I'm more than happy to be able to present two popular voices from games commentaries in a head-to-head debate about the value, or lack of, to be taken from EA Sports' soon-to-hit $10 Online Pass or Pay-wall.
David Turner is co-host of the ever eventful and fully opinionated Joypod site and podcast. SPOnG has asked him to present his views as gamer and commentator on Electronic Arts's EA Sports label to introduce a $10 Online Pass or 'Pay-Wall' as it's being termed in some circles. It's got to be said that David is not a fan.
To balance this out, we've also asked Leon Cox of the Gamerdork site and podcast to present his views on the same matter. Leon's view, is divergent from Dave's but equally as compelling.
Obviously, with two informed points of view already clashing I'm keeping my views to myself on this one, although I will be happy to debate the matter in the SPOnG forum – which is free and does not require registration. Yes, you can rant to your heart's content under the banner of 'Anonymous' because there are no pay-walls here.
Of course, we'd appreciate you signing up and supporting both ourselves and other independent gamer voices.
For now however... onto the Battle of the Podcasts.
The Anti View – David Tuner – Joypod
EA have (at the time of writing) announced that they plan to implement an 'Online Pass'
one-use code system with their future games. New game buyers will enter a code and have full access to the games online components, whereas second hand buyers would need to purchase the online pass for the game they have bought.
EA say that this as a way of improving their online service and “Relationship” with their removed customers. However, you don't have to be too bright to see that this is more of an attack on the second-hand/pre-owned retail market. Unfortunately, the only thing this proposal attacks, is the consumer.
At present, if I currently buy a full game, brand new, on the day of release, I can easily sell it two to three weeks down the line for around £30. However if this Online Pass is implemented, my buyer would need to stump up extra to play it online. This means that he (or she of course) would have to pay roughly £37 in total.
Of course no one is going to buy a second hand copy for £3 less than a lovely new one are they? So, as a seller, I would need to drop the price to say around £20. That's a personal loss of £10 for every game I sell on Amazon or eBay.
Thanks EA! Way to stick it to Game and Blockbuster. Those companies won't take any sort of hit whatsoever. Why would they, when they can just offer you the gamer less money and trade-in prices for your games? They won't be losing out, as they are buying for less, so they can sell for less. The only suckers in this little plan are the end users. Why should we have to pay because Electronic Arts want a slice of the second-hand market?
I also wonder about how this affects my personal rights. I mean, if I am legally allowed to sell on whatever it is that I own, then surely EA affecting that sale hampers that right that I wish to express. It feels like an unwanted force is coming into play between a private sale. I just want to be able to say “Mind your own effin' business!”
You also have to wonder how the casual market are going to see this. If someone who has no interest in the business side of gaming walks into Game to be told that not only has he got to pay for Xbox Live to get it online but he's also got to fork out cash to EA, it'll turn people off. The whole industry could be tagged with a money grabbing label and it could destroy the family-friendly image that the likes of Nintendo have helped build up.
No, there are simply no real excuses to bring this into play. If you want to stop your customers selling their game on then I can only suggest putting more time into DLC. Take FIFA 10's Ultimate Team
Although I'm sure this took some time to put together, the return on something like that is huge. You need to work hard to get people to keep your game and buy new ones. Publishers cannot expect just impose a rule because they can. It shows a complete lack of respect towards the gaming community.
It's a shame because EA had been doing such a great job at reinventing themselves. They were a company who went from being viewed as money grabbing to being well respected game developers. Yet they seem to be willing to revert to their frowned on reputation in one single blow.
David Turner can be reached directly at his regular job of putting the must-listen Joypod podcast together right here.
The Not So Anti View – Leon Cox – Editor Gamerdork
Believe me when I say that I have absolutely no desire to give any more money to the videogames industry than I already do (north of £2,000 per year). Nor am I a corporate shill for EA or any other industry player.
