Starting in June with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, EA Sports titles for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 will come with an Online Pass that is required for online multiplayer, dynasties, and free goodies such as “a new driver in Tiger”. The punchline is that if you buy a used copy and find that the code has already been used, it’ll cost you $10 USD to get your own pass. You can find the juicy details here if you’re curious.
It’s not too dissimilar from what was rolled out with Bioware’s Cerberus Network pass that came with new copies of Mass Effect 2 earlier this year (also published by EA). With quite a bit of free content offered on the Network, the odds of finding a used copy of the game with an unused pass were about as good as finding a Golden Ticket.
The difference between the Cerberus Network and the Online Pass, however, seems to be in what they offer. With the Cerberus Network, it rained free DLC for those that bought into a new copy and the game could be completed with or without it. With the Online Pass, it seems that you will need one regardless to simply play online, a feature that had been a free staple of several titles in EA Sports until now.
Given that, at least in the US according to one study, 46% of game sales made are part of the used game market, it’s easy to see why a company like EA wants a bigger piece of its property in the aftermarket. Gamers that buy new won’t have anything to worry about, but budget gamers looking for a deal on a used title now have to consider whether or not an Online Pass is worth it.
One would think that Gamestop would be upset at this news, but looking at the Q&A linked above, players can buy an Online Pass for a used game via “Sony cash cards and Microsoft points cards at their stores and through their website.” So it’s still something of a win-win for both sides if not, necessarily, for competitive gamers looking for a decent deal.
It also remains to be seen just how Gamestop will price used sports games based on the impression that they may no longer have a working Online Pass code. Hopefully, it will be better than what they’re doing for used copies of God of War III. Or leave room for a lawsuit over a used game with missing DLC.