Reigning two-time Worst Company In America Electronic Arts recently announced that its future game releases would not include the much-hated Online Pass program, which charges a fee to owners of used games to access online content, but there were still questions about whether it would keep the program alive for existing games. Now we have an answer.
Earlier today, the folks at Polygon noticed that the Xbox Live Marketplace had discounted Online Passes and downloadable content for a handful of EA games like Bulletstorm and Medal of Honor. And so the site contacted EA to see if the company was moving to shut down or taper off the Online Pass program for existing games that are still making their way around the used-game markets.
“As we discontinue Online Pass for our new EA titles, we are also in the process of eliminating it from all our existing EA titles as well,” the rep told Polygon. “We heard the feedback from players and decided to do away with Online Pass altogether.
“Players will see it first with some EA Sports titles, where a prompt to enter an Online Pass code will no longer appear in-game; with other titles we are simply making Online Passes available free of charge online.
“These are rolling updates that are taking effect over the next several weeks. We hope players continue to enjoy our games and online services for a long time to come.”
Meanwhile, in the video below, YouTube user TotalBiscuit makes a lengthy, somewhat coherent argument against used games, and in favor of secondary revenue streams like Online Pass and DLC.
The video [via Kotaku] is definitely worth checking out (though it could have been about 20 minutes shorter), even if you disagree with his stance. I found that while some of his points — especially his argument that used video games don’t exhibit the same signs of wear and tear that often make used goods less expensive — hold water, others did not.
For example, he claims that it’s okay to sell and buy used CDs because musicians and labels are still making money from other sources like Pandora, or that a used CD can be a promotional tool for a band that then makes money on concerts. He apparently doesn’t know too many people in bands, as streaming services generally pay a pittance for royalties and 99% of the bands playing concerts this weekend may make enough money to pay for rehearsal space for a week.
TotalBiscuit also contends that used book sales are different from used game sales in that publishers and authors don’t have to pay to maintain servers and provide customer service. But that’s a ridiculous apples and oranges comparison. A more apt comparison is to think in terms of authors’ royalties. If I buy a book brand new, a portion of that sale is being paid to the author. If I buy a video game brand new, a portion of that game is going to the studio. If I buy these items used, only the seller gets money. TotalBiscuit argues that studios deserve to make money on the secondary market because they’ve invested so much into their games. Is that so different than the author who may have spent years writing and researching?
He also points to the movie industry, where there are various tiers of release — from the movie theater to on-demand to streaming video and Blu Ray. Because of these tiers, argues TotalBiscuit, it’s fine for people to resell discs of movies they own. Meanwhile, he says the console video game market only has the initial release and then the used game market. But that’s not really true anymore. It may have been the case only a few years ago, but many publishers now discount their games after a while of being released, or make them available at a lower price through Xbox or PlayStation marketplaces. It’s not the consumers’ fault that this discounting doesn’t happen as quickly as it does for the movie industry, or that the retail industry realized there is a killing to be made in used game sales.
The fact remains that games are generally the most expensive form of mass media entertainment, with new titles often costing around $60 — six times what you’d pay to see a new movie at the theater — and will likely only get more expensive as the next-generation consoles roll out. At that price point, games are also a huge risk to many consumers. For some, the only way they are willing to take that risk of spending $60 on a game that may stink is by knowing they have the option of reselling it, or by waiting until there are used copies and paying less.
Used games have been around since my middle school friends and I started buying them at my local West Coast Video. So while I understand the motives behind things like Online Pass, I feel like it’s all an attempt to get the rabbit back into the hat.
Feel free to listen to TotalBiscuit’s argument and decide for yourself: