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FIFA 12, The Online Pass, And Why I Won’t Be Playing Anymore

FIFA 12, The Online Pass, And Why I Won’t Be Playing Anymore

It seems the online pass has taken its first genuine victim – at least, the first one I know about. FIFA 12 will no longer be being played in my flat, and I will not be in the market for future iterations of the game for the foreseeable future.

It’s not just the online pass, I should point out. The tackling system has me utterly stumped. Playing against the AI is an exercise in futility that I could do without – so I’m going to do without it. This is an entirely subjective standpoint and one I know isn’t shared by the whole world, before you start, but it’s got to me.

It’s got to me and it’s made it so I don’t want to play the game in single-player.

Now I know it’s still great against other people. But I don’t have an online pass, and I’m not going to buy one. I’ve made it abundantly clear what I think about this system elsewhere, so no need to go into much detail beyond this: I think they’re gouging nonsense that punish customers rather than the stores that are (apparently) in the wrong.

So that’s it – a combination of arse single-player and locked-out multiplayer that I absolutely refuse to pay to be unlocked means, after a few years of flirting with the series, I’m done with FIFA as far as I can see.

But what would happen if EA didn’t use the online pass? If that idea was – as it should have been – laughed straight out of the meeting room and the person who suggested it was fired, from a cannon, into the sun? What then?

Well, if I stuck with FIFA, EA wouldn’t be getting my money as I would be buying second-hand. It’s in my nature – it’s what I’ve always done, as a frugal (“tight”) northerner. They wouldn’t be getting a guaranteed top-up fee from me as this is the world where online passes don’t exist. So why would they bother living in this world if there’s no profit in it for them?

Well I’d still own the game. I’d still have it in my possession. I’d still have access to online elements including the PlayStation Store. On there, digital items and downloads can be sold, commonly known as DLC – or ‘downloadable content’.

Using this fabled ‘Dee El See’ system, EA could put up items like, say, updated kits or squads and charge a nominal fee for them. Maybe ‘legends’ teams. Maybe they could invent some kind of brutally addictive card game that I would get hopelessly addicted to and put in far more than the £6-10 they would get from me for the online pass…

Ohnowait. Isn’t it crazy to assume that not putting instant punitive measures on half your audience means you might still be able to make money by offering them content they actually want, and by treating them with some modicum of respect and rewarding loyalty.

Look at hats on Team Fortress 2, for example. Just… just look at them. That’s the stick by which everything else in the world should be measured.

But this isn’t just against EA – it’s against any company using a one-time pass system to lock out content from legitimate consumers. FIFA is the first time this has happened, that the online pass (and shitty single-player) has forced my hand like this. The way things are going, I can’t see it being the last.

The minute we stop getting persecuted for the apparent crimes of shops – it’s not the consumer that’s in the wrong, so don’t treat us like we’re the ones with our hands in the cookie jar – is the minute I’m willing to sit down and start paying attention again.

For now, I’ve sworn off football games (aside from my heroin… I mean Football Manager addiction) for the foreseeable future. In a world where online passes didn’t exist, I’d still have a reason to care.

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  • rik

    Do they pay you to rant rubbish like that?, I recently bought my first ps3 bundled with fifa 12 and am delighted with the game, the tackling system is refreshing and makes the game challenging, i had the last version on the 360 and got bored of running straight through defenders and it seems to me the only people who are complaining are ones that don’t want to take the time to learn how to defend or ones who are no good at it. As for the online pass if you buy the game new as it is intended then you get the full online experience, if you choose to wait for a preowned cheaper version then you miss out on what we payed full price for, namely the cost of eas servers, why should ea provide server access to people who don’t give them a penny?

  • The online pass comes with the game for free, when bought new. I’m pretty sure game makers such as EA are against the idea of buying second-hand because in essence it takes trade away from them.

    Considering it would still cost £30+ second-hand it would make sense to buy it new and play online than to buy second-hand and to top it up with an OP.

    The whole point of it in the first place is to prevent illegal copies of the game being able to access to online features which in thuth is the best part of it.

