The Online Pass Theory

Electronic Arts - Major user of the Online Pass system

For those unaware of what an ‘online pass’ is, it is a single-use code which some developers include with new copies of their games, which is required to access online features in a game. Being single-use, these are generally only usable by the first person to purchase a game, and as such if someone buys one of these games preowned, they will generally have to pay again for an online pass through an in-game store.

The ‘online pass’ is becoming more commonly used by game developers to get a share of the preowned games market. But is it a clever business strategy or just a way of squeezing more money out of people that don’t want to pay full price for their games. The online pass has been around for a while, and probably will continue to be used, but is it doing anyone any actual harm?

The view of the developers seems to be that as it is their game, they should get a share of the profits when it is purchased second-hand, just as they would with if it were to be purchased new. The idea when put as simple as that seems like a good idea, and there doesn’t seem to be initially anything wrong with the idea, other than that some people may think it greedy of the game developers to charge them again after they’ve paid once for a game, they then may have to pay again to access a game’s online features. For people that do not use the online capabilities of their games, this doesn’t become an issue, however for those people wanting to play multiplayer, this can come as a nasty surprise when they buy a cheap preowned game to later find out that they’ll have to pay again if they want to use that game’s online features.

Although this may initially seem like it doesn’t really cause any harm to anyone, the retailers may suffer in a minor way because of it, because if the consumer knows they will have to pay again for their purchase, they may not be prepared to pay as much for their games, this may discourage them from purchasing the game unless the price is low, which may impact the retailer’s profits. Some people may not realise this or may not see is as a bad thing, understandably to those people that do not use the online capabilities within their games, this does not affect them and would be more than happy to pay a low price for a game, but with an increasing number of games opting to include the online pass system, this could mean less purchases of preowned games are made.

In this writer’s opinion, the online pass idea does just seem like greed but the view of the developers is understandable, and it is a good idea in theory, it just seems like there could be another way of doing it. Finally, for anyone that dislikes the online pass idea, be thankful that it may be widely used but isn’t incredibly common yet.

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