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29Jun/104

Please EA, don’t start a trend…

This story is over a month old, but it just came to my attention today and it is something I want to touch on. The market for used video games these days is massive, especially with the amount of quality titles being released as of late. Many gamers simply cannot afford to buy all of their games brand spankin' new, and stores such as Gamestop allow players to buy used games at a discount. The downside to this, is that publishers ultimately lose out on sales. Just like everything else in this business fueled world, the bottom line is money.

In an attempt to combat the purchase of used games, more specifically in this case, EA Sports titles, the company has adopted a new system tagged "Online Pass". Whenever EA ships a new sports game, included with it will be a one time use code that allows access to multiplayer and additional DLC. Without the code, you are going to be set back an extra $10 just to play multiplayer. Not to mention, roster updates are included with this Online Pass.

Don't get me wrong. I understand where EA is coming from. While they do bring in a ton of money, their games are extremely popular, and with many gamers refusing to buy games new when they can purchase them used, there is substantial amount of cash flow that is not making its way to the developer. I am still borderline on whether or not I completely agree with this particular practice with the sports games. What really has me worried though, is if this strategy proves successful. What if EA sees the potential in this and then starts incorporating this into more and more games outside of the sports genre.

"So you wanna play online, huh? My boss says he wants more money then fool!"

We have already seen it with Mass Effect 2 and The Cerebrus Network DLC that came free when you bought the game new, but cost $15 otherwise. In many ways, the videogame industry is a copycat industry. Publishers and developers alike undoubtedly keep a close eye on what the competition is up to. My fear is that this trend could start spreading among different companies and spilling over into different genres, primarily into games that have long online lifespans. Imagine picking up a copy of Call of Duty at a used game shop a year after it is released, only to find out you have to pay an extra $10 just to take it online, even though you pay for an Xbox Live Gold Membership so you can play the game online. In fact, if Activision CEO Bobby Kotick had things his way, that would have already happened.

I just can't fathom the idea of being forced to pay for multiplayer, simply because I bought a game used. Practices like this are becoming more and more common. It even slightly relates to all the DLC shenanigans that have taken place recently.(i.e. 3 courses for Tiger Woods being released as paid DLC, less than one month after release; Bungie making it required to have the lastest DLC Map Packs to play many of the playlist in Halo 3.) Maybe I am thinking a little to far into this. Maybe the robbery that goes on in the way of paying for features and DLC has reached its peak. Hopefully it will not get any worse. But with multiplayer being the main attraction for millions of gamers, I have a hard time believing that companies would overlook another opportunity at making a quick buck, even if it deals a serious blow to the used games market. Lets just hope I am being paranoid.

"Beautiful course, isn't it? It could be all yours, for the low low price of $10!"

How do you feel about paying for DLC and possibly even multiplayer capabilities in the future? Am I just thinking craziness, or do you believe my fears are justified? As always, feel free to comment and let me know what you think.

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Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I think DLC is getting out of hand, but I think the online pass w/ a new game is a good idea. I think it needs to include more than one though because households share games.

  2. What really should happen here is if EA charges $10 for Online Pass for a used game, the value of the used games should go down by $10 at Gamestop because the demand will go down. I never understood why anyone would go to Gamestop to save $5 - $10 on a recently released used game (thats all they really discount them) when they could buy on Amazon and save a few bucks as well as save on tax…typically amounting to $5 - $10…and they get the game new. Gamestop needs to be shown they need to give better discounts on used games because there is plenty of room in the margin between what they pay you for a used game and what they sell it for. Its up to the consumer to show them that really, but since the consumers have failed, it looks like EA will do it for us. Better yet, don’t shop at Gamestop at all…

  3. Totally justified. Greed has driven men to do stupid things in the past, and there’s no reason to believe that there greed won’t do it again. I run a used game store and have asked several of my customers how they felt about such a move if it were indeed going to happen. Let’s just say that most of them have said that they will not bother buying the games that would require additional rates to play and feel betrayed by the lager companies for allowing the idea to even be tossed around. I myself will not support this movement and hope that companies, such as Microsoft, whom charge for there services, will stop to consider the negative effect this could have on all online gaming.

  4. This sense of entitlement from the publisher’s side, their conviction that they are somehow owed reparations for used game sales, is sickening to me. This is unheard of in every other category of consumer products. Ever hear of a car manufacturer that whines about how they should be entitled to part of the price that a used car sells for?

    So what’s the difference between games and all other stuff? Apparently, computer and video games are resold much more often, and when they are new enough so that this can still affect the sale of new copies. The $10 discount GameStop gives compared with the price of a new copy is only good for a couple of months after release, after that, new copies themselves are cheaper. Plus, as GameStop wants to maximise their profits on used game sales, they pay people as little as possible for their old games. Putting these things together: obviously there is a large population of gamers who are selling their games they bought pretty recently and expensively, for a lot less than what they paid for, only a few weeks or months after buying them.

    And the publishers seek to blame the gamers or GameStop? To anyone who looks at the facts and actually thinks about them for more than 5 seconds, it is clear where the issue is at: gamers just don’t like the games very much, or don’t care enough about them to hold on to them. This is the publishers’ and developers’ own fault for producing shallow, shitty games that you play once for a couple of hours and feel like you’ll never want to go back to. I have a lot of deep games that are so chock full of things to do and discover that you can play them for months, and they are such deep experiences that a couple of years later, you fondly remember and pick them up again. If you look at today’s bestsellers, it’s mostly shallow, derivative, formulaic shooters with a play-through time of 10-15 hours, no replay value, no modding capabilities, no love for detail (which implies an incentive to explore and experiment). No wonder people get bored with them after a couple of weeks and sell them back to GameStop for a third of the price they paid for! Add to that the hassles of DRM, cheap packaging, PDF-only manuals, and all the other trends that have really made retail copies of games worth a lot less than they used to be.

    EA & friends, if you want to “fight” the second-hand videogame market, put more effort into producing games that people will want to hold on to, rather than ones they can’t get rid of fast enough.


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