    In terms of tackling it’s just something that requires skill – gained through time and effort playing the game. The older versions were too easy it was just a case of holding down one button. This version requires you to time your tackles just like real life. In my opinion that game went from an 8/10 in 2010 and 2011 to an easy 9.5/10 in 2012.

  • Ian Dransfield

    “why should ea provide server access to people who don’t give them a penny?”

    For the exact reason I pointed out: they can recoup costs through other means. Ones that aren’t flat-rate, punitive taxes on users who have done nothing wrong other than want to play a game. Ones that can feel like extras – bonuses that people actually want to pay extra for. Reward your players, don’t punish them for wanting to get your product however they LEGALLY can.

    I am honestly shocked that people – gamers, people who buy games – side so consistently with the publishers on this. Publishers need to protect their investments. I know this and I agree with this. But if it is the shops that are doing ‘wrong’ by selling second-hand games, why the HELL do gamers (you and I) have to pay for it? I mean, literally pay for it.

    They’re feeding you bullshit and not only do you seem happy to gulp it down; you’re asking for seconds.

  • Svennis

    This is the first article I’ve read on this site and I am very surprised at the tone – it sounds like it was written by a child. l kept expecting you to cry “boo hoo it’s so unfair”. I bought it new so I got the online pass for free. I don’t need to pay a penny more, ever. I am sick and tired of games that release loads of dlc that I then have to pay for eg COD games where to get the full experience I end up having to pay for the game plus another 40 quid for map packs. That is a total rip off.
    Why should EA give you the full experience when they are getting nothing in return? Personally I think the online pass is a great way for companies to protect their revenue streams. Also if it keeps selfish people, who want everything whilst paying nothing, away then thats an added bonus. In my humble opinion gamers who demand full access for nothing are no better than pirates.

  • Ian Dransfield

    “In my humble opinion gamers who demand full access for nothing are no better than pirates.”

    Re-read what I wrote, where I mentioned other, less punitive ways for publishers to get money out of me and others who think the online pass is a ridiculous tax on people who have done nothing wrong.

    Publishers take issue with retailers selling second hand games. They take it out on gamers. 100% of commenters here are okay with that. Happy about it, even.

    No hope.

  • Adam

    So a few things, firstly, the tackling system just takes time to get used to. Despite playing stupid stupid amounts of FIFA 11 mostly on World Class or Legendary, I was struggling on Professional to start with, but after a few seasons of career mode, I am mostly getting the hang of it…

    Secondly, FIFA is really about couch co-op, it is probably the best game in the world

    Thirdly, online passes are great! Sure they can sell DLC to you, but that is not really what they want to do, they just want to keep people playing, which should really not be an issue with FIFA admittedly. By keeping people playing, they are ensuring that more people buy it new by limiting the used stock in the system, and therefore meaning that they get about £20 from purchases not £0, or ever £10 with the online pass.

    This means that they have made Ultimate Team free so that legitimate players of the game will play for longer. The online pass isn’t really meant to get money from used gamers, it is meant to encourage more people to buy it new. Also, if a store wants to keep the prices competitive, then they should be dropping their prices, and this is a good cycle to get into for the publishers, as that should also decrease the value of trade ins, so people will just keep the same game

    I should, however, point out that I am against Batman’s online pass, or anything that restricts stuff across multiple user accounts on the same PS3, like GT 5’s DLC. (also a bit iffy about the Cerberus Network in Mass Effect 2, but I buy every game new, as I actually like the games industry)

    But they are really a good thing. I really don’t understand why people expect to get a service without paying for it. When you pay for DLC, you are paying for the DLC, which costs money for them to make and they are going to have to sell you a lot of it, which is not going to make up for them not getting the money for you purchasing the game or even getting the online pass

    I do feel that the used game situation could be improved if retailers simply took a smaller margin on the brand new sales, such that the retailers are effectively getting a cut of resales, but with a struggling high street shops sector, I don’t think that is quite viable at the moment

  • Ian Dransfield

    One more time: Retailers are the ones publishers see as being in the wrong. Retailers. The shops. The companies selling the games second hand. The stores. The trading businesses operating in this free market of capitalism.

    They are the ones publishers take issue with. They are the ones who even I agree take the piss a bit with their second-hand selling strategies.

