Following on from its 'Project $10' scheme to incentivise first-hand purchases, Electronic Arts has announced a new 'Online Pass' system that will effectively bar players of second-hand EA sports games from online multiplayer.
An ‘Online Pass’ will be included with every first-hand purchase of future EA sports titles. The pass will activate all online components of each game, including the online multiplayer component. Previously, access to online multiplayer has been standard provided the user has access to the respective online service (be it paid as in Xbox Live or free as in PlayStation Network).
The aforementioned ‘Project $10’ was intended to encourage first-hand purchases by giving exclusive access to free and premium downloadable content to those who bought the game at retail. However, owners of second-hand copies may purchase access for US$10 (hence the name Project $10). Mass Effect 2’s Cerberus Network and Battlefield: Bad Company 2's VIP Pass are two recent examples of Project $10 in action.
However, ‘Online Pass’ has extended this idea to online multiplayer gaming for sports titles, and it’s subsequently raised the ire of the gaming community. EA is particularly prevalent in the rental-heavy sports gaming market, with typically annual turnarounds between iterations of any given franchise. Many gamers see the move as an attempt to squeeze extra revenue from a market where EA is missing out on full-game sales at retail.
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