Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Project $10 - Get over it.

Today I was reading Game Informer magazine and I happened to see the little segment they call "The Good, the Bad, the Ugly." In this they label EA's most recent sports Online Pass as ugly. They claim it is going to hurt the poor little kids that are only saving a few bucks by buying a used game. I must say, I really don't care about those "kids."

If you're not familiar with the Online Pass, it's real simple to break down. To take advantage of EA Sport's rich and ever expanding online features, you will need an online pass. This pass is included with every new copy of their sports games. If you buy it used, you can buy a pass for a one time charge of $10. Recently some people have really been getting up in arms and saying this is nothing more than an attempt by EA to price gouge.

EA claims that this move is just to help support the cost of the online services. If you've played an EA sports game lately, this might make sense to you. Every year they add more interconnectivity between their games and website. For example, in the latest Fight Night and FIFA games, I uploaded a picture of myself on the EA website. I then connected my Xbox to their online service via the in game menu, downloaded my picture and then applied it to my custom player. So in both games I had custom players that looked like me.

Another feature that is offered in FIFA is uploadable instant replays. So if I score an amazing goal, I can pause it and then upload the video to the EA website. To illustrate this feature, here is my custom player that looks like me (though you can't see his face) scoring a really cool goal.

When I was playing Fight Night, my menu would load audio updates from ESPN.com and play them as if I had a radio on in the gym. So I would get updates about other sports such as football and baseball. And I mean real life updates, not some silly pre-recorded fluff.

All of these features were made available to me for no additional cost. As long as I was connected to Xbox Live, I could access all these features. This is all well and good, but now EA is claiming that they are going to be stepping up their online game even more.

During EA's E3 presentation, they unveiled some of the details for their upcoming MMA title. To say they're ambitious is an understatement. EA is planning on more or less creating their own gaming league. In this league, gamers can cut promo videos to trash talk their opponents, participate in tournaments with real life prizes and be involved with live events. These live events will be broadcast over the internet to PCs and consoles with live commentary from real life MMA commentators. It is an unprecedented online presentation that combines the game itself and multimedia.

I see this as being a first step for a massive change in how EA presents their sports games and how players will play online. It will be risky and costly. Which now raises the issue of money. EA will have to pay for the bandwidth, the hardware and the staff to keep these online services going.

When you buy a used game, none of that money goes to the publisher. When you buy that used copy of Madden 2008 at Gamestop, all that money goes straight to Gamestop and no one else. That means someone could use EA's online services and they haven't paid a cent towards the upkeep of that service. Why should I, someone who mainly buys new games, have to pay towards the upkeep of these services while others don't?

So in the end, EA is saying it's fine to buy a used game. Feel free to play the variety of single player modes while we don't get a cent for it, but we draw the line. The line being they will not provide a maintained service to someone that hasn't even given them $10. It seems more than fair to me.