Online passes – the things where you have to pay a publisher an additional fee to get the most out of a game if you don’t buy it brand new – are here to stay. I don’t like them, and lots of you agree with me – the second hand market (let alone the fact that lots of us lend games to mates) is hugely important to the industry, and it feels like it’s us, the gamers, that are getting the brunt of this.
EA’s Mass Effect 3 is the latest such title to sport EA’s version of the scheme with its online co-op mode, and it’s one that appears to be getting slowly pushed into the regular non-online package – I can’t help but feel like the whole idea, barely months old, is already being taken too far. Case in point: your single player progress is – in part at least – determined by how well you do at multiplayer.
Read that again, and watch the video. As we understand it, it’s still possible to enjoy single player without going online and get most of the goodies, but it’s a quick example of a game wanting those extra dollars to get you to jump into online for bonuses – and in this case, assuming you haven’t bought the game for whatever brand new price it’s on sale for – buying an online pass.
OPM’s report isn’t strictly true – you can, apparently, still get the best ending without playing online, but it’s not going to be as straightforwarded. “Ultimately it’s about adding more player choice,” says BioWare’s Casey Hudson. You know, I get the idea of trying to claw back some of the resale value of a pre-owned game, but I can only see all this ultimately going one way.
We’ve already seen the likes of DiRT 3 withholding certain cars for those without an online pass.
“Multiplayer not only features amazing combat and deep customisation options, but it will give players another way to help the war effort against the Reapers in the main event – the single player campaign,” said Hudson. It’s worth stressing that the developers are keen to point out that all this is ‘optional’ – you don’t need multiplayer, but I can’t help feeling that this is the first move in that direction.
“It is important to note that the [multiplayer] system is entirely optional and just another way players can have control over your game experience,” said BioWare’s Chris Priestly when the multiplayer was first announced. “It is still possible to achieve the optimal, complete ending of the game in Mass Effect 3 through single-player alone.”
We’re collating reader feedback on the whole ‘pass’ issue – if you have anything to say get in touch.
Update: To clarify, as I feel some are missing the point a little with this blog: it is possible to complete single player without trying multiplayer, and it’s possible to get the best ending too. My issue is that the online and offline are seemingly tightly integrated, and this, in my opinion, brings the online pass scheme closer to affecting a fluid single player offline experience, which it shouldn’t do.
So, again: single player is completely playable without an online pass, but if you do play online you can affect your single player game.