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EA Sports introduces $10 pass to play online

Publisher ramps up Project $10 incentive by denying online access to pre-owned buyers

EA is to introduce a new Online Pass for all of its future EA Sports titles, meaning that those buying pre-owned copies of its games will need to spend an additional $10 in order to play them online.

The pass mirrors the concept of EA's 'Project Ten Dollar', first used in Dragon Age: Origins, which prevented second hand buyers from accessing a range of bonus content - although they could buy it independently as DLC.

However, the new Online Pass could be seen as less of an incentive for buying new and more as a punishment for buying second hand by some consumers.

Launching next month with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 - after which it will be introduced to all future PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 EA Sports titles - the game-specific, one-time use registration code for online services, features and bonus content will be included with all new copies of the game.

Users without the pass will be able to sign up for a free 7 day trial to experience the online play, after which they'll need to purchase the $10 pass in order to continue playing.

Passes will be available from EA's website using Sony cash cards and Microsoft points cards.

"This is an important inflection point in our business because it allows us to accelerate our commitment to enhance premium online services to the entire robust EA Sports online community," said Peter Moore, president of EA Sports.

Retailer GameStop has also shown support for the move and will offer consumers the opportunity to buy the points cards with purchases of new and used EA titles.

"GameStop is excited to partner with such a forward-thinking publisher as Electronic Arts," said CEO Dan DeMatteo. "This relationship allows us to capitalise on our investments to market and sell downloadable content online, as well as through our network of stores worldwide."

Moore added, "We're delighted that GameStop is offering their support of this program as a place for gamers to purchase points that provide access to downloadable content from EA at their stores and through their website."

International pricing for the Online Pass is expected to be announced shortly.

On the EA Sports website, senior VP of worldwide development Andrew Wilson said that even the harshest critic couldn't argue that paying for online services was unfair.

"In order to continue to enhance the online experiences that are attracting nearly five million connected game sessions a day [...] we think it's fair to get paid for the services we provide and to reserve these online services for people who pay EA to access them," he said.

"In return, we'll continue to invest in creating great games and offer industry-leading online services to extend the game experience to everyone.

"I don't think even the harshest cynic can argue with that and instead I think fans will see the value we're committing to deliver when they see all the services, features and bonus content that is extending the life of their products."

He also denied that the move was just intended to stamp out second hand sales, saying that EA viewed the pre-owned market as "an opportunity".

"We actually view the second sale market as an opportunity to develop a direct relationship with our consumers, and with Online Pass everyone has access to the same premium online services and content regardless of how and where you buy the game," he explained.

"It's important to be clear that all users have access to premium content. I've been here now for more than a decade, and the investments we're making in developing for digital are profound, compared to even a few years ago," he continued.

"And it makes sense. When we see how many people are playing all of our games online, consumers are telling us that competition is endemic to sports in a way that most people don't get just by playing a game alone on their couch.

"As a result, we've made a significant investment to offer the most immersive online experience available. We want to reserve EA Sports online services for people who pay EA to access them."

Latest comments (43)

Joe Corrall Lead QA Tester, Jagex Games Studio6 years ago
"EA viewed the pre-owned market as "an opportunity". " - To grab customers by the feet and shake them till the pretty pennies fall out.

When you make a change to increase revenues by adding further monetary restrictions and requirements on second-hand product, please don't sell it like its a good thing for your customers. We can count. Some of us can even use rudimentary tools.
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Jason Avent VP, Studio Head, NaturalMotion6 years ago
Compared to any other form of entertainment, video games are exceptionally good value. If you buy the right game for you, you can play it online for months. We've really never had it so good. Charging $10 to recoup some of the loss of not selling that copy of the game to a customer seems pretty fair to me.

The customer will benefit in the long term because if games are profitable, more games will be made and the development costs can be higher. At the moment there is a downward trend on development budgets for PS3 and 360 because of the second hand market among a few other reasons. That means that games will be shorter or less fully featured. With current development budgets there aren't many games which make a profit. If you like playing good, big budget games, then initiatives like project ten dollar are a good thing.
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Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 6 years ago
Don't 360 users already pay to use online services?
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Show all comments (43)
Pierre Vandenbroucke Assistant de production, Gorgone Productions6 years ago
To Stephen : I was thinking the same thing. I'm not even sure EA is hosting the games as Xbox Live is supposed to.

