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Online Access To EA Sports Games To Be Granted Via One-Time Code

Used sales get even less attractive as EA locks away the main thing most sports fans probably want.

 Codes, codes, codes!
After locking online franchise mode away behind a one-use serial number in last year's Madden, EA has decided to go even further for all of this year's major sports releases, locking all online play and some additional features away from players who don't acquire an "Online Pass." The pass will, of course, be included with new copies of the game, but aside from the ability to sign up for a seven-day trial, players with used or rented copies will have to cough up an additional 10 bucks to get full access.

The Online Pass will lock away different types of content, depending on the game, but online play definitely seems to be the one unifying limitation. Madden NFL 11 players won't get any online play without it, as well as some unspecified "bonus content." Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 will be the first game to roll out with the new Online Pass system, and in additional to traditional online play, players without a pass will be locked out of tournaments and EA Sports GamerNet. Tiger players who enter their code will also receive an "advanced driver" for in-game use. FIFA, NHL, NBA Live, NCAA Football, and EA Sports MMA are also scheduled to utilize the Online Pass setup.

Now, it's not really a huge surprise to see EA move forward with this sort of program. This is similar to the codes used in last year's Madden, as well as Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age: Origins, The Saboteur, and non-EA games like Gears of War 2. Online outcry to the procedure seems to be relatively minimal, but maybe there's some angry pocket of used game lovers that I'm not aware of.

In a posted question and answer sidebar on EA's page devoted to Online Pass, Andrew Wilson, the SVP of World Wide Development for EA Sports, has this to say with regards to the system's impact on used sales.

We actually view the second sale market as an opportunity to develop a direct relationship with our consumers, and with Online Pass everyone has access to the same premium online services and content regardless of how and where you buy the game. In order to continue to enhance the online experiences that are attracting nearly five million connected game sessions a day, again, we think it’s fair to get paid for the services we provide and to reserve these online services for people who pay EA to access them. In return, we’ll continue to invest in creating great games and offer industry-leading online services to extend the game experience to everyone.  I don’t think even the harshest cynic can argue with that and instead I think fans will see the value we’re committing to deliver when they see all the services, features and bonus content that is extending the life of their products.

At this point, I've gone back and forth on the idea of used sales so many times that I'm not sure where I even stand anymore. I tend to agree that game companies are probably right limit--or at least try to get some money directly from--used sales. But at the same time, moves like this limit consumer choice. I suppose this is, at least, a bit more flexible than the current PC market, which uses serial numbers and such to effectively halt used sales completely. This way, you can still grab a used game and, if you decide you actually care about online play, you have some sort of upgrade path beyond "go buy another copy, sucker."

Of course, if we continue down this path, I wouldn't be too shocked to see a future where every game comes with some sort of serial number that fully limits your ability to play a used copy of a game. Slippery slope and all. What do you think? Have these codes been getting on your nerves, or is it no big deal? Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
306 Comments
Posted by Jeff
 Codes, codes, codes!
After locking online franchise mode away behind a one-use serial number in last year's Madden, EA has decided to go even further for all of this year's major sports releases, locking all online play and some additional features away from players who don't acquire an "Online Pass." The pass will, of course, be included with new copies of the game, but aside from the ability to sign up for a seven-day trial, players with used or rented copies will have to cough up an additional 10 bucks to get full access.

The Online Pass will lock away different types of content, depending on the game, but online play definitely seems to be the one unifying limitation. Madden NFL 11 players won't get any online play without it, as well as some unspecified "bonus content." Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 will be the first game to roll out with the new Online Pass system, and in additional to traditional online play, players without a pass will be locked out of tournaments and EA Sports GamerNet. Tiger players who enter their code will also receive an "advanced driver" for in-game use. FIFA, NHL, NBA Live, NCAA Football, and EA Sports MMA are also scheduled to utilize the Online Pass setup.

Now, it's not really a huge surprise to see EA move forward with this sort of program. This is similar to the codes used in last year's Madden, as well as Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age: Origins, The Saboteur, and non-EA games like Gears of War 2. Online outcry to the procedure seems to be relatively minimal, but maybe there's some angry pocket of used game lovers that I'm not aware of.

In a posted question and answer sidebar on EA's page devoted to Online Pass, Andrew Wilson, the SVP of World Wide Development for EA Sports, has this to say with regards to the system's impact on used sales.

We actually view the second sale market as an opportunity to develop a direct relationship with our consumers, and with Online Pass everyone has access to the same premium online services and content regardless of how and where you buy the game. In order to continue to enhance the online experiences that are attracting nearly five million connected game sessions a day, again, we think it’s fair to get paid for the services we provide and to reserve these online services for people who pay EA to access them. In return, we’ll continue to invest in creating great games and offer industry-leading online services to extend the game experience to everyone.  I don’t think even the harshest cynic can argue with that and instead I think fans will see the value we’re committing to deliver when they see all the services, features and bonus content that is extending the life of their products.

