Project No Online Play
By Matt White
Starting with the release of “Dragon Age: Origins”, mega publisher Electronic Arts introduced what they called “Project Ten Dollar”. This was devised to help EA re-coup money lost due to used game sales but has it worked? This is a very hot topic in the game industry and I intend to see if this program has worked or not and why or why not. Is it truly EA’s way of fighting the likes of GameStop and other used game retailers or is it hurting legitimate gamers?
Starting with “DA:O”, EA starting putting one time use codes in with some new titles. The code for “DA:O” allowed you to download a new mission that granted you a new playable character and a whole quest like to complete. This content was also available on Xbox Live Marketplace. There was also another code that allowed you to download a suit of armor for not only “DA:O” but also was compatible with the upcoming game “Mass Effect 2”. Now these were value added bonuses, key word being added. This program seemed to be going off without a hitch for a while and over a few different titles. It was applauded by many people in the industry and community that it gave people an incentive for buying their games new. It gave you content that was not originally in the game. Other games that did this include “Mass Effect 2” giving you the “Cerberus Network Access” that allowed you to download various mission packs and a new character, similar to the way EA did it in “DA:O”. Again, many people applauded this because it came with every new copy of the game, not just in “collectors edition” of the game, as is the case with most added content.
The next big title that had this type of code was “Battlefield: Bad Company 2”. this time it was called the “VIP” code. It allowed you to download the new maps free of charge so long as you had the one time use code. This didn’t bother me personally as I had bought the game brand new as a lot of my friends did. I enjoyed getting the new maps and the best part was being able to play them for free. It was a far cry from other FPS games such as the “Call of Duty” or “Halo” series; both which require the user to pay for each map pack and additional in game content. So for the average gamer like myself, I would rather have the code than to pay upwards of $30 to get all the maps. Granted for all three games there was also paid content as well but it was optional. I do like the idea of getting something as an incentive for buying the game new
Starting with the sports games of 2010, EA changed their model for “Project $10” instead of giving you something as an incentive for purchasing the game new, they decided to start taking a very important feature away from gamers; online play. This plan infuriated a lot of gamers, me included. Every sports title since the launch of the Xbox 360 has included online play for free. I believe that the change started with “Madden 10” Granted, it did give you a free online pass “trial” for some online play in case you rented it. The question remains “What happens if you rent this title from Gamefly or keep it for longer than the trial period?” Better yet, what happens if you borrow the title from a friend? You will not be able to access the online for more than a few days. I know with “Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit” the online trial was lowered to 2 or 3 days. This is unacceptable for Xbox 360 owners.
So you may ask why is this unacceptable? Well the fact that people who play online on the Xbox 360 also have to pay for a live subscription. That is the cost of a new game if you do not find it on sale. So if you buy the game used, you have to pay $60 a year for live, $10 for the online pass, and however much you spend on the game itself. It does not add up, I just do not think that Xbox owners should have to pay a double online fee just to play a used game online. There are other companies that are following suit with EA, starting to charge consumers again for their online portions. THQ has started using this practice with “UFC Undisputed”, “Homefront”, and this years WWE title. I just feel that gamers are getting “nickel and dimed” to death with different fees and charges.
I understand that companies would like to recover the losses that are in the used game market, but what do people who do not buy used games that are affected by the whole online pass idea do? If I rent “Homefront” from Gamefly, if I was wanted to play the online past level 5 I would have to purchase a “THQ battlepass”. I along with other gamers do not think that this is fair. I would love to see how much money that companies like EA and THQ have made off their respective “online pass” plans. Does that money get put into development of more games? Does it proved money for more dedicated servers for games that have them? I believe that these are questions that a lot of gamers would like answered. Take for example, “Homefront”, when that game launched, the online experience was very poor compared to other products. Servers were crashing due to lack of server infrastructure. The official line from THQ was that they didn’t expect that type of load put on the servers on day one. This was after they had mentioned previously that “Homefront” was their most pre-ordered title of all time. You would think if this is the case then they would have beefed up the servers, did more stress tests, or added a open and public beta.
Where do we go from here? I believe that one time use codes for things that give you thinks like the “Cerberus Network” code from “ME2” are quite possibly a thing of the past. I believe that companies will continue to take advantage of gamers in that aspect. If they can charge for something, then they probably will. Some already believe that content intended to be in a game was held back to be downloadable content. Maybe a company will throw the player a bone every now and again, but that will be few and far between. To make things worse, on his twitter feed, Cliff Bleszinski wanted discussion on the idea of online passes. Does this mean that his next game “Gears of War 3” will contain the dreaded online pass? No, it doesnt but I do think that it is a bit troubling to hear though. Take into consideration that the last game that he was involved with, “Bulletstorm”, was published by EA, but developed by People Can Fly and Epic Games, has the whole online pass system for its online multiplayer. Was this to push out codes for the “Gears 3” beta that was promoted with new copies or was it Electronic Arts way of stickign another fee onto the game? I would like to think that its the former, but if you buy the online pass from the store on XBL you won’t get into the beta. All I know is that if you stick the online pass into “Gears 3” you will make a lot of gamers angry. Just think, how much money would Activision make if they put an online pass onto the “Call of Duty” series of games? I know that it has been stated time after time that they have not and will not charge for multiplayer, just some food for thought.