EA defends online pass

"My job to is make you not want to trade the game in", says Moore

EA Sports president Peter Moore has claimed that gamers appreciate the need for the publisher's controversial Project $10 anti-trade-in technology.

The Online Pass requires that purchasers of some second-hand EA titles must pay an additional fee in order to access their online modes. As of this month's Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, it will be used on all EA Sports titles.

Gamers "recognise the business model implications of new versus used," Moore told gaming site Kotaku.

"Whilst I'm not sure they're angry, they absolutely look at what's going on in the marketplace and understand totally what it is we're doing. One thing I have to do, and it's my job, and my development team's job, and my marketing team's job, is make you not want to trade the game in."

Approximately 70 per cent of access codes in new games featuring the online pass have been activated, according to EA. However, only a "low single digit percentage" of gamers buying trade-in copies paid the additional $10 tithe to enable online functionality.

"From our perspective, [it's] conditioning you to punch a code in, to get you going, get some digital content, and conditioning you to look at digital content as a value-add to the game experience itself," said Moore.

The trade-in market has been blamed for second-month sales of new games declining by 60 per cent since 2001. While most publishers agree on the nature of the problem, the response has differed.

Earlier this month, THQ's Danny Bilson told that the publisher had come up with an alternative anti-resale system that "makes everybody happy" and, unlike Moore, argued that second-hand gamers "don't see what I'm dealing with."

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Latest comments (15)

Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 7 years ago
Something I forgot to mention in my review of the game: those drivers they said we would get? I'd like to know where the hell they were. I didn't have one extra driver, so therefore, I didn't get any added content. It's quite possible I missed a ticky box somewhere for it - afterall, it took me over an hour to figure out just how to put up my Gamer Face - but they're hiding the extra content, or at the very least, putting it in a very inconvenient location.
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Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 7 years ago
Also a sad fact: I was able to trade my copy of Tiger in at Game Xchange for $35, despite the fact that I scratched out the online pass card and wrote "USED" next to it; there is no mistaking, for anyone who opens that case, that they will have to pay an extra $10.

Someone will buy that game for $55. And they will get burned.

One more note: if I get the urge to play Tiger again - not likely, considering the content of my review - all I have to do is rent it from Gamefly, and my Online Pass is still good.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christopher Bowen on 28th June 2010 11:30am

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Josef Brett Animator 7 years ago
I think it is an important step (as retailers are staring to do) to label these boxes very clearly in shops. Consumers need to know that they will have to pay an additional charge BEFORE they buy the game. Then it's up to them.

I personally do not buy trade games anymore - I want to support the games industry (and why wouldn't I)?! I still wait for new copies of games to come down in price, knowing that at tleast the developer will get some of my £15-£20 (as opposed to none at all).

I think project $10 is fair - as long as it's not abused by developers (I'm looking at you Bioshock 2)!
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend7 years ago
I still think this scheme sucks and is not going to achieve what they want. From a business point of view I understand the 'high level' thinking behind this; Stop retailers making a profit off second hand games and put pressure on the customer to buy a new copy instead of a second hand copy.

This is however a short sighted strategy and instead of cutting off the retailers profit and forcing gamers to buy new copies, they in fact give a new value to games that a retailer can exploit. Think of it this way; you have two identical games on project $10, one with a code and one without a code. The retailer will buy these games at exactly the same price point off someone who wants to sell the game, yet when it comes to sell them the retailer will add extra value to the copy that has the code intact. Besides, the second hand games will always be cheaper than the plastic wrapped new copies and therefore will always be an attractive alternative for purchasers.

Canít fight common sense.
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Josef Brett Animator 7 years ago

Quite often, (particularly with new games), the second hand copy is only a few pounds less than the new retail price. I know for some people that level of saving is enough, but I will generally pay the extra couple of quid and buy the new game. This, I think, will happen more and more if a consumer has to go and pay an extra amount to play some of the extra features.

If this happens enough (which I assume is the hope of EA), then people will stop buying the marginally reduced second hand game and opt for the new one, to benefit from those 'free' extras.

Also, after a month or two on sale it's not uncommon for a trade game to be the same price (or occasionally slightly more) than the new, sealed game.

Of course, game retailers could stop ripping off consumers and charge less for the trade games for which they pay so little. If things go that way then publishers will have ended up shooting themselves in the foot...
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Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 7 years ago
I think the blame for Project Ten Dollar and similar projects by THQ and Sony lies with Gamestop. Gamestop actively sought to simultaneously profit off of used game sales and keep developers out of the loop, while they simultaneously bought out all of their competition. They monopolized that corner of the market while offering gamers poor prices for their games, but enough incentives to make it somewhat worth it for people with nowhere else to go. Meanwhile, while doing this, they forced their minimum wage help to actively force used copy on consumers, on pain of being released (Gamestop's turnover rate is atrocious), and made corporate decisions to not stock new copy unless it was specifically preordered, with a ratio of about 11 copies to 10 preorders.