At this point, I've gone back and forth on the idea of used sales so many times that I'm not sure where I even stand anymore. I tend to agree that game companies are probably right limit--or at least try to get some money directly from--used sales. But at the same time, moves like this limit consumer choice. I suppose this is, at least, a bit more flexible than the current PC market, which uses serial numbers and such to effectively halt used sales completely. This way, you can still grab a used game and, if you decide you actually care about online play, you have some sort of upgrade path beyond "go buy another copy, sucker."

Of course, if we continue down this path, I wouldn't be too shocked to see a future where every game comes with some sort of serial number that fully limits your ability to play a used copy of a game. Slippery slope and all. What do you think? Have these codes been getting on your nerves, or is it no big deal?
Staff
Posted by The_Laughing_Man

I never play sports games. So meh

Posted by eroticfishcake
@CrazyChris said:
" Nice! "
Great first reply.
Posted by Tiwi

10 dollars? kinda steep... but I get why they're doing.

Posted by AjayRaz

what the hell? o-O 

Online
Posted by Heartagram

I don't mind this although i do not play sports games online. 
 
If i want to play a game bad enough to play it online I'll purchase it the majority of times so it doesn't really make me upset at all.

Edited by skrutop

I usually wait on buying games.  So even with the online pass fee, I'd still spend less than the $60 it would cost me for a new copy.  Ultimtately, I don't play enough online games where I'd really care.

Posted by Hockeymask27

What if i want to play madden online at a friends house after 7 days? Then again I always by my NHL games new so I guess it wont affect me.

Posted by mnzy

I'm wondering if this is even legal in every country. In the US you are allowed to lend stuff you own to others. They are locking away so much of the product though, a legal case would be interesting.
Well, as interesting as legal cases can be.

Posted by Kolonel_Kool

Me thinks it's a load of B.S.  I never buy used anyways, but that option should be there for people who want to rid there old library of games.

Posted by ArchScabby

Lame-O!

Posted by Djeffers03

OH NO NOT SPOR....... 
 
Hang on, never mind.

Posted by VicRattlehead

dont really purchase ea's sports games so you know good for them..

Posted by Vitor
@The_Laughing_Man said:
" I never play sports games. So meh "
Meh? You think this'll just stop at sports games if it sees an increase in continued sales of new games instead of the usual 1 month drop off...?
Posted by aurahack

I dig EA's $10 initiative. This seems like it's pushing it a little but whatever. 

Posted by fwylo

I could see this expanding to other types of games as well.  I think it's a smart move to gain more income to the companies.  I personally don't buy used games so it isn't an issue for me at all.

Posted by The_Laughing_Man
@Vitor said:
" @The_Laughing_Man said:
" I never play sports games. So meh "
Meh? You think this'll just stop at sports games if it sees an increase in continued sales of new games instead of the usual 1 month drop off...? "
I never buy games used. 
Posted by cap123

Fair enough.

Posted by Norusdog

just means less sales from me then..what shit.  fuck you EA

Posted by tunaburn

i buy used games almost exclusively. i love having the option to return the game if 3 days in a hate it. but this will suck if it spreads to non sports games.

Posted by Toxin066

Codes are a pain in the ass to enter on ps3/360. Yeah. That's my thought on the issue.

Posted by groin

I wonder if the upcoming Medal of Honor will do something like this.

Edited by Hot_Karl

This does seem a bit shady, but the people who were going to buy these games anyway (for the most part) were going to buy them new, first day. A good majority of Madden players will buy the game the day it arrives at stores, not 4 months after the fact. 

Posted by LordXavierBritish

Do they really lose that much money on used sales that they need to resort to this? At least Mass Effect justified Cerberus Network by giving some of the DLC away for free. When you're making people pay for shit that should already be included in the box, especially online play, then you have gone too far. 
 
If they are that worried about it why don't they just sell the games direct to players through XBL Marketplace and PSN? They have systems in place and I'd have a hard time believing either Microsoft or Sony would object. This is just stupid.

Posted by sopranosfan

They shut down the sports servers after one year anyway so I don't guess it matters too much.  I quit buying EA sports games when they tried to charge me for power ups.  The funny thing I almost never used them before but just the amount of greed to charge for something as small as that really pissed me off for some reason.  This coming from someone that bought Madden 2007, 2009, and 2010 all new in the first few weeks it come out but I am done with them. 

Posted by Seppli

Since I only buy games new, except for out of print stuff, I don't care. Buying used as long as a game is still legitimately available sucks anyways. Fuck the middleman (Gamestop and the likes). Pay the publisher and developers and the people financing the whole industry, not some greasy second hand trader.

Posted by Pie

This isnt good. 
I wonder when this will travel to other types of games, will the new medal of honour and the new respawn game have this? 
I guess I buy all the big multiplayer games new but big singleplayer games used so maybe it wont be that big a problem but I dont like this still. 