I'm not an EA Sports fan, I just have 2 sports games on my xbox, none being EA, but still. How can the experience be better. They'll have to come with great online experience, no lag, no connection drops or anything. Because when yu pay (which I already do for my Gold XBL account) the service needs to be vey high quality.
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Not every person who buys pre-owned buys a game for dirt cheap.
wonder why Gamestop is agreeing? This will definitely affect their sales...and considering the largest part of their revenue comes from pre-owned titles..

guess gone are those days when kids could just swap games and play everything...
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Matthew Humphies Freelance Game Designer 6 years ago
This is dangerouesly close to a Used Game Pass. All a publisher need do is require the registration code before the game is unlocked (single and multiplayer gameplay). If EA took that extra step then all used game sales would generate revenue. It would mean taking the decision to only allow new games to play on connected consoles, which will stop this happening for a while, but not forever. Ubisoft is already happy to do it on PC game releases.
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Franz Hess Executive Producer & Managing Director, spielwerk6 years ago
I don't see the difference between one guy playing it for 12 months and 3 guys playing the same game for 4 months one after another.

It's just extra cash they want from pre-owned sales and has nothing to do with "we think it's fair to get paid for the services we provide and to reserve these online services for people who pay EA to access them,"

It's more like "we think it's fair to get paid again for the services another one has already paid for you"

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Franz Hess on 11th May 2010 11:30am

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David Hayward Game Designer, Mudlark6 years ago
If a model like this became widespread, it might drive pre-owned prices down. Effectively, this could be a way for publishers to take a cut of pre-owned without having to negotiate anything with retailers.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 6 years ago
The way I see it is this: why is the average consumer being punished for publishers' inability to reach an agreement with retailers over second-hand sales? They both need each other to operate effectively, so rather than fight against each other for a few extra million dollars, why don't they come to agreements whereby both sides see some profit from pre-owned.
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As an end user, I really dont like the idea of paying again to use more online services. I have to pay once just to get online and then pay again to play my friend at say FIFA....

So are these passes locked to the disc you are playing on?

What If I lose my copy and need to borrow my mates .......or buy a replacement.... do I have to pay again for that too?!?!
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Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University6 years ago
Jordan> they done this with me2, you have it link to your website user name, so unless you lost the user name, or it del it. then it may be lost for good and you have to get a new one.
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Private Industry 6 years ago
From what I can read in the article you pay only twice when you buy it pre-owned. Would assume it will be just a DLC unlock that you can redeem by using a code that's provided with original game.
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Ade Gbenjo Freelance Games Journalist 6 years ago
A terrible idea. I'm not even sure if the term project 10 dollar is appropiate anymore.
It couldn't have been an easy decision to make, but to be fair, it shouldn't have been one put down on the table in the first place.
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Ryan Locke Lecturer in Media Design, University of Abertay Dundee6 years ago
Seems some companies will be running thier production line like booking a flight with ryanair !

Original single player campaign will be £30 sir, with a tax of £10...
You want a multiplayer with that? Thats another £15 sir!
To have your game boxed? £5 please
Manual? Nah we stopped doing those....but thats £2 for asking
Oh you want DLC secretly planted on the disc? Thats £10 again sir
You want a silly costume for the lead character? Well this one's free, but next time its a still £4 sir!
You thought it was an average game with not much but hype to encourage your purchase? Well, your just drunk sir, please leave the shop before I call security!...(Thats a £10 fine sir!)..


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Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University6 years ago
Ryan> if I could, I rep you for that one :)
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David Spender Lead Programmer 6 years ago
" If you buy the right game for you, you can play it online for months. Charging $10 to recoup some of the loss of not selling that copy of the game to a customer seems pretty fair to me. "

You make it seem like the original customer still owns the game. He doesn't. Not only that but I fail to see why the game companies think they can pass themselves off as 'special' and some how different from any of the other used markets out there.

