EA Drops Online Passes

End of an era for "project ten dollar", but what's going to go in its place? Always online?

EA, effectively immediately, are stopping the controversial “online pass” program, a system that has seen widespread use since the publisher first starting using it despite complaints from end users. The system meant that anyone buying a game second hand would need to pay an additional fee (normally around £7 or so) to use the full set of features – principally online play.

Whilst EA were the first to use online passes – thought by many to be aimed at blocking second hand game sales – the likes of Ubisoft and Sony, among other top publishers, signed up quickly. Pretty much every Sony first party game needs an online pass now, whether it’s on the PS3 or the PlayStation Vita, although branding and message between companies differs slightly.

“Yes, we’re discontinuing Online Pass,” said John Reseburg, EA senior director of corporate communications in an email to VentureBeat. “None of our new EA titles will include that feature.”

“Initially launched as an effort to package a full menu of online content and services, many players didn’t respond to the format,” Reseburg continued, making it clear that this is EA reacting to end user feedback, something that should be applauded really. “We’ve listened to the feedback and decided to do away with it moving forward.”

The first game to use an online pass was Tiger Woods 2011.

Don’t relax yet, though – it looks like EA might have something else up their sleeve. “We’re still committed to creating content and services that enhance the game experience well beyond the day you first start playing,” said Reseburg. Whether this ends up being an extension of the current Origin service, or a reliance on the dreaded “always on” idea we don’t know yet.

35 Comments

  1. Whooo, this is fantastic news!

    [Also, didn’t ModNation racers on PSP in 2010 need an online pass…?]

    • Think so, but Tiger Woods 11 released in 2010, no?

      • It was. Matter of weeks behind MN I think. Nay bother, I’m being a picky internet swine. Carry on.

      • didn’t the PES games feature a single use code for their online component years before ea had their online pass?
        though i don’t know if you could buy a pass to let you play online if the code had already been used.

        charging for it may have been an ea idea.

    • Don’t know who announced the system first (thus creating it) but I’m pretty sure THQ were first to market by a few weeks with UFC Undisputed 2010. I wonder if others will drop them too for good or if it’s all just smoke and mirrors with a more arcane system being built into the next gen.

  2. I think it is safe to assume that they will find another method in which to nickel and dime us all. I can see games brimming with micro transactions and online subscription models. I guess they have realised that the passes were a barrier for new users who purchased pre-owned titles from accessing online portions of games and then spending money on multi player DLC. One example would be Battlefield 3. I bet many players were reluctant to put the money down on the online pass then fork out for the premium DLC packs. People who purchase pre owned titles can be monetized and EA have finally realised that online passes is the wrong way to do it.

  3. Just ahead of next Xbox announcement which EA are all over like a rash

    I suspect it will be because online passes are no longer needed as something else will be coming, rather than based on user feedback which they’ve not given a shut about for 3 years.

    And don’t potential PS4 owners get too smug as it’s seems that Sony will allow publishers to implement whatever system they want

    • Yeah. It’ll be either the use of built in optional DRM mechanics or they will DLC the shit out of every game they release in the future.

    • well said sir. Nothing to get excited about my friends. They have another way of getting around the problem. It’s probably why EA have decided to do some deals with Microsoft, because they have all the protection they need in their box.

      • Very true, whatever they call it, or don’t call it, there’s still going to be some sort of payment system.

  4. It seems likely that they make much more revenue from in game micro transactions than online passes, and may have realised that by using online passes they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

    • Yep, they can’t really do both in one game, so microtransactions are the future then… *sigh*

    • Yep. This is the truth.

  5. “Initially launched as an effort to package a full menu of online content and services, many players didn’t respond to the format,”

    Why cant they just say they launched it to squeeze more cash out of gamers and the second hand market.

  6. So is this also backwards compatible? Can one just buy, for an example a used Battlefield3 copy for the PS3, and play online without buying the online pass?

    • Doesn’t look like it will affect older games: “None of our new EA titles will include that feature.”
      They could just change the online pass price on PSN/XBL to being free, or include it in a mandatory patch if they wanted, but I wouldn’t hold out for it.

  7. Great news, although because it’s EA I’m suspicious of the move. When have they ever given a flying **** about what gamers want? They’ll find a way of recouping that lost profit, it probably means we’ll be seeing even more IAP’s, which I’m not that bothered about upto a certain point.

  8. Great news. Granted EA (and no doubt Ubisoft) will simply put a larger focus on DLC from now on to keep that cash coming in, but at least this way I should, in theory, be able to buy a game second hand (or indeed rent it) and play said game with my mates without having to cough up extra.

  9. I tend to buy games I love brand new. Anything else I would get pre owned. However PS+ has bridged that gap so now I still buy the titles I love brand new and the ones I hover around tend to pop up as freebies. It’s still a win win for me and nearly all the gamers I know :-)

  10. Sounds good at first, but in reality it means EA can shut down servers whenever they want and customers can’t really kick off. Skate 3 servers are going offline at the end of the month apparently, so this means people who bought an online pass (not to mention the filmer and share pack dlcs) have been royally shafted.

    • That isn’t good. Typical EA though.

    • As far as I can tell (thanks to a quick Google search) the servers are not getting switched off, what is being retires is the Skate Reel and custom graphics stuff. It still means that 3 trophies/achievements will be unobtainable, but won’t actually stop people from playing online.

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