GAME THEORY: EA should have a heart for gamers on a budget

Nathan Mendelowitz

Paying for online play has become a norm for gamers. With millions of subscribers to Xbox Live and PlayStation Network; it’s clear gamers are willing to pay for the services.

However, video game company Electronic Arts has implemented a new online pass to play its games online, effectively alienating used game players. It’s a cheap tactic to circumvent the used game market and a big slap to the face of gamers on a budget.

In 2010, EA introduced the online pass requiring people to join a service to access online content. If people bought it new, inside the box was a one-time use code to join the service.

However, if people bought the game used, they would have to pay $10 to join. That doesn’t include any add-ons, only the ability to play the game online or download additional content.

This upset many people for it made it pointless to buy an EA game used. The point of buying a game used is because it’s cheaper.

Let’s face it; gaming is not a cheap hobby. Game systems cost $150+ and games cost $60. So being able to pick up a game for half the price is great for people on a budget.

EA put out on its website the reason for the online pass and the issue of used games:

            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.

What EA really meant to say is everyone should be thankful they had free online play for as long as they did and to appreciate the services they provide.

What bothers me most is of all companies, EA is the one angry people buy its games used.

What made EA it is today is it became the premier company for sports games. Many sports game enthusiasts wait patiently for the next iteration of the popular football franchise “Madden NFL.”

However, people have to pay $60 every year for a game that is really just an update. At most, each sports game would add one new thing to make it different from the previous one. Maybe a new mode to play or updated graphics, but this isn’t enough to warrant the hefty $60 tag.

So it makes sense gamers buy these games used. It’s not worth it to pay $60 for a game almost identical to an earlier model.

I guess EA feels people should pay full price for an updated game, but it’s not ok to buy it cheap.

What’s worse is now other game publishers are beginning to implement online passes.

In 2011, Ubisoft began requiring an online pass with some of its games.

The madness needs to end.

I understand these companies feel they are losing money, but people have to buy the game in the first place for it even becomes a used game.

Last year, EA made $3.8 billion in revenue. It’s almost a joke that EA feels that’s not enough and the used game business is hurting them.

I suppose $3.8 billion is chump change to EA.

Maybe it’s because when someone sells their game, it’s the company, like Best Buy or Gamestop, which now make the money off a used game. They buy the game at around $20 and sell it for $30.

Then here’s a thought, make a better more accessible game.

Instead of charging full price for an update, make it $30. People won’t be as inclined to sell their game if they get it for a great price. This isn’t rocket science, just simple economics.

I understand that in capitalism, money is everything. But when times are tough and people just want to buy a game cheap, they shouldn’t be harassed with extra charges. It shouldn’t be hard for a billion dollar company to compliment gamers on a budget.

Nathan Mendelowitz can be reached at [email protected]