Electronic Arts has aggressively promoted new-game purchases in recent months by offering gamers bonus content for buying shrink-wrapped copies of games like Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age: Origins, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Now, the publisher plans to extend that initiative to its sports business with a new Online Pass--and take it one step further.
Arriving by way of a packed-in, game-specific registration code, the Online Pass comes with all new copies of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 titles from EA Sports and confers access to "online services, features, and bonus content." Those who rent or pick up a used EA Sports title can gain access to the Online Pass through a free seven-day trial or purchase a code outright for $10.
[UPDATE] EA Sports will launch its new initiative on June 8 with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11. The publishing label has updated its official Web site with a a carefully worded FAQ to provide more details on what gamers can expect from the Online Pass. It included a scan of the pass (pictured) that will come with Tiger Woods PGA Online Tour, the wording of which makes it clear that that the pass will be required to play any of the online modes.
"Activate your exclusive Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 11 Online pass to unlock the following: Online Team Play…[and] Online multiplayer modes," reads the pass (emphasis added). EA Sports reps later confirmed to GameSpot the pass would be required for any online play, with EA Sports senior vice president Andrew Wilson elaborating in the aforementioned FAQ.
"We've made a significant investment to offer the most immersive online experience available," said the executive. "We want to reserve EA Sports online services for people who pay EA to access them."
Andrew Wilson explained the decision thusly: "First, it's important to be clear that all users have access to premium content. … When we see how many people are playing all of our games online, consumers are telling us that competition is endemic to sports in a way that most people don't get just by playing a game alone on their couch."
Wilson's answer was a bit more slippery when asked about whether or not the move was to combat used game sales. "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," he explained.
Wilson continued, "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."
EA Sports has placed a heavy emphasis on Tiger PGA Tour 11's online modes. Notably, PS3 and Xbox 360 gamers can take part in an online version of the Ryder Cup tournament, one of golf's most prestigious outings. The PS3 and 360 editions of the game--which is also due out on the Wii and iPhone--will let up to 24 players play in four-person teams in the biennial tournament's signature events, which alternate shots, fourballs, and singles. The PS3 edition will also support Sony's PlayStation Move motion-sensing peripheral, due out this fall.
Check out GameSpot's previous coverage for more on Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11.