefront of the online pass movement, with titles such as Homefront ($10), Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 ($10), and UFC 2010 ($10) utilizing one-time codes for online play.

According to various sources, including Kotaku and Lazygamer.net, Sony will eventually roll out their version of an online pass with the release of Resistance 3. Similar to ones we have seen spring up over the last two years,
"Sony will bring single-use registration codes that grant access to online modes to the PlayStation 3 later this year in the form of the unofficially named "PSN Pass," the company confirmed today."
This will affect Sony's first party titles; they have yet to officially discuss price. Based on the history of third party publishers instituting this feature, we can make some pretty educated guesses.

What do you think? Do you agree with publishers that this is necessary to stem the tide of lost revenue from used game sales and trade-ins? Or do you hate the new policies and the must-buy-new or pay forced nature of this new console gaming landscape. Speak your mind in the comments section below.

Be sure to follow the continuing discussion on Twitter @SavingsGCapes and be sure to come right back here next week for more enlightenment on all things gaming-related.