Gamers were virtually forced into both buying used, and losing value on their trade-ins. Companies weren't seeing any profit whatsoever, and retail was actively trying to milk the used market for everything it was worth. No wonder companies fought back with this policy. The problem is that there's a war between retail and developers/publishers, and consumers are losing.

At the very least, EA and THQ have been upfront about what they're doing. EA announced this was coming months in advance, as did THQ, who at least kept the price down ($5, which means anyone buying used breaks even). It's Sony who we should be yelling at. Not only are their games for the PSP that require an online pass NOT announced ahead of time (SOCOM is a notable example, though some other game came out recently that does the same thing, but I can't remember who), but their prices are TERRIBLE (SOCOM = $20, Other Game = $15). EA's getting the hell for this, but it's Sony that deserves our ire.
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Sebastian Cardoso Project Manager, Crytek7 years ago
I'm fine with EA's approach. I understand the need to explore contingency measures against second hand sales. I just wonder how much more piracy this is going to foster.
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Stan Lindsey Studying BA(Hons) in Game Art, Southampton Solent University7 years ago
Just make it so you get a code that is tied to your account and then only your account can play that game... utterly destroy the used market. Problem would then be that you can't trade in games at all so maybe people would buy less? Or maybe games would then also have to be cheaper to make them more spontaneous purchases and worth not being able to trade in.

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Elikem Jubey7 years ago
@ Christopher:

Well, EA DID start the Project Ten Dollar scheme, and since they make multiplatform games as well as being the 2nd-biggest videogame developer, they will get extra scrutiny on this. Moreso than Sony.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Elikem Jubey on 28th June 2010 10:35pm

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Simon Arnet7 years ago
Truth of the matter is we really can't combat piracy. The best solution we have is to make games that people WANT to buy, and that people want to continue playing. The sad fact is that not everybody has an internet connection and not everybody is interested in becoming the member of an online community to gain access to bonus content. Lets take a look at the video industry, they've been trying to combat piracy and the second hand market for ages. Hasn't done them much good. I agree with Sebastian on this one, EA is in its right to attempt to get a continued stream of revenue from the second hand used market.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Simon Arnet on 29th June 2010 12:20am

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James Prendergast Research Chemist 7 years ago
"One thing I have to do, and it's my job, and my development team's job, and my marketing team's job, is make you not want to trade the game in."

Yes.... by holding our money and time investment to ransom rather than making games that people want to keep because they are excellent games. What's that old parable about the man who tries to keep the woman completely under his control? I seem to remember something about letting her fly free and if she returns then the relationship means something...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 29th June 2010 8:38am

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Josef Brett Animator 7 years ago

I think EA do try and focus on making/publishing games that people want to keep because they are good games. Battlefield Bad Company 2 is a very good example of this, as our EA's recent sports title releases. All of them are excellent value purchases that have good on and offline longevity (well BFBC2 has way more online logevity than off)!

I think EA are getting some unfair scrutiny (very interesting point made by Christopher). Maybe they hadn't let the 'new' EA persona bed in with enough consumers and industry folk before they started this. I really don't think they're just 'churn 'em out, money grabbing' EA of old...

...Activision have taken that role nicely!
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Elikem Jubey7 years ago
@ James:

That solution only works in theory.
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Haven Tso Web-based Game Reviewer 7 years ago
The issue here is not about the price only but the quality of the games produced. EA is one of the publishers that dumps the market with bad sequels and minor updates of franchises. Of course they will be hurt by the second hand market as people get sick of those games quickly and won't want to keep them unless they are a real big overhaul or improvement of the previous titles.

The existence of trade-in / second hand market is a reflection of the standard of products produced as if you look at the trade in shelves you will know what kind of games are prominently featured. The fact that publishers don't earn a buck out of it second time round is not the retailers fault and thus the retailers or even customers should not be penalised for not buying a brand new copy of the game.

For me I see this as EA's way of trying to cash in on titles that don't really sell well and went to the second hand market to suck the blood out of it. It is corporate greed no matter how they justify it and I personally don't buy the idea that I should be penalised as a customer simply because I bought a second hand copy of a game I just want to try out. Also retailers shouldn't be penalised for creating a vibrant market for things that other people don't want (or even utterly hate).
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Shane Sweeney Academic 7 years ago
Large second hand industries are a symptom of a poorly priced first hand market. You can't blame retailers from wanting to make money, they are just responding to consumers needs.

Toys R Us, JB Hifi, HMV are all moving into second hand games, its not evil - they are just responding to market demand.

Film DVD's have marginal second hand sales as the market empirically is happy with the first hand prices.

If games were at impulse prices more consumers could afford to take risks instead of only buying familar franchsies and sequels. For every fringe gamer that buys a $100 title and doesnt like it, thats another consumer who is less likely going to be willing to buy brand new titles again.

Retailers are just filling the hole of a very real broken pricing model.
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