    But the online pass is an extra toll on gamers. Not publishers. Not shops. Not businesses. Not the people causing this ‘problem’ in the first place. It’s blaming one element and taking it out on another (surprisingly, the weaker element that can’t cause publishers as much trouble as retailers can).

    Let me put it a different way: you are playing in the house. Your brother breaks a plate. Your parents see this, blame your brother but then make you clean up the mess and pay for the damage. You thank them and offer to buy more plates in future because of their fairness and clever handling of the situation. THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

  • Svennis

    Ian I dont need to re-read what you wrote or be told one more time, I fundamentally disagree with you (as do most of the respondents here it seems.) I do not want games companies trying to continually milk me for extra revenue. I want to pay one fee up front which allows me the full online experience. That’s the reason I wont be buying MW3 where gamers are being totally ripped off – it’ll end up costing 80+ quid for a game!!! And as for all the extras they sell such as themes or avatar clothes – again a total rip off.
    As for the second hand retailers they should make it abundantly clear that the product they sell has reduced functionality, allowing gamers to make an informed decision. Maybe they should be forced to include a sticker on the front of second hand games saying It will also cost you X pounds if you want to play online.
    As for you Ian I think you are being completely disingenuous if you claim you didn’t realise a second hand copy wouldn’t give you online access. A games industry journalist didn’t know this? Really?

  • Adam

    No, the idea is that the retailers will get fewer people buying the game used, rather than them getting money from the online pass. It is not directly a money making measure, it is something to try and stop used sales.

    The reason why it should help gamers is that pre-owned prices should go down, and more people will buy it new. Just looking on GameStop US, games the default pre-owned price of recently released games is $48, not $55 as it used to be, passing the savings on to gamers

    This article just gives a much better summary than I can


  • Ian Dransfield

    “I think you are being completely disingenuous if you claim you didn’t realise a second hand copy wouldn’t give you online access.”

    I’m going to suggest re-reading the entire article again, because the entire article is about how buying a game second hand won’t give you online access.

    “No, the idea is that the retailers will get fewer people buying the game used, rather than them getting money from the online pass. It is not directly a money making measure, it is something to try and stop used sales.”

    Stopping used sales so they make more money. Introducing the online pass so they make more money. All of it is fleecing gamers. None of it is punitive towards the games shops publishers apparently have a problem with.

  • Adam

    Well of course they want to make more money, other than Activision who are rolling in the CoD cash, most games companies aren’t doing too well financially, so I am very happy that they get more money, and are so more likely to make new games (read: Mirror’s Edge)

    The game shops are being punished as they have to drop their prices for used games, which is directly cutting their income. And the problem that the publishers have is that people are playing the game without paying them any money, and instead it is just shops who are benefiting from these customers, so this way, the shops get less money and they get more

  • Svennis

    If the whole point of your article is that second hand copies don’t give online access well no shit Sherlock. Of course you knew that before buying your cheapo copy yet you still couched your article as if this was somehow news to you, hence my point about your disingenuity.
    As a parent the last thing I need is for EA to start charging for kit or squad updates. As the system is now I have paid my 30 quid and that’s it no more hidden costs. Perfect for me. I do understand your point – I just completely disagree. As I said earlier, imho, I think games where there is no online pass but there is endless DLC are a total rip off. 10 quid for a map pack every few months – what a swindle.
    As for the new tactical defending, I actually like it as now there is some skill in tackling unlike Fifa 11. Also the career mode is much improved and is worth investing the time to master the new controls. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  • Eric

    Its wrong,i agree totally with Ian.

  • I bought Uncharted second hand. I liked it so much I went straight out and bought Uncharted 2 brand new.

    Second hand game sales do benefit the publisher, but they’re too fixated on making a quick profit to see the long term damage it’s going to do to them.

    After all you only lose a repeat customer once.

    It’s also clearly wrong – a change in ownership should not trigger a change in functionality.

    Buying a second hand car? Pay £100 to unlock the stereo, £500 to unlock the doors and £1000 to unlock the immobiliser!

    Buying a second hand pair of jeans? Pay Levis £10 to unlock the zip!

    Buying a second hand fridge? Pay Zanussi £10 to unlock the door and £10 to unlock the ice box!

