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.
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."
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.
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?