I was catching up on my gaming news this morning when I learned that EA (Electronic Arts) has decided to do away with their online pass program. Apparently the damage to their reputation was costing them more than they were making. I was working at Blockbuster when they announced the program and I saw gamers reactions up close. None of it was positive.
A few years later, EA finally seems to have read the writing on the wall….. Not to mention the profanity and occasional threats on the forums. I understand why they did it in the first place. The used and rental markets were eating up huge amounts of bandwidth on their servers without generating any revenue for them. To reduce the overload, they introduced the online pass. It was included free with new games, and allowed access to the online portion of the game on the account that registered it.
This of course meant that if you bought used, rented or borrowed from a buddy, you couldn’t play online unless you bought an online pass for an extra $10. While this reduced the less on EAs servers, it also alienated a huge number of gamers who saw it as nothing more than a naked cash grab. Used game resellers were forced to lower the prices on their EA titles to offset the cost of the pass and so lower their margins. Long story short, nobody but EA really liked the program. Its not actually over-stating things to say it was pretty much universally hated. To their credit, EA has finally listened.
This proves two things. EA isn’t just a giant, greedy corporation. They can and do, listen to their customers. They do understand that gamers are the people paying their bills. They also understand that sometimes the extra revenue just isn’t worth the hit to their image. Secondly, if you aren’t happy with how a company is treating you, nothing gets their attention like voting with your wallet. If enough people do it, even an industry giant like EA is going to notice.
I admire any company that’s willing to admit they made a bad call. Even more so when they decide to un-make it. Not only are they not requiring online passes in new games, they’re phasing them out on existing titles as well. That’s being a responsive company. It will take a while to undo the damage to their corporate image, but at least its a start.
Well done EA.