Tuesday, 11 May 2010

EA Locks Out Features From Used Games...

The battle against preowned games may have well and truly begun, as today EA announced the first title that would require an activation code to enable online play.

Maybe retailers should have thought about handing over some of those profits from used game sales back when they had the chance to make amends? Instead, they are now faced with potential reduction in preowned sales and a fall in the trade in price on certain titles due to the removal of multiplayer features.

Beginning with the release of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 on both PS3 and 360, EA will introduce a new ‘feature’ known as the Online Pass. This is a code which grants the user access to all the game’s online functionality along with any of the bonus features included. It is a one-time only registration option which allows the unlocked modes and extras to be available to just a single user, mostly likely being tied to their PSN or XBL accounts.

For people who purchased a used copy of the game, they will have to plunk down $10 for the Online Pass, or sign up for a 7-day free trial. Currently, there are plans to include the Online Pass in the company’s future sports line-up, which so far consists of NHL 11, Madden NFL 11, NCAA Football 11, NBA 11, FIFA 11, and EA Sports MMA. Each title will have different features unlocked when registering the Online Pass, although all titles will require the Pass to unlock any online functionality.

"This is an important inflection point in our business because it allows us to accelerate our commitment to enhance premium online services to the entire robust EA SPORTS online community," stated Peter Moore, President of EA SPORTS.

Though he failed to mention any link to retailers profiteering on used game sales and the fact that the publisher makes nothing on each used game sold, it is clear that this introduction of a registration code to unlock ‘standard game features’ is a direct reaction to that particular problem. The Online Pass it seems appears to be another main component in the company’s Project Ten Tollar plan, aiming to give gamers another reason to buy new.

US retailer GameStop looks to have welcomed the change, highlighting that it is inline with their newly directed focus towards expanding their operations in digital game sales and downloadable content.

"GameStop is excited to partner with such a forward-thinking publisher as Electronic Arts," said Dan DeMatteo, Chief Executive Officer of GameStop Corp. "This relationship allows us to capitalize on our investments to market and sell downloadable content online, as well as through our network of stores worldwide."

It is likely that EA’s Online Pass will be sold on the retailer’s website, and that the user will receive the code via an email much like how Amazon’s PSN downloads work. Either way, not all retailers are positioning this as a doom and gloom situation, instead opening up new opportunities for future profitability.

You can read our report about EA’s Project Ten Dollar here, and about the new face of videogame trade-ins here.

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