IT & Systems Management

EA's Online Pass is still dead as a doornail despite Xbox One's DRM reversal

While Microsoft is removing its used game restrictions on the Xbox One, Electronic Arts is making it clear that Online Pass is gone for good.

"[There is] no change to our decision to discontinue Online Pass," EA spokesman John Reseburg told Polygon. "It is dead."

Reseburg said the decision was based on player feedback, and he reiterated that Online Pass will be dropped from existing titles as well as new ones.

Online Pass was a way for EA to wring some revenue from the used game market. Without one of these passes, which were included with new copies of EA games, players had to purchase a voucher to access certain features such as online multiplayer. EA scrapped the program last month, citing user feedback and poor sales of the vouchers.

Some people had speculated that future game consoles, particularly the Xbox One, factored into EA's decision. Until Wednesday, Microsoft had planned to tightly control used game sales, only allowing them at approved retailers if game publishers allowed it. In theory, this would have allowed publishers like EA to block used game sales entirely.

But Microsoft has now reversed course, allowing players to trade and sell used game discs as they please. Speaking to Penny Arcade Report, Xbox chief product officer Mark Whitten said publishers would be able to use online passes under the new system if they wanted. Microsoft is also removing the 24-hour online check-in requirements for all games.

It's not a huge surprise that EA isn't changing its stance in light of Microsoft's reversal. During last week's E3 Expo, president of EA labels Frank Gibeau told Joystiq that the program is "at the bottom of the Mariana Trench," adding that the decision was not at all linked to Microsoft's Xbox One plans. Still, it doesn't hurt to hear EA proclaim the death of Online Pass just one more time.

Unfortunately, other publishers who've used similar programs in the past--including Sony, Ubisoft and Warner Bros.--haven't publicly disavowed the concept. But given how unsuccessful it's been for EA, it seems likely that all publishers will move away from online passes and push other streams of revenue, such as downloadable content, instead.


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