I commonly toss a magazine to a friend when I'm done with it. He doesn't have to pony up another $1 for missing pages. When I'm in the market for a new car, I sell my old one - uhoh! the car companies should be screaming that they didn't get a cut of my sale... that's LOST MONEY!! I routinely sell back books to a re-use-it shop in the area and get credit to buy used books. Its common practice. Why do the game companies get to whine about it like people are ripping them off? The whole thing stinks.
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With more retailers selling second hand games something has to be done. The alternative is that we look at the car industry. This would surely mean that the cost of new games needs to at least double to support revenue lost. This at least does not penalise new game buyers.


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Robin Clarke Producer, Zattikka Ltd.6 years ago
"This is an important inflection point in our business because it allows us to accelerate our commitment to enhance premium online services to the entire robust EA Sports online community."

I don't have anything to add to the topic, I'm just marvelling at this sentence.
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Peter Law Freelance Game Designer and Unity Developer, Enigma 236 years ago
Digital distribution is the way forward, but at a reasonable price ... instead of the same price as boxed.
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Peter Law Freelance Game Designer and Unity Developer, Enigma 236 years ago
Don't 360 users already pay to use online services?
True, but that money goes to MS.

<strong>To Stephen : I was thinking the same thing. I'm not even sure EA is hosting the games as Xbox Live is supposed to.

I'm not an EA Sports fan, I just have 2 sports games on my xbox, none being EA, but still. How can the experience be better. They'll have to come with great online experience, no lag, no connection drops or anything. Because when yu pay (which I already do for my Gold XBL account) the service needs to be vey high quality.</strong>
EA have their own servers which players need to login to before getting online.
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Barrie Tingle Live Producer, Maxis6 years ago
@Pierre EA hosts its own servers on Xbox Live which is why there are so many agreements when playing EA games, it is because you are signing up to an EA account even if it is temporary to allow you to play their games online.
@Jordan No, the code is tied to your EA account.

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David Lee Chief Concepticator, Concepticate6 years ago
The point raised by many above is a fair one: the original customer no longer has access to the online services that came with the game, so EA is charging a fee for the 'privilege' of swapping the game from one person to another, even though it's no different than the original user continuing to play the game online. If we're looking at the used car model, perhaps publishers should consider their own trade-in programs: let people return their old games to the manufacturer in exchange for credit on the new game, as people do when they buy a new car (although most car dealers are independently owned, so the analogy is not parallel). I'm sure retailers wouldn't like that, though ;-).
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David Rider Publisher, Hustler UK6 years ago
Let's face it, the industry has been trying to come up with an acceptable way to monetise pre-owned games for years, and this is EA's stab at it.

The used games market is worth big bucks in the USA, and Wal-Mart are about to get back into it. Maybe the real surprise is that this is coming from EA rather than Activision.
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Jonathan Murphy Lead Artist, Infusion Games6 years ago
With all the comments about the used car market, I offer this - A used car requires paying out for servicing and parts replacement in order to maintain the performance to when it was new. ;)

What sticks in the throat about this is EA's propensity to turn off the multiplayer servers. Opens a can of worms if someone unlocks the multiplayer mode on their second hand copy to find the servers are turned of a couple of days later.
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I'm asking myself: Could the guy buying pre-owned games also buy the account linked to it, like the "underground-steam-account" market ?
I've already bought a steam account with games in it. Sure, you have to find a trusted "retailer" but if this is the same case, I don't see how this will slow the second-hand market.
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Roland Austinat roland austinat media productions|consulting, IDG, Computec, Spiegel Online6 years ago
@Jason: "With more retailers selling second hand games something has to be done. The alternative is that we look at the car industry. This would surely mean that the cost of new games needs to at least double to support revenue lost. This at least does not penalise new game buyers. "

No - games have to become *cheaper* so more people will go out and buy them, be it in a store or online. Personally, I'd love to see some statistics about how Dragon Age and ME2 fared in terms of the $10 DLC.
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Private Industry 6 years ago
@ Dia3lot

Since the EA accounts should be linked to your online profile on console I`m not sure that many people want to give up there PSN or Xbox LIVE profile.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Private on 11th May 2010 8:09pm

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Mark Raymond Functionality Tester, SEGA Europe6 years ago
I feel quite uncomfortable about this.

