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Online Pass Locks Out Batman Single Player Content

Online Pass Locks Out Batman Single Player Content

We warned you. We did. We have said over and over and over and over again that online passes are bad for the games industry.

Most of you see this and understand this, although amazingly, some people continue to defend them (“this CAN NOT be seen as a bad thing” says one reader in response to Resistance 3 Screwed By PSN Pass). Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3 and Mass Effect 3 are a few of the big name titles now labouring under the dreaded online pass, a scenario that is as predictable now as it would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

And now… Batman: Arkham City will have an online pass for its single-player content.

Playing as Catwoman – one of the main hooks for the Batman: Arkham City marketing campaign – will be locked out to those without the online pass, which is included with new copies of Batman: Arkham City. Anyone who buys Arkham City second hand has to buy the online pass separately to play as Catwoman, setting them back a further £7.99. Warner Bros has already stressed that this content is not essential to completing the game but that’s like selling you a car without a seat and then telling you it’s not essential to driving.

We’ve already gone over the negatives of the online pass as far as multiplayer is concerned – handicapping the growth of multiplayer, limiting the potential for word-of-mouth hits, stunting second-hand multiplayer rebirths (which Brink is experiencing right now) and so on. But for single player? Oh boy.

There are even more reasons further to the multiplayer-only online passes why this becomes a problem.

1) There are too many games out this time of year. That’s the first problem. Batman: Arkham City is a very, very, very bloody good game – look for our review later – but it’s not alone. It’s competing with Uncharted 3, Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Saints Row: The Third, Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Dark Souls…

It would be great to buy all of them but unfortunately, the Real World doesn’t work like that, where we have limited time and money. That means some of those games in the above category tumble from your own ‘day one!!!1’ category down to ‘second-hand next year’. If Batman: Arkham City falls into that second category for you, you now need to pay £8 extra for the full experience. Not cool.

2) You need broadband and working servers. While it’s fairly safe to assume the majority of the UK now has a broadband connection at home, there are still exceptions. A survey in 2009 (results here) reveals 61.5% of UK households have broadband. That figure seems low, and will have inevitably risen since then, but the fact is not everyone in the UK has broadband. I went without broadband for six months while living in London as, bizarrely, the Post Office refused to recognise my address existed. I know other people who don’t have broadband for various other reasons (area not covered, trouble changing provider, renting doesn’t cover it, parents won’t allow it, etc).

You need to be online to play this content. It’s obviously not a problem when online passes were for multiplayer games, because you had to be online to play multiplayer anyway, so fair enough. But single player games? Ouch. It means those who stick to single player games due to their lack of broadband, for whatever reason, now find they’re being stopped by a multiplayer trend.

Also, what happens when the servers stop running for PlayStation3? What then? Multiplayer games are tied in with the lifespan of the servers they run on anyway, so all online passes die at the same time as the part of the game they’re locking out. Again, fair enough. But single player games don’t rely on servers. They don’t die. Yet when it becomes impossible to buy an online pass, what then? Catwoman to be locked out forever? A myth which can only be enjoyed by reading old articles and watching Youtube videos? It’s a weird thought.

It’s trite to moan about the fact that this online pass neuters Arkham City as a retro game 5, 10, 20 years down the line or whenever those servers eventually power down. But as it has never been a problem before, it’s a perfectly valid complaint now.

3) It sets an awful precedent. It wasn’t that long ago that THQ and EA introduced online passes for their sports titles only. Now, it’s hard to picture a future where online passes don’t become the default for multiplayer games. Remember that online multiplayer only became a standard this gen, where it’s surprising if games ship without it and developers brace themselves for endless “why no multiplayer?” questions in interviews (Hiroyuki Kobayashi of Dragon’s Dogma is especially feeling this pain right now). Same for DLC – how many big releases do you recall that didn’t have any sort of DLC attached to it? Final Fantasy XIII is the only one that springs to mind. There may be more but it’s definitely not the norm nowadays for a game not to pack DLC.

Such is the speed with which the industry recognises a trend and nudges things in those directions. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but almost every time it’s bloody quick.

So with the online pass, where does it stop? It’s already moved out of the realm from online to single player. What if essential storyline missions are next? What if we have to start each game by installing for 30 minutes, validating code by code by code for every level we want, and play surrounded by flashing ‘areas locked – please buy from PSN Store now!’ messages?

As for people defending online passes – stop. Publishers don’t need you acting as white knights on their behalf because while you’re busy defending them, they’re busy dreaming up new schemes to nickel and dime you simply for taking part in a hobby you love.

Second-hand sales have been happening for years. Not just the local grubby CEX either. But car boot sales. Swapping games at school. eBay. And not just games – films, clothes, furniture, music… second-hand sales have not killed any industry. The only difference we’re seeing now is the technology in 2011 and the medium of games allows publishers to throw paywalls in your way should you dare to buy second-hand and circumvent high prices and your own limited budget.