    Buying a second hand iPhone? Pay Apple £200 to unlock it!

    Oh wait, scratch that last one. Apple will probably try it soon.

    P.S. After playing the FIFA 2012 and PES 2012 demos, I found PES suprised me by being much more fun to play. Does PES have an online pass?

  • Norman

    How does me buying FIFA 12 second hand and playing it online cost EA any more money than if the original owner had kept hold of it?
    The answer is, it doesn’t!

    EA have already taken their cut of every single copy of FIFA in existence. If 100 people buy a copy preowned, are there an extra 100 people taking up space on their server? No. There are exactly the same amount of people playing. That’s the same as if there are 100,000 people with preowned copies. EA factored in the cost of running their servers in their original price and they received whatever percentage they decided to add to cover the cost of the servers, on every single copy sold.

    To say that I would somehow be costing them extra money by being the second owner of the disk is just nonsense!

    If they sell a million copies, then there will never be more than a million people playing online, no matter how many times individual disks change hands.

    It surprises me a little that so many seem to take the view that “I bought mine brand new and paid for the online in the price, so if you buy it second hand you should pay again”. The simple fact is that whoever bought my second hand copy when it was new, also paid the same as you, then decided it wasn’t for them and took the hit on trading it in. So EA have had their money, and forcing people to pay again for something that they have already charged for is just greed, in my opinion.

    I don’t own FIFA 12 by the way, either new or preowned. I was going to buy it, but after learning that if I don’t like it it won’t be worth a toss as a trade in, I don’t think I’ll bother.

  • Jack

    I must say that I completely agree with this article!

    Anyone who thinks that publishers are introducing online passes to cover the cost of running their online servers is fooling themselves. The FIFA series sells millions every year, and prior to this, FIFA and all other online games managed to run their servers just fine without resorting to grabbing people by their ankles and physically shaking all the money out of their pockets.

    Video games are already expensive purchases – even if you buy second-hand. And pretty much all other products are sold used without driving the people that created them out of business. Online passes are just profiteering. Plain and simple.

    If DVDs only allowed you to watch the special features – or if we’re comparing this to Arkham City, the last 10 minutes of the film – when you played them on one specific DVD player, there would be uproar, but for some reason people are happy to take this selfishness lying down when it comes to games.

    Remember the good ol’ days when you could take a game round a friend’s house and play it with them without having to pay an extra £10? I’ll miss those times…

  • James

    EA over promise and under deliver with their games.

    I queued for FIFA 11 and paid full retail like many others. My “club” managed about 2 games of online play together from 1am to 6am.

    We gave up. It was the same for the next 3 weeks.

    It took them months to fix things and they still never got it completely right.
    The online pass kept corrupting itself and had to be downloaded again and again and again.

    The game price has gone up from £35-38 last year to the £43 level. In a global recession.

    I contacted EA about the racist clubs online, they did absolutely nothing. There were clubs called N****r Killers and P**i Killers and anti-Jew and pro Nazi and EA did absolutely nothing, saying it was upto M$ and Xbox live. I contacted the Xbox Live team and they said it was upto EA.

    As for the game itself, I got bored of the poor quality coding. I got bored off players falling all over each other for no reason. i got bored of the problems with EA’s servers. I got bored of how “stupid” the computer was. I got bored off the single player mode where you could actually go 90mins without touching the ball if you didn’t call for it.

    I bought PES 2011 and it was awesome.
    No online profit pass bs.
    Intelligent computer who passes where you are in space.
    Intelligent computer who makes supporting runs.

    An all round better game. Fifa have fancy graphics and licenses. PES has realistic gameplay.

    The Japanese code is far superior to the American code, maybe because the cultures are so different, one strives for perfection, the other for profit.

    EA sell tens of millions of copies of Fifa alone. At £40 each that would be £400million and the rest. Probably closer to 40 million sales so over the £1billion mark.
    Servers and coders don’t cost that much a year aside from the fact that they have the NBA, NHL, Baseball, Cricket, Golf franchises as well.

    It is BS. It is a bane for parents. How do they teach kids to share when each child must have their own copy now. If you have 3/4 sons thats £129 – £172 !!!!

    FIFA 12 is worth about £25, that’s it.