The idea of Project Ten Dollar, of incentivising first-hand games sales through extra bonus content, I thought, is – or was – something I can get behind. I can't say I'm too keen on the idea of EA disabling fundamental game content for second-hand buyers. It feels like the consumer is being punished, when the real problem is the retailers, who are exploiting both the industry and its customers.

Yet, retailers make a lot of money from pre-owned games, and cancelling out that market might well have a devastating effect on both them and the wider industry. I think some kind of agreement needs to be hashed out, because, at the moment, this isn't a healthy situation for anybody – retailers relying on second-hand profits to prop themselves up; publishers losing money on those sales because of this; consumers getting less value for money as a result.
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@Roland : agree with games should get *cheaper* remark...A pre-owned market means people like to spend lesser on their games...

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Haven Tso Web-based Game Reviewer 6 years ago
In the past somebody's trash is someone else's jewel. Now somebody's trash is EA's new money making machine. Gamers never had it so good...
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Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 6 years ago
@David Spender - My thoughts exactly. Imagine the out cry if Toyota or GM wanted a percentage of second hand car sales. I am curious, do they charge to transfer warranties? That would be another analogy I guess.

@Peter Law - The point remains that when EA sell a copy of a game they have committed to, and been remunerated for, providing online services for that copy of the game's lifetime. Just like any other publisher. When they cut that off is up to them of course. But to try and make more money when that game changes hands is disingenuous. If they are saying that they can't afford to support a game's online services for its entire lifetime at their current retail price then they should come out and say that, and then we can all debate that. I suspect they'll be shown to be being dishonest if they do try to make that argument fly though.

Second hand games are not copies. Had the game never been sold on they would have been obliged to provide online services for that game to the original purchaser. So why not the person who bought it second hand? It's simply opportunism on their part.

What would be interesting is to see where EA go with this in future.. Perhaps a 6 month limit on online services for all copies which you must renew for a fee, whether you are the original purchaser or not... Oh, damn, now I might have given them that idea!

I don't buy EA games very often. I certainly will be boycotting them from now on.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Stephen Northcott on 12th May 2010 5:35am

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David Amirian Writer 6 years ago
EA has no obligation to used game buyers. Money is where you make it, and this is where they're going to be able to get used game buyers to pay money to EA. Either that, or they can just buy a new copy of the game.
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Saehoon Lee Lead technical artist, Kuno Interactive6 years ago
I think EA should reduce the price of their games then...If they do, then I don't have problem with EA.
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Paul Kerr Maxwell Technical Support Advisor, e4e Interactive Entertainment Services6 years ago
I agree with EA's decision to do this. Comparing this situation to a car though is the worst comparision I have heard yet! When you buy a car, do you have a constantly running online service it is attached to that requires money to run? No? Really? Shocking! Lets also look at the next point in fact. When you "buy a game" you don't actually "buy" the game (this would be a horribly expensive and would need a team of lawyers at the PoS! =] ), you get a disc/media which happens to have game software on it and your licensed to use it so long as the disc/media lasts (at least this is how it is in the UK). If the disc/media breaks you aren't able to use the game again as your license becomes void. There are exceptions to this which involve online accounts but generally the agreement is first made with using said online accounts. This mainly applies to PC games (steam, relic online etc) but could apply to consoles too and is sort of the angle that EA/ubi are starting to aim at. This relates to cars in the sense that if the paint got scratched you aren't allowed drive it anymore... oh, wait that doesn't quite work does it? No, it doesn't! Because buying a car is not the same as "buying a game"!

My only negative point on what they are doing is that I feel they should drop the extra charge after a set amount of time say 12 or 18 months etc as most games don't have production runs which last much longer than this meaning that, in some circumstances, the only way to obtain the game after this point is via 2nd hand and this is something which can have long-term effects on the franchise itself thus possibly lowering initial sales from future releases. Increased use of digital downloadable titles will make this a moot point in the years to come though.
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Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 6 years ago
@Paul When you buy a new car you have a warranty for about 3 years. So in fact you *do* have a full support network provided with the product. The car manufacturer builds the cost of supporting that network into the cost of the new car. Just as EA build that projected cost into the price of each retail unit they sell.

