Why I Have a Problem with Online Passes

A few weeks back, I talked about how Online Passes are not as detrimental as most people make them out to be. This time, I’m here to talk about the other side of the debate. Yep, let’s talk about how Online Passes are ruining games and harming the videogame industry as a whole.

One of the widest ranging issues with Online Passes when it comes to single-player games is how it locks content from the player. Granted, it’s not as prevalent yet, but one can clearly see that this is a precedent – one that a lot of people are very angry with. This was tossed into the spotlight late last year with Rocksteady Studio’s critically-acclaimed Batman: Arkham City. The game had a code that when entered, let you play the Catwoman “side missions.” The missions themselves aren’t central to the narrative and you can finish the game without it affecting the story progress. However, people were irritated that Warner Bros. Interactive (the game’s publisher) did something like this. What’s next? Locking parts of the game’s story or certain levels? That’s been a nagging concern on why people are consistently vocal about things of this nature.

Another game that came under fire is EA’s recently released RPG, Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning. The game also had an Online Pass even though the game itself doesn’t even offer any kind of multiplayer component. What EA crafted was an Online Pass which netted you a handful of downloadable missions. Again, they (EA) publicly stated that the story wouldn’t be affected regardless if you play the extra missions or not.

When news of this got out, players all over the world were enraged and this time, I understood why. Sure, I can play the game without these non-essential-to-the-story missions, but where and when does this end? I certainly don’t want to play games that will force me to buy these things just to completely understand the game’s narrative and I’m hopeful we never get to that. Games today are expensive enough as it is. At $60 a game, it might not be much if you’re a single guy and working for yourself, but what if you have a family and other responsibilities? Heck, “must have” games these days are being released at a much faster pace than they were a few years ago.

Imagine $60 and multiply that by at least five to six times in order to be able to play the year’s  blockbusters. When I pay $60, I want that experience to offer me the whole gamut – essentially, I want to play the game the way the developers intended it to be. I can already hear someone say, “what about DLC?” Well, DLCs or Downloadable Content are things that should supplement the game’s overall experience – not take away from it. Online Passes are slowly crossing that line and people need to speak with their wallets and let publishers know that this thing won’t fly with consumers. As is with the case for all business, money talks – and when that dollar sign speaks, publishers listen.

If publishers eventually do block a game’s story just for the sake of an Online Pass, I hope they have the foresight to price that game well below the $60 threshold. Say, $15 for the base game, add $10 for multiplayer and maybe $15 each for the game’s second and last parts – basically creating a $60 product. This business “solution” is something that’s been discussed before, but understandably, no publisher has the gall to implement it yet. If this happens and the pricing is skewed entirely for the publisher, I think that might be the catalyst to the second “death” of modern videogames. If you’ve yet to experience or read the first “death,” I suggest searching for the game E.T. and how it ran the game industry aground in 1983.

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