Posted by JDUB_XL

First Sports games, then the world.
 
Expect this to happen with all EA games. Medal of Honor and Battlefield 3 will probably both have this.

Posted by Soap

I guess "Project Ten Dollar" wasn't enough for EA then.

Posted by Yzzerdd

EA to consumers "FUCK YOU"

Posted by Pie

Also will this decrease the value of my games when I trade them in? It's the only way I can get games really

Posted by Hector

I barely play sports game so doesn't really matter.

Posted by keoskey

gotta love and hate CODES

Posted by sixghost
@Pie said:
" Also will this decrease the value of my games when I trade them in? It's the only way I can get games really "
Of course it will. It will lower the price that gamestop or whoever can resell the game for, so it's only natural that they will pay you less. However on the flip side, you'll be able to buy these games for less if you don't care about the online, which is a pretty small consolation prize.
Posted by SatelliteOfLove

Who the flip buys used sports games in enough volume to make this a problem? lol

Posted by agentboolen

The Evil EA is at it again....

Posted by TadThuggish

Libraries are the cancer killing books!  Books are doomed!
 
No, just kidding; books are surviving just fine.  It is absolutely remarkable to hear game companies bitch and moan about used games, but no one in the history of EVER has complained about used anything-else.  And then you have people, their own consumers occasionally, and even game journalists and critics agreeing, which is fucking terrible.  Companies like EA and Activision are still treating games like a fad, like something that will disappear in the next year so they rush and rush and put everything out as fast as they can while putting in countermeasures so they can get the check and bail.  They don't treat games as something like movies, or music, or books, or any form of art, like something that will last well after all of us are gone.
 
I can borrow games, full 360 games, from my library now.  They have been deemed by the libraries, and by extension the government, worthwhile enough to have in their files forever.  And now you have these big corporations (eff the man lol) just trying to make a quick buck.  I thought that we, as game fans, had grown past this.

Posted by OmegaPirate

Hmmm, for optional content or non core 'dlc' i think these codes are fine and a great incentive to keep used sales down 
 
When it comes at the expense of something that quite literally is 'on the disc' thats something different completely 
Unless EA make it clear that the online service is something they choose to provide for free and have the right to charge for at will? I can see this going down pretty badly!

Posted by raiz265

I neither sports- nor used games

Posted by DeathbyYeti

buy new copy of the game
bring it home enter the code
code has be redeemed
everyone is so god damn shady

Posted by Claude

The only sports game I play online is Tiger Woods for the Wii, but GamerNet has never been implemented. Actually GamerNet is a nice feature, but I don't think it would work on the Wii.

Posted by ez123

I would think that EA sports games are least affected by used game sales than any other games. 

It's pretty funny to me that in 2010, a company goes "CD Keys, great idea!"

Posted by sopranosfan
@TadThuggish: music companies used to until the internet became mainstream then nobody bought new or used CDs so they didn't care anymore.
Posted by KingOfIceland

What a stupid, stupid idea. Hope this shit won't spread to their other games.

Posted by Cube

I play NHL online. Someone just lost a sale. Way to lose a fan who's been buying the franchise since 99, EA. 
 
Good job.

Posted by snoopeasystreet

I don't see too big of a problem with this. It's up to game shops to now say "if you buy this game used, it will cost you a further 10 dollars to unlock the online multiplayer". If they don't do that then it's stores like gamestop who are the shady ones.

Posted by JDUB_XL

The real issue with this is if it works like the Bad Company 2 VIP code, only one person per household will be able to redeem the code. So lets say Madden 2011 is purchased for 2 siblings. One brother redeems the code on his account and the other is stuck either using the account that is not his own, or paying an extra $10 if they want to play online.
 
This is terrible for me considering I share everything with my brother.

Posted by Lockeyness

I think this is the right way to go.  The second hand market has been hurting developers for years and while EA isn't necessarily the "indie darling" that would be directly influenced by this, it's certainly a step in the right direction.  I've never had a problem with entering codes, personally.

Edited by lockload

" EA to consumers "FUCK YOU"  
 
Huh EA dont see a penny of used games sales so why should they give a shit about used customers?
 
If you pay ea for the game by buying new you get everything, fair enought i think

Edited by Eelcire

Disney Pictures just announced the new Disney Pass that will only be available to new DVD and Blu-ray movies. Included in the Disney Pass will be additional online content and bonus features, as well as the final 15 minutes of the film. Purchasers of used media can still purchase the Disney Pass separately for a small additional fee. Disney Pass once activated will only work on that one media player; households with multiple players can purchase additional Disney Passes so that everyone in the family can enjoy the movie from their own room (and player).
 
While I don't purchase sports games typically, this is still a rotten move that will find itself leeching into other genres. Soon these "features" will find their way into single player experiences, and what then? What makes the game industry think they are immune to the used market?