There will be the inevitable cries of “what’s the problem?” from those who will buy new and have a code to redeem. For those people, there is no problem. Not now. But remember that as recently as a year ago, we wouldn’t even have been having this conversation. Who knows where this trend will take us three years from now?

It’s a scary thought.




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  • Great article and completely agree with online passes. I cannot believe they are letting it affect single player campaigns that is stupid a online pass is for online play, and where as i kind of know where they are coming from i dont agree with paying for online passes.

    For example blockbusters and other renting companies where you hire a game for a week or longer as your not 100% sure if you want to buy it or not why should you on top of renting it buy a pass so you can try it online.

    And lets face it allot of games that are getting released now have so many problems its like they are still in beta who should pay £40+ for a game that doesnt function correctly best example test drive unlimited 2 worst game ever for when was released.

    I actually went out and bought this as i liked the concept of the game and it been online all the time to then find it doesnt work i had it for 3 weeks and it still wasnt fixed so got rid of it. Now i tend to rent games as a try before buy.

    With the exception of Call of duty and dark souls as you know they are great games and work.

  • Ryan King

    I hadn’t even thought about people who rent games… that’s a great point to make as well

  • Conor

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they bring in a single player pass aswell the way things are going

  • Joey

    It’s like technically, if you buy a dvd, stick it and sit down to turn it on, you’ll have to tell everyone to leave the room and block their ears unless they go out and buy the dvd themselves as it only entities you to have the privilege of seeing it and noone else.
    Eventually even 2p splitscreen will involves player 2 paying for a pass to play. It’s too too ridiculous.
    90% of my games are 2nd hand. It doesnt cost the companies anything either as that 2nd hand game originally was new and they got their money already for it. It’s pure greed. Fine example of the games industry’s greed is the €69.99 new games on the store. Who actually pays that and how is that justified?

  • jon

    dlc is the devil

    so are multiple versions of the same game

    so are limited editions, steelbooks etc etc

    gaming was good when there was a console and a game. simple

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  • The_Deleted

    Batman can go and bollocks for me. Great game or not, this is a disgusting development.

  • Shaun

    This is a joke, i do buy second hand games but lately i have had to shell out for the new copy just acquire the “whole” game, as buying second hand you only get a part of the title.

    It amazes me how some people can defend this, its destroying the experience of the game just by knowing you don’t have full access to a game you just paid £30 for, because the makers want to squeeze every penny they can out of every gamer. even after they have received full price for the game once.

    Its like buying a second hand T.V only to find you cant use the HDMI ports unless you pay the maker to unlock it, how ridiculous does that sound? well its whats happening to the games industry.

    Also i see the point made by PLAY with regards to the people without broadband not being able to access locked single player content even if they buy new. I’m sure soon enough the developers will put the content on the disc, but still lock it out until you shell out for the code, and most probably sell the codes in the game shops.
    Is this what we want for our beloved hobby? i know i don’t.

  • KING50p

    “If you tolerate this, then your children will be next…”

    a bit melodramatic don’t you think?

  • Ryan King

    Sigh. It’s a song, KING50p. Look it up.

  • Joey

    Manic Street Preachers, If you Tolerate This. Jesus. You’re gonna have to use Pitbull and Lady Gaga references in future it seems.

  • KING50p

    I know what the song is, everybody does, all I’m saying is its a bit much since the song is about the spanish civil war.

  • KING50p

    I mean I’m sort of fine with the online pass since it means used games get much cheaper and I know how to get cheap PSN cards and microsoft points. So I save alot more IF I decide to buy a game secondhand.
    I’m more worried about when it all goes digital, I mean, games cost £60 and you can’t return them, so its a bit of a gamble when you buy a game you are not completely sure of but you can at least trade it in for some value.

  • I do have broadband, however I really have a bad service and sometimes I can’t log into PSN & play multi player games or it drops out while online. I am sure many others have the same issue so the whole online pass idea is terrible.

  • DO’G

    I think this is a joke. Why market online gaming if its not for free, its a big big big joke to be honest. I may as well sell my ps3 join xbox, pay to go online AND enjoy a way better experience.
    every christmas i always buy a used game. last year it was batman: AA and the year before it was Uncharted 2. Now why am i going to buy a game if i can’t play a character? why not just release it as DLC and wouldn’t feel like, such a kick in the face.
    It’s going to be interesting to see how the small second hand companies do now that sony has effectively stuck up a middle finger at them and told them go get bancrupt? it’s sad sad times, now every single company is trying to squeeze every penny out of the consumer. I wanted batman AC, MW3 and U3 but cant afford it and would have loved to have picked up 2nd copies of both batman AC and U3 for xmas but thats just not going to happen now i have to pay for online passes.-_- :¬( :¬( :¬(