If you aren’t familiar with EA’s Online Pass, dubbed “Project Ten Dollar” you will be soon. The roll-out has already begun and chances are it will be winging its way to a Fifa title near you sooner rather than later.
So to dispel some of the myths and to find out what it really means for Fifa gamers, Tom Mills in his second FSB article takes a glance at EA’s Project Ten Dollar.
Full article after the jump.
A Glance at Project Ten Dollar
Recently we have heard more and more detail regarding EA’s project ten dollar, but what is it, and how will it affect Fifa players? I guess that depends on how you look at it. Take a seat, this is a long one.
From EA’s point of view, it’s a way to regain some of the revenue that the used game market had previously been snatching away from them.
From a Gamers point of view, it’s possibly an added frustation and could actually make a difference to how you purchase your games.
EA Sports describe it in this way. link http://www.easports.com/onlinepass
EA SPORTS™ expands your quest for glory by fully immersing you in the entire sports experience. Activating your Online Pass gives you full access to online features and bonus content.
Fair enough, no real specifics as to what the bonus content will be, I assume as it will vary greatly from game to game.
From the same page, this line is more interesting.
Online Pass launches in all future EA SPORTS simulation games on the PS3 and Xbox 360 beginning in June with Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 11.
ALL future EA Sports titles will have this feature, Thankfully things aren’t as bad or restricting as they first seem.
If you are the kind of person who always buys releases brand new then you don’t really have anything to be concerned about, apart from the 2-3 minutes it takes you to enter the code from the back of the manual.
According to the Official Online Pass FAQ, once activated, the code will be tied to your Gamertag/PSN id, protecting you if your console dies or you upgrade. Another key point to this is that it will move with your persona, so you can log into your account on a friends console and still play online.
Households with one console but multiple users are also covered. Online pass will give access to multiple users on the console that the pass was first activated on. The FAQ states multiple, I would hope multiple means all.
If you are a rent/buy pre-owned kind of person, things are slightly different.
If you buy a Pre-owned EA sports title you will be allowed a 7 day trial for online play, you might even get lucky and find that the original code hasn’t been redeemed. Once the trial has run its course you will need to purchase an online pass for that title to be able to play online. To me this seems reasonable enough, 7 days is a fairly standard trial length and should be long enough to decide whether you want to buy an online pass or not.
Renting works in the same way, so you will still be able to play online for 7 days of your rental period. What isn’t clear is whether that trial period starts the first time you pop the disk in, or if you get to choose when it begins.
So that’s the nuts and bolts of how it works, but why is this scheme being introduced?
Andrew Wilson, Senior Vice President of World Wide Development at EA SPORTS offers some insight:
Why charge anything for online access?
First, 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. 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.
The last line is interesting. We having been playing online for free since online play was introduced (XBL fees aside). I appreciate that EA run their own servers at their own cost, but I don’t think this is the reason for the introduction of a charge if you don’t buy the game brand new.
Is this intended to combat second sale?
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. In order to continue to enhance the online experiences that are attracting nearly five million connected game sessions a day, again, 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. 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.
So that’s how EA see it. They think it’s fair to charge for online services that have previously been available for no extra cost.
As stated above, I buy my games new, so this doesn’t affect me, but I can see how people who can’t afford or don’t want to purchase games brand new will feel put out.
A quick look online at the big 3 UK retailers shows the average price of a pre-owned copy of fifa10 at £24.65. Add the £6.38 (figure based on $10 at the current exchange rate, it will likely be slightly different to this price but I haven’t got anything else to work with), brings you to a rough total of £31.03. Most new games retail at £39.99, but there is always a deal to be had somewhere on release day. Considering the game has now been out for 9 months, those figures could be a cause for concern in the eyes of people who buy pre-owned, they may find themselves biting the bullet and buying games new. I guess that’s the idea behind it all.
EA aren’t the only publisher looking at things in this way. Ubisoft have been quoted as watching project ten dollar closely, CFO Alain Martinez was quoted (link http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/100755-Ubisoft-Planning-Its-Own-Project-Ten-Dollar) as saying “Most of the games that we release next year will have from the start downloadable content available, And we are looking very carefully at what is being done by EA regarding what we call the ‘ten dollar solution’ and we would probably follow that line at some time in the future.”
In addition to schemes like project ten dollar we are also seeing retail games being released episodically over XBL and PSN, such as Fable 2 or the upcoming Sonic 4, and there have been rumblings on the internet for a long time that Activision are trying to introduce a pay to play model to Call of Duty, although I’ve not seen any concrete evidence of this.
In a few years, this may all be irrelevant, as the industry seems to be favouring digital distribution in the long term. Personally i don’t know if people are ready for it. I’m happy to spend money on arcade titles and such on Xbox live, but the pricing at the moment for digital downloads of full retail games is completely out of synch with store prices, in some cases as much £10 more expensive for a digital copy than a disk. Until they balance this out, i can’t see it taking off.
A move to digital distribution is great for publishers and developers as it removes the need for schemes such as Online Pass. It’s not so good for gamers, who will find their games are unable to be traded in or sold on. Even the age old ritual of swapping games with your mates will die. That day will be a very sad day indeed.
For now, Online Pass is something that’s here to stay. Looks like gamers will either have to like it or lump it.