A while back I wrote an article giving my thoughts about the online pass and how developers are going about getting more money the wrong way. For those who don’t know, the Online Pass is a one time code that comes with a game to allow access to online play. This of course was to counter used game sales and even turn a profit from them by allowing players to purchase a new code via LIVE market or the PSN store. This is nothing but bad news for people who seek to save some money through buying used games if they plan to play online, seeing as how once you pay about ten bucks for the code you are actually paying close to the same amount as you would for a new copy. Of course this not only affects used game sales alone. Families who share one copy of the saved game are forced to either buy a new pass for everyone playing the game online, or share online stats through the same account. Furthermore people who rent games first through game fly or other services are no longer able to test key aspects of the game that could weigh their decision, at least not without making a permanent purchase of something they don’t even know if they will like through the online store. We all see where the developers are coming from, but forcing the consumer to do something is never the way.
Over time I grew to accept the Online Pass and move on. After all, there are only a handful of games I will play for a time online so I just won’t bother with the pass unless I know I will use it (though as a reviewer that uses game fly, I will sometimes have no choice). However, it seems developers have taken it a step further down the road of darkness. Not only do we have some games locking out online content, but developers have started targeting the single player experience as well. Now I called this in my last article to an extent, and some people thought I was crazy. Well it seems every crazy thought has a degree of truth it would seem, and unfortunately it delves even deeper than I predicted. RAGE was the first game to degenerate itself to the new trend, locking out hidden areas of the main single player experience to those without an online pass. Next on the list is a game heavily anticipated by everyone. Batman: Arkham City has officially been announced to not only do exactly what RAGE did with hidden areas, but also take it one step further. All Catwoman experiences will only be available to those who buy the game new or those who purchase an Online Pass. This not only consists of her challenge maps, but also any part of the main game that features her as well. This means that key parts of the single player game that has already been promised to us, possibly key parts of the story, are locked away to anyone who doesn’t have an online pass.
This has created an even bigger blow to the consumer, and I believe the sales will reflect that. While some of the issues with online play may not be implied to offline play, there is an even bigger issue at hand here. Now account sharing to play an offline game with two different saves within the same house hold won’t be as big an issue as sharing online stats, so at least there won’t be any worries there. However one thing that developers didn’t consider is that not everyone has direct access to the Internet. With that in mind, how are people who buy the game used supposed to get their online pass without the Internet? Furthermore, how are gamers who buy games new without direct online access supposed to redeem their pass and experience their full sixty dollars worth? I guess developers figure they can handle a few casualties in their process, which is really poor thinking considering the age old business saying, “the customer is always right” still exists in full effect today. Odds are that these people who would normally buy the game new won’t even bother with it and save their money for a title that won’t screw them over, which is an even greater loss to developers than used game sales were to begin with when you think about it. In addition, there were plenty of people out there who cancel pre-orders and skip games because of this foul practice to begin with. Now that the developers have started targeting actual chunks of the main game, how many more do you think will join the rebellion?
The sad thing is that they have the right idea here, but are going about it all wrong. The answer to getting more money out of used titles is something that developers have had access to for a while, but continually abuse it all the time. That’s right, I dare to say that DLC is the answer. Making decent single player DLC that is only available to download would bring in revenue from new and used copies alike. Now I’m not talking about DLC like Prince of Persia’s Epilogue or Deus Ex’s Missing Link, which are chunks of the main story that should have been included in the main game to begin with (which when you think about it is exactly what they are doing with this online pass, but on a much harsher level). I’m talking about solid content that is a totally different experience from the main story. Content like the Shivering Isles pack for Oblivion, Castlevania’s DLC or any Fallout DLC packs are perfect examples of how to do it right. Capcom even had the right idea with Resident Evil 5′s single player/Co Op DLC (not including versus, which is actually an online pass itself when you think about it). In this way developers would be working with the consumer to turn a profit by offering more content to an already complete game, which in the end will profit much better than working against each other. I mean think about it, the more rules developers try to force on people, the more those people will try to work around them. Personally I can see pirated copies of games with the locked single player content included on the horizon if they aren’t careful.
The Online Pass started out as subtle at first, but it is sadly becoming more of an unstoppable beast who’s only aim is to force consumers into doing its bidding out of corporate greed. DLC was already getting ridiculous when it came to selling portions of a game that should have been there to begin with, now they want to drag the main game itself into the mess. With just a little more effort, developers could make solid additions to a complete game though GOOD DLC and make out much better than this Online Pass crap. I would like to say that they might be seeing things a little differently from their end that would make my solution impossible, but sadly I know exactly why they are approaching their problems this way. It all boils down to one word, laziness. That’s right, I said it. They don’t want to invest the time and effort into making solid DLC that consumers would WANT to buy. Instead they take out chunks of a completed game to sell them separate or lock out chunks through an Online Pass in order to make a quick buck. It seems to me that the days where developers listen to gamers and work with us to deliver content that would benefit both sides are coming to an end sadly. And unfortunately, I see it getting even worse before it gets any better.
NOTE: This article expresses the views and opinion of Jason R (Jason Roberts) and does not necessarily reflect the views of the entire staff.