As I said. If EA want to stop that support at a certain time point after sale then that is totally up to them.
But whether that support goes to the 1st, 2nd or 3rd owner is irrelevant. Or it should be. The same as it is irrelevant to most reputable car manufacturers these days.

What EA would like to do is charge for online services. Period.
But they know right now they won't get away with it.

So the next best thing is to nickel and dime the second hand market.

Mark my words. It is the thin end of the wedge.
Sooner, rather than later, they will argue that online services are too expensive to maintain, and it will be an *extra* for all. That's their long term plan.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Stephen Northcott on 12th May 2010 11:53am

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Jason Stewart Associate Producer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe6 years ago
If companies can charge $10 to a second hand buyer and justify it under the guise of offering a service they didn't originally pay for, then the other side of the coin is for those 30% of users that did not redeem their code, and are obviously not using the title online should pay $10 less for the title.
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^ great point there jason

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... except those 30% are paying for what the game can do. whether they do it or not is their problem. you can't ask for a discount on your Ferrari because you never intend to drive it on the highway... no?
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i'm know i'm late to the party, but i've posted my take on all this (here). i have a slightly different take on the whole matter. i see smoke and mirrors, that EA really is, in fact, trying to stop used games sales in a round about way, not embrace them. if gamestop has to reduce the pre-played price by $10 then add it again as a coupon, why would they eat that loss when they can just screw the guy trading in a game by only giving him $10 in credit instead of, say $20? this would make you think twice about the hassle of trading the game in in the first place, especially because we're talking EA Sports games here, which have zero trade in value after the new annual version comes out. Online Pass is a temporary dissuasion for trade ins; annual releases takes care of the rest. next up: no more sequels, just core games and online pass expansions. thoughts?
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Jake Clayton6 years ago
'On the EA Sports website, senior VP of worldwide development Andrew Wilson said that even the harshest critic couldn't argue that paying for online services was unfair.'

Let me think, bourght a game costing £40 which to be honest, is exactly the same as the one from the year before except with updated team sheets.

And they think they deserve that £40 plus money from any re-sale for an online service which is of the most shocking calibre i have ever seen.


Can't really believe Activision are the new bad guys for withholding a few bonuses while these guys squeeze every dime from every consumer they can.
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Shamsuddeen Salihu-Alkali 3D Artist / Environment Artist 6 years ago
"an opportunity" !!!? haaa! its obvious somewhere along the line they were thinking "we got to get rid of second hand market"
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 6 years ago
I agree with Stephen & Shaun's comments that this is nothing to do with embracing the second-hand market, but rather probably the first stage in a strategy to stamp it out.

I believe that the whole nature of pre-owned has been encouraged and cultivated by the big games retailers, and EA and the other big publishers should approach the retailers directly and thrash out agreements so both sides see the benefit -- for instance, if EA agreed Game in the UK and Gamestop in the US had four week exclusives on FIFA and Madden respectively, and in return got 10% of the profit from all their pre-owned EA titles, I think this would be beneficial for both sides and not punish the consumer in doing so.

By all means keep producing DLC and schemes where second-hand buyers have to pay a little to get some extra maps and/or modes, but I don't agree with disabling a crucial part of the game in order to squeeze more money from consumers.
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Doug Abramson Programmer (C/C++/Embedded Linux) 6 years ago
this opens up a whole new can of worms. now you will buy a game and always just "naturally expect" to pay AGAIN once you get home to play it as it is meant to be. i am not sure how far you can take this. i find it baffling that you have to pay more money after buying a game to play it.

i tell my students all the time that i find it funny that people pay to play games after they already purchased the game, unless it is something beyond the game itself like a MMORPG where you are essentially paying for server maintenance and upgrade patches and so on. but a simple thing like "basic multiplayer features"? clearly EA wants to destroy the used games market and i do understand that they are a business. they are not wrong but call it for what it is folks. this isn't to help the consumer. making politically correct statements copy/pasted from a book of correct things to say like "enhanced experience!" and blah blah just tells me that EA isn't the most consumer-friendly company.

like one of my students said: "better get out the old snes. at least i can play the whole game."

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Doug Abramson on 28th May 2010 10:45pm

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