    The best way to tell EA that you want better quality gaming and no online pass BS is to not buy it.
    But most of you are so blindly addicted, you accept what’s given like junkies and have lost the balls to think and act on your own.

  • Apologies for being late to this party, but I just want to state how painful it was to read this article. Online passes are included free with the new copy of the game, and are therefore NOT a punitive tax against the gamer in any way whatsoever. Cut it however you like, but it makes no difference how creative you get with the language of your complaint; you only pay for the online pass if you don’t first pay for the game. It would be more accurate to describe it as an item of DLC that is given to first sale customers but has to be bought seperately by subsequent customers, and last I checked nobody was complaining about them.

    Sadly, the internet has bred a generation of entitled crybabies, who feel that everything should be given to them for free. Ian, I am genuinely sorry if you are unable to afford to buy all the games you want to in order to fuel your hobby, but you are merely in exactly the same boat as the rest of us. If you choose to buy pre-owned, that is your call. But to complain about a publisher that is trying to stop retail from getting several sales out of the same copy means that you are missing the target completely. I recently was in a Gamestation store where they offered me £20 for three titles that were available on the shelves, as pre-owned games, for £61. If there is any blatant profiteering going on in the industry, that is where you will find it.

    The second half of your article is much better, with the idea of add-ons to extend the life of the game. I would much rather that than the inevitable FIFA 13. And, as far as I am aware, your lack of online pass does not actually preclude you from browsing the store, it just stops you from playing online. (You need to be able to access the store to buy the pass, after all.) What a shame, then, that it follows a first half in which you come across as little more than a spoiled child who expects the world to just be handed over to him on demand.

  • jack pillay

    This article is a piece of bull****. Whoever wrote this needs to quit asap. Fifa 12 is an amazing game and clearly you haven’t even given it a chance. If you buy the game new like a normal person you get a free online pass so stop being cheap. The tackling in this game is great it makes the game a nice challenge. Stop being such a child.

  • Danny

    The tackling is quite hard but once you get used to it it made the game the best by far. However, recently I hate the game, I dont no what has happened to it online but decisions are incorrect and its gone stupidly fast paced?!

    Jack pillay is full of s*** who needs to get a life and play a real game.

  • Charlie

    I’m disappointed with this online pass nonsense. I would say that the multiplayer aspect is what attracts most people to the series and Ahhhhhh oh my just so frustrated

  • the tackling is quite hard but once you get used to it it made the game the best by far.however. recently l hate the game .l dont no what has happened to it online but decisions are incorrect and its gone stupidly fast paced…

  • Bob

    Interesting comments on both sides…. how does this effect the rental market? I’m assuming if you rent it from Blockbusters etc then no online play?

  • Ian Dransfield

    You may be able to get a two-day trial online pass for free, but I’m not sure if that’s linked to the disc, the PSN ID or whatever.

    You don’t see publishers crying about rentals because they get a cut of that revenue.

  • Adrian Goodman

    EA can’t have it both ways. They’re perpetuating the used games market they hate so much by releasing an ‘update’ (and I use that term very loosely) of every EA Sports game every year. That’s why the shelves of every high street game shop are burgeoning with pre-owned versions of FIFA/NBA/NHL/Madden NFL/Tiger Woods golf and all the others, selling for as little as 50p each. This is because, unlike other series, where the original games may retain some of their replay value, sports games make all previous versions obsolete immediately upon release. To say EA gain nothing from the sale of used games is broadly untrue, since many gamers who buy the annual update use the sale of the previous version to subsidise it. It may not be money directly into EA’s pockets, but the online pass will reduce the resale value of the previous versions of the game to such an extent (you can pick up FIFA 11 on Ebay at the moment for around £3) that more people will switch to updating every two years or more, so I daresay there will be a drop-off in the number of gamers buying the update every year, which will undoubtedly affect their overall revenue. For every person who would have updated but chooses not to, they would need to sell 7-8 online passes just to replace the revenue lost.
    And even if they did get nothing from used sales – so what? If you buy a used car from a third party dealer or a private seller the manufacturer gets nothing either. Even the parts for most cars can be purchased from third party manufacturers. If you buy ANYTHING second hand you give nothing back to the manufacturer. And don’t tell me you’re getting something for nothing by using the EA server because they don’t have to use dedicated servers, they choose to do so because then they can shut them down after two years and force you to upgrade your game. No other publishers charge you to play online at present and many don’t use dedicated servers at all, they use player-hosting, which costs them nothing. The point is that EA already make a fortune from selling the brand new games, and every used game purchased has already generated around £40 revenue when it was purchased originally, so they don’t need to make ANY money AT ALL from used sales or online play, and to do so is pure corporate greed. As the original article says, there are far better ways to increase their revenues (many of which would also increase their popularity and player-base) than taking the lazy option of the online pass.

