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Online Pass: What’s Next?

Online Pass: What’s Next?

As you’re no doubt aware, we’re not huge fans of the online pass here at Play. Don’t get us wrong: publishers have a right to protect their investment. We’re just not sure that making players unable to fully complete their single-player experiences because those naughty chaps at Game, or eBay, or where-bloody-ever are skimming some of that precious profit by giving people a better deal. Funny that.

Sadly, this is a trend that isn’t going to end anytime soon thanks to the rise of digital dowmnloads and the inevitable decline of packaged goods. Now that the platform holders can beam games into your console, they can control it too. Judging by the reaction from some of our readers who support the online pass this is Not A Problem. After all, publishers have a right to protect their investment, right?

Right. But that was before Batman didn’t let you complete the game without downloading some Catwoman guff. Worse still, if you dare try and complete the game (as in get the Catwoman-specific Riddler trophies) then the game politely informs you that you’ve got to Buy More Stuff to get it. Sigh.

So we urge all of those who think that the online pass is to protect those poor ‘ickle publishers from losing some money (which it is…for now) to consider just what exactly it is that you’re giving support to. How long until the pass starts to creep further and further into offline experiences? Not long, we can say confidently. You’ll probably end up borrowing a copy of Newest Military FPS! in a few years and wondering why you can’t get past the title screen without a quick visit to the virtual shop because your mate has got all the content installed. ‘Sorry fella. The market doesn’t decide the worth of goods anymore. We, the mighty publisher does, and that worth is always full-price! Bwahahahahah’

Does that sound crazy? Maybe. But if you could somehow go back in time and tell someone from the 90’s that soon you’d have to pay extra to play a large chunk of a game if you bought it second hand they’d beat you to death with a copy of Crash Bandicoot and get back to drawing pictures of videogames reviewers.

We’re not saying it’s going to happen tomorrow, or the next day. But the bottom line however is that publishers are beholden to one group of people: the shareholders. And the shareholders don’t give a flying funk if Johnny Second-hand got his game from his mate and wants to, y’know, play it. Eff that noise. Give us more money! Remove the notion of choice! Obey.

Speaking of obeying, most publisher peeps must delighted that most consumers seem happy to parrot the PR line back without fail like the good little kiddywinks they are. On forums you’ll constantly hear from consumers arguing the point of the publisher. A depressing state of affairs, and you have to wonder what the publisher thinks of this blind zeal (hint: they’re probably chuffed).

So tread carefully friends, because this is probably just the thin end of the wedge. Already, today, you can’t complete Batman without an online pass. You can’t play the only good mode in Battlefield 3 without one. You can’t boot an Xbox 360 without walking straight into an advertising catalogue for various ware. Publishers aren’t doing this because they’re ‘losing money’ yadda yadda yadda, it’s because they finally can. And as digital distribution tightens the noose on the freedom of choice to acquire games unless they’re directly from the publisher, ensuring you have to pay full price a lot of the time, you’ll wonder if supporting this online pass thing was such a good idea after all.

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  • Svennis

    I haven’t bought B:AC yet although I will at some point ( too many good games released all at once). Are you saying that even if I buy a new copy (with pass included) I will not be able to finish the game unless I go online? I know quite a few gamers who still don’t have broadband – are they unable to play?
    In the format I have seen the online pass work (needed for multiplayer not single player) I have no problem with it. It has affected my buying habits. I didn’t buy Fifa 11 second hand even though it was £15, I bought a new copy for £20 as it included the online pass. So I have to pay more for greater functionality fair enough. This does though depend on how much more you have to pay and what you’re getting for that.
    One of the alternatives I have seen mooted is to scrap the online pass and just charge for DLC. If this meant having to pay for squad or kit updates, then No Thank You. As a parent I want to know what a game is going to cost. I got Fifa 12 on release day for £30. I am happy to know my kids wil not be asking for £10 in a months time for the latest DLC.
    One last thing. Just because some gamers hold a different opinion to you at Play that is hardly any reason to be so condescending and patronising about their view. Do you usually find denegrating your readers to be useful?

  • Darryl

    This is a brilliant article, i can understand the online pass (which mostly EA do) so that you can’t play their games online if bought second hand, but taking this further into single player campaign is just stupid. What if the game player does have an internet connection does this mean that they shouldn’t buy that game, although this will make the companies more profit it also singles out certain gamers. i prefer to complete campaigns as appose to competing online (with the exception of call of duty), so sometimes purchasing a second hand game can suit me (if i have no intention of playing the online, E.g. singularity) but if i would have to purchase content to complete those games i would most likely not purchase, this would also put me of buying future games from that series (if it has one). i am not a fan of the online passes as i feel that its just companies being greedy and how far will they take this greed ? ?

  • The_Deleted

    I’d have quite happily given my Catwoman pass to someone else if I’d have known how dull it was. She plays fine, but having finished the main story with that killer ending, only to have to carry on as some annoying, sexualised feline bint really removes any impact. There is nothing sexy about cats.

    I’m not one of those gamers who has a desperate need to complete a game, the story is usually enough for me before moving onto play something else. But I can see those gamers that do like to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment out of a title would see this development as a piss take.

    I do wonder how it would stand up in a court of human rights for those who pay full price, but don’t have the capacity to access the whole game…

  • I understand why the online pass was introduced but don’t agree it should be allowed.

    If I bought a second hand car, I’d expect the car stereo to work without having to cough up for an unlock code. I’d also expect to have it painted, with an engine, 4 wheels and 4 doors and not have to unlock codes to disable the immobiliser, deactivate the handbrake and unlock the doors!

    Imagine if you couldn’t buy a second hand phone on ebay without paying the carrier £100 to “unlock” it for you to use.

    Online passes for features of new games is ok else though. If it’s clearly printed on the box then you have a choice – buy it or don’t, just like with the car analagy, you have the choice to buy the allow wheels, metallic paint etc.

    My problem is just the disabling of content just because it’s a used item. How does a change of ownership justify a change of functionality?

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