Electronic Arts is officially done with the Online Pass. After all but making the controversial requirement a fundamental part of their business model, the publisher today announced they would no longer be included an Online Pass with any future games.
Online Passes have become a regular feature for games with any form of multiplayer experience. EA's Madden and Battlefield franchises, for example, have supported an Online Pass in recent iterations. Going forward, however, that will no longer be the case.
EA Senior Director of Corporate Communications confirmed the news to GamesBeat saying, "Yes, we're discontinuing Online Pass. None of our new EA titles will include that feature." In other words, this year's EA Sports titles and Battlefield 4 will have a lot more players online.
Obviously, this is only an EA-wide dissolution of the Online Pass, but it could be a sign of a larger trend in video games. Both Activision and Ubisoft have been known to wield the Online Pass at will (surprisingly Activision does not use it for Call of Duty, though), so we'll have to see whether they will follow EA's lead.
Now, gamers can pick up a copy of any future EA title on the used market — either through GameStop, GameFly, or some other retailer — without then having to pay an extra $10 or so for multiplayer. If you purchase your EA games new, however, that's a non-issue.
That being said, we're still a little suspicious as to why EA would make such an announcement. The optimist in me would like to think the publisher is trying to repair its image after being labeled "The Worst Company in America." Moreover, that they want to do right by Star Wars fans, and want to show that they're listening to the fans. Reseburg alludes to that assumption:
“Initially launched as an effort to package a full menu of online content and services, many players didn’t respond to the format. We’ve listened to the feedback and decided to do away with it moving forward.”
However, there's also another possibility, one that might render all Online Passes moot in the future: the always-online requirement. If Microsoft were to include the feature in the next Xbox, publishers could monitor used games without the need for an Online Pass. There's no confirmation the next Xbox will include any always-online requirement - just a thought.
How do you feel about Electronic Arts doing away with the Online Pass? Do you think other publishers will follow suit?