    It baffles me that so many gamers are defending EA’s policy on this. Their business model may be legal but in my opinion it’s absolutely deplorable the way they are milking this cash cow from so many angles. In a regulated industry I doubt it would be tolerated. Every year they release an update with barely any tangible differences beyond squad updates and new menus. They’ll throw in a new mechanism, like the penalty-taking in FIFA 11 and the tackling in FIFA 12, but the benefits added from this are hardly worth £40. They can’t even be bothered to record new commentary, it’s the same facile garbage where the referee is commended again and again for playing the advantage, often incorrectly. And that’s my biggest problem with the FIFA series. The fundamental game mechanics have been faulty since at least FIFA 08. Incorrect application of the offside rule, where play is stopped because a player not even involved in the play is ruled offside. Playing the advantage where there is no advantage. Atrocious defensive AI in certain game situations. Even the basic laws of the game often aren’t applied properly – players brought down by the last defender and a free kick is awarded but no card is given at all, let alone a red card. That’s not a refereeing decision, it’s a cast iron rule of the sport and it should be adhered to in a game that prides itself on its realism. If they weren’t so focused on banging out an update every year they could play-test the game more thoroughly and correct issues like this.
    As far as the online pass goes, when you look at the big picture, it’s clear that they are actively trying to make previous versions of the game redundant, at least from an online perspective (which is, let’s face it, the best aspect of any sports game these days), but God forbid you should sell them once they are redundant. They shut down the servers for previous versions of the game after two years and force you to buy an online pass if you buy a used version. So in EA’s ideal world we should all buy the latest version every year, despite the fact that it’s basically the same game, and never sell the old versions, just have a nice little EA games museum in our garage/bedroom/attic. Would ANY of you buy any other game if you were told when you handed over your £40 that it only had a two year lifespan.
    Those of you scoffing at the folks who buy used, do you buy the update of your chosen EA Sports game every year? If so I’d be interested to know what you do with your older versions. If not I’d like to know what you plan to do when EA force you to upgrade by closing the servers for the version you currently have. If you plan to buy brand new again, or can afford to buy the update every year without selling your older ones, then good luck to you. I currently play Fight Night, FIFA and Madden NFL from the EA Sports range and up to now have been quite happy to buy the latest version occasionally and used versions occasionally, but to spend £120 a year on games just because EA force me to is too bitter a pill to swallow, so I will not be purchasing an online pass, and will have to seriously consider my options before buying another EA Sports game, which considering I have been doing so since the 1992 release of John Madden Football on the Megadrive, is a disappointing state of affairs.

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  • thomas

    I own Fifa 12 and it IS a really good game but the online pass it a pain, you didn’t need one on Fifa 11 or any other game in 2011. But this year the acsess for getting online takes a great deal more. It is the same as Battlefield 3, Goldeneye 007 reloaded, Fifa street. When i borrow games like Goldeneye I couldn’t play it online and i didn’t enjoy the game as much as much as i could’ve if i could play online. I think that games should have online acsess without faffing about with codes. If they don’t change Game store across the UK will not be able to get as much money as they could because of the codes already being used. It cost me £30+ just to play online on some games i have borrowed from freinds. Even though i got a free trial for Fifa street i didn’t like the online experiance.

  • Vlad

    i paid 50$ and i expect to actually own the full game. i dont think its normal that ea actually lends me online gameplay. its my money, my game and if i want to borrow to a friend my money,my game and online pass(that i actually paid for in those 50$ ) i should be able to

  • ef

    A complete pile of dogshit