However, while I don't exactly welcome EA's announcement of an 'Online Pass'
- a one time fee charged to users of pre-owned/second-hand game titles to access certain features including online multiplayer - I accept and understand why they are perfectly justified in doing so.
Private/eBay sales notwithstanding, the likes of Gamespot
in the USA and GAME in the UK continue to accrue vast profits (while the market is in downturn) due to an increasing focus on the used software market. This is achieved by making their pre-owned stock ever more the focus of their outlets - to the point of 'pushing' second hand copies over new. Massively inflated profits for the retailer, a little less expenditure for the purchaser but no further revenue to the developer and/or publisher of the game.
This new scheme is distastefully wrapped in PR speak
and waffle: apparently this $10 charge buys us a 'reward'. It is, however, a move designed to glean revenue back from those who are buying previously sold inventory, and where the entire profit of further sales of a boxed game goes to the retailer.
One argument against this initiative goes along the lines of, "What's the problem? They've already sold the game once". The counter-argument is that the user is buying pre-owned to save a few quid/dollars/euros at the expense of a full price sale and associated revenue. In short, this takes money from the people who actually created and manufactured the game.
"EA don't NEED the money" goes another. I'm sure they don't, they could take the seizable hit from pre-owned out of their profits, but why would they? Why should they? Furthermore, would they take it out of profits or would they simply develop fewer and/or less interesting, high quality titles. I know which I feel likely would be the case.
I like the idea that when we buy a game we own it and whatever we want to do (or do not do) with it from that point on is our choice. But this has never been the case; we are only ever buying a license to run the software.
Sure, it's possible that this $10 enterprise may affect trade-in prices negatively. That said, it's equally likely that once the consumer gets wise to the fact that if they buy last year's FIFA
they are going to have to stump up a few quid to play it online (if indeed anyone is still playing it and/or the servers have been left active), the price to buy such second hand games will decrease commensurately. If it doesn't: absolutely do not buy the game. It is far easier for the retailer to make less of a mark-up on the traded-in game as they already make hefty profits on them.
This is what I really don't understand about the aggrieved cries from gamers. Cries that that this is "Outrageous" or "Disgusting" seem naïve at best. Right or wrong we live in a Capitalist – market driven – society; private companies get to choose what they do and don't charge for. The consumer doesn't get to pick and choose which items cost and which are free. In this case EA are charging people whom otherwise wouldn't be giving them any money to utilise the company's online infrastructure, the service and maintenance of which is not free.
The majority of people reading this also live in a free society. No one will force you to either buy a second hand EA game and/or pay the EA Pass fee. Capitalism is democratic in the sense that we are complicit in creating this situation just as much as EA and the big retailers are. We have the power to refuse to ever pay this fee if we disagree with it.
Similarly if we want to put the kibosh on this endeavour then we have two ways to register our 'vote':
Firstly, do not support the second-hand trade via the big outlets. Be intelligent enough to realise that you may be saving a few quid in the short term (typically a pre-owned copy of a current chart title in the UK will be £35-£38 as opposed to £40 for a virgin item) . Ultimately the publishers are going to make their coin back somehow. Look at those extra few quid spent on your new copy as an investment towards future videogames.
Secondly, if you like, never buy a game that requires such a 'Pass'. If retailers do not make it clear that features are initially 'locked out' to the second-hand buyer then that would be a problem. But, as is now the case with DLC that requires a one-time code to activate, retailers should be required to make this plain in the future.
Quite apart from anything else, it is almost always as possible to buy a new copy online than it is a used copy in a bricks and mortar store anyway. If you're reading this you can almost certainly choose that option. You spend less, no 'Pass' required, developer/publisher sees their rightful income and so the only loser is the greedy, opportunist High Street chain leeching off both the games industry and it's infeasibly loyal consumers.
Leon Cox is the Editor of GamerDork & co-presenter of the GamerDork podcast – which you shouldn't ever miss.
The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and does not reflect those of SPOnG.com except when it does.
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