An Online Pass is a redeemable code that grants a consumer of a new game access to the multiplayer mode or other online modes of that title. The system is also a way for publishers and developers to make money from the used game market, which they normally didn‘t see at all. I can understand the use of this system because it is every studio’s right to earn as much money as they can from their own intellectual properties, just as long as they aren’t obnoxious about it.
Ed Boon of NetherRealms Studios thinks this system is necessary, and this is what he had to say when he spoke to Eurogamer about the topic.
“When we sell a game, we need to recuperate the cost of development. These games cost many many millions of dollars to produce. If somebody is re-selling our game and cutting us out of the sharing of the profits of the game, to pay for our games we need to do something to protect our investment.”
Dead Space 2, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Mortal Kombat, and the recently released Resistance 3 are some titles that use the online pass as a gateway to their online component. EA is requiring Online Passes for their sports titles, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony announced Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception to be using the system too.
Currently the Online Pass system hasn’t turned into a wild beast because the industry as a whole hasn’t adopted the idea, and gamers who bought the game new get the code for free, so there are no real inconveniences. Personally I don’t buy games used but I will hunt for bargains, because there is a difference between buying a discounted game and a used game. Discounted games are still new, so the pleasure of opening a game for the first time hasn’t been robbed from you. This is why I don’t understand why some hate the idea of Online Passes even when they plan on buying new copies of their anticipated titles.
However, there is a bad side to Online Passes as companies might drop the ball and make mistakes.
When Fear 3 was released for the PS3 was there was no option to buy the Online Pass over the PSN, so effectively playing the other half of the online component was exclusive to the first day buyers who used the online code in their new copy of the game. Warner Bros. have already resolved the situation months ago, but a dent has already been put into the idea that Online Passes are a good one.
The lure for free money is hard to ignore, but that doesn’t mean a fortune can be made from the system. Here is what Eric Brown of EA had to say about how the Online Pass system is working out for them.
“The revenues we derive from that haven’t been dramatic. I’d say they’re in the $10-$15 million range since we initiated the program,” he said. While the sales are not “dramatic” in volume, he pointed out that it is all “found revenue” that comes from users who previously “consumed bandwidth for free.”
I’m sure more revenue will be seen once EA release more popular titles.
The real question here is that could companies follow EA, THQ, and Sony and try out online passes for themselves in the near future? There are definitely pros and cons to the system, but the potential for addition revenue from a released title could way in the favor of all games (or most) requiring a pass to play online next generation.
I would be ok with the idea, just as long as the following conditions were met.
- The industry would have to hold up to the dreaded S word when it comes to pricing. Currently Online Passes are $10 which should be the standard for Online Passes, or less if companies are feeling generous.
- A standard also has to be followed when determining what an Online Pass actually gives you access too. Each company are allowed to handle passes any way they want, but I think Online Passe should be treated like a master-key that unlocks the full online component. We don’t want another Fear 3 incident now do we?
- Don’t ever make a new game consumer have to pay for an Online Pass, no matter what happens in the customer service department.
What do you think?