Oct 19, 2011

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Community Voice – Online Passes: Solution or Problem?

Community Voice – Online Passes: Solution or Problem?

Publishers are always lamenting the revenue they lose due to used game sales, so they’ve tried to come up with solutions to the “used game” problem.  One that has become increasingly popular lately is the “online pass,” which often takes the form of a code that grants the user access to the online component of the game.  Of course, not all games include online play, so publishers of non-multiplayer games have tried to use the online pass concept in their own way, as applicable to their games.  This usually means day-one DLC: content that those who purchase the game new will have access to (via the included code) but those who rent or buy used will not, unless they’re willing to pay up.  Usually, this means about $10 in addition to whatever else you may have already paid to play the game, and is one reason EA’s program in particular is often referred to as “Project $10.” Of course, if you don’t have an internet connection for your console, you also miss out on this content, even if you buy your games new.

This week, two games came under fire for their own versions of Project $10: Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One and Batman: Arkham City.  Gamers (many of these parents, as the game is aimed toward children) who purchased All 4 One may have been surprised to realize they needed a code in order to play the game online.  While this has become fairly common (Resistance 3, for example, had an online pass), many felt it was unfair to do so with a children’s title.  Those who rented the game were disappointed to discover they were locked out of the online experience.

Arkham City had its own issues.  Because it doesn’t have an online multiplayer, Warner Brothers instead went with the day-one DLC approach, vis-a-vis: Catwoman.  If you purchase the game new (or if you’re lucky to get a used copy with a code at Gamestop, as they were promising), you get the opportunity to play as Catwoman during select moments of the story. Rather than simply an add-on quest, it appears as if Catwoman is fairly well integrated into the overall game, meaning that even though her role is small, those who don’t pony up the $10 (if you don’t buy new), might feel as if they’re missing out.  (EA has done this multiple times with their Mass Effect and Dragon Age games; for example, Shale in DA:O). Worse, it appears as if the codes included with the collector’s editions of the game were incorrect, so gamers who purchased new copies of the more expensive version of Arkham City have to wait until WB and Rocksteady come up with a solution.

What do you think? Are online passes a good way to reward those who buy new, or do they create more problems than they solve? Let us know how you feel in the comments.

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