Let the record show that Electronic Arts hates the sale of used games. Every used EA title sold at GameStop and other similar shops represents money not going back into EA's pocket. How to put a stop to that practice? Offer something extra in the box for those who buy a new game in the form of a free code good for a downloadable goodie of some sort. Those who buy the game used can buy this same code for $10 via Microsoft Xbox Live or the Sony PlayStation Network. EA calls it "Project Ten Dollar", and until now it's been used to offer up enhancements that step outside the traditional game such as a bonus gun, special map, or topless women. Unfortunately, EA is going to start hiding the carrots and wielding the stick, as soon players who buy a used sports title will need to pony up an additional $10 in order to play online. That's right; the entire online multiplayer component of EA Sports titles is becoming part of "Project Ten Dollar". Here's Gamasutra with the details:
The "Online Pass" for EA Sports titles will let users enter in a code for "premium" features and content -- but those who purchase an EA Sports title second-hand will need to pay $10 to purchase the Pass for the same content.
According to EA, the content can include anything from title updates and downloads to features like online leagues -- and even online gameplay and multiplayer modes. An official site has been established to address user questions about the Online Pass.
In addition, EA Sports SVP Andrew Wilson comments of the change: "When we see how many people are playing all of our games online, consumers are telling us that competition is endemic to sports in a way that most people don’t get just by playing a game alone on their couch. As a result, we’ve made a significant investment to offer the most immersive online experience available. We want to reserve EA Sports online services for people who pay EA to access them."
I was alright with the idea of giving additional content that goes beyond what one would expect from a new game, but stripping entire modes out of a game and putting them behind a pay wall is a dangerous step too far. EA says that the company should be paid for the use of its multiplayer servers, and while I certainly agree with that, here's the thing: if I buy a new copy of the game and use the Online Pass in the box, then sell my copy to GameStop where someone else buys it, I no longer have the game and won't be using EA's multiplayer servers anymore. Why not let the next person who buys my copy of the game use the entitlement that came with my Pass? I won't need it now that I no longer own the game. I won't impact EA's servers and won't cause a drain on their resources. That copy of the game already "paid" for its presence online when the Pass was used in the first place. There will never be two people using the same disc and Pass in different places at the same time.
Leaning on the defense that this Online Pass business is all about server costs is a lazy practice. This phase of "Project Ten Dollar" is a shameless cash-grab at an audience that buys a Madden or Tiger Woods title at release, plays vigorously for a short while, and then burns out and never plays that edition of the game again. EA must figure that it can wring some extra money out of this audience as the game trickles down through the used market. While there may be a time and a place to charge for extra in-game material, it's a very slippery slope from charging extra for, say, nudity to charging extra for an entire gameplay mode. Oh, and don't forget that those Online Passes come with an expiration date.