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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."

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Kath Brice