EA drops online pass scheme

Blames poor customer response to programme designed to punish high second hand prices

 

EA is dropping its much maligned online pass programme, admitting gamers' response to it had been poor.

The online pass programme was designed to discourage gamers from buying second hand games.

It worked by providing buyers of a new copy with a one-time use licence code that unlocked  popular features of a game, like multiplayer. Someone buying a second hand version of the game would have to buy a new online pass – often costing around £10.

The cost of the online pass often caused the second hand version of the game to be more expensive than a new copy.

Speaking to GamesBeat, senior director of corporate communications at EA, John Reseburg said: "many players didn't respond to the format."

EA was the first publisher to pioneer the format. At the time, it complained that retailers were effectively stealing money from publishers.

It stressed to industry titles like MCV and GamesIndustry.biz that the scheme – referred to as Project Ten Dollar – was not designed to punish buyers of second hand games.

Instead, it was aimed at hurting those retailers that priced a second hand copy of the game at just £1-3 less than a new copy.

The idea – the company explained at the time – was to force retailers to cut the price of second hand games to £10 or less than the cost of a new title. The logic was this would reduce the profitability of second hand games to retailers and encourage them to push new copies more.

At study at the time by MCV found that some specialist retailers were turning over more than 75 per cent of their stores to second hand game sales.

The first games to feature online passes were Bioware's Dragon Age Origins and Pandemic's The Saboteur.

Rival publishers soon followed, including Sony, Warner Bros, THQ, Ubisoft and many others. It is unclear if EA's decision will result in them dropping their own schemes.

Reports have suggested that EA may be dropping the scheme because of rumoured anti-second hand features in both the next Xbox and the Sony PS4.

The reports suggest that the games may employ RFID technology to tag a game once it has been used, pushing the purchasing of online passes through the console rather than the much maligned 12 and 16 digital vouchers used today.

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