Sharks round 3 tickets, gone in a frenzy

For 30 brief minutes this morning, Kevin Ebert of San Jose was the Sharks’ No. 1 fan. Or at least the team’s luckiest.

Ebert, 51, emerged from a sea of about 225 devoted hockey fans with lucky wristband No. 1555 and took his place at the front of the line at HP Pavilion, where he was guaranteed to land two seats for the Sharks upcoming home games in the Western Conference finals. Ebert was one of about 80 fans at HP Pavilion who bought tickets before ushers delivered the bitter news that the games had sold out. Ebert and his brother Richard will be among the crowd of frenzied Sharks fans at Game 2, rooting for the men in teal to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time.

“Go Sharks,” Ebert yelled as he assumed his place at the front of the line, described by team officials as the largest this season. “I just got lucky.” Fans took less than 30 minutes to devour about 1,500 tickets for the Sharks’ first two home games in the Western Conference finals, a series that will likely start Friday or Sunday, depending on the outcome of the series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks. Several fans in line were also trying to purchase tickets by cell phone and online.

But for every fan who walked away happy, two left empty-handed. Some fans were already talking about coming back for a potential Game 5 in San Jose. For others, a lack of tickets was a temporary condition. Jody Troxel, 31, was at the front of the line when it was announced the games had sold out. Instead of fretting, the San Jose man quickly called a ticket broker and purchased two nosebleed tickets for about $200 a pop. Troxel, a butcher by trade who is unemployed and living off savings, did not blink twice about paying a 77 percent increase. “I definitely feel like we’re doing big things,” Troxel said of his team’s playoff run.

No more “Free Play” with used Madden and other EA games

If you buy your sports games used and enjoy playing them online for free, EA would like to have a word with you. And that word would be “no.”

The mega-publisher announced Monday that beginning with the June 8th release of Tiger Woods 11, all future EA Sports games for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 will include a one-time, game-specific “Online Pass” code, which grants access to “online services, features and bonus content.”

Sounds fine and dandy, but for one catch: while the code comes free with new copies of any EA Sports game, it can only be used once. Buy the game used — or even just rent it through a service like GameFly — and you’ll be unable to play it online beyond a free seven-day trial period…unless you cough up $10 for an additional Online Pass. “This is an important inflection point in our business because it allows us to accelerate our commitment to enhance premium online services to the entire robust EA SPORTS online community,” said EA Sports president Peter Moore.

According to the official Online Pass site, online services that will be affected by the feature include “multiplayer online play, group features like online dynasty and leagues, user created content, and bonus downloadable content for your game including, for example, a new driver in Tiger.” The move is part of EA’s so-called “Project Ten Dollar” initiative and is considered another attack on the used game market, which many publishers see as a financial black hole. EA has made prior attempts to dissuade the practice, although it remains an affordable solution to gamers looking for a bit of a bargain at the cost of owning new.

Interestingly, leading game retailer GameStop, who enjoy substantial revenue from selling used games, is seemingly supportive of the new program. “This relationship allows us to capitalize on our investments to market and sell downloadable content online, as well as through our network of stores worldwide,” said GameStop CEO Dan DeMatteo.

AT&T’s iPad deal to delay Verizon iPhone

Another week, another analyst weighing in on the iPhone’s future.

Sources predict that because of a deal AT&T cut with Apple for the iPad 3G, the U.S. telecommunications giant will continue to have carrier exclusivity for the iPhone until at least 2011. His reasoning goes like this: Apple hasn’t been happy with AT&T’s network performance for the iPhone. AT&T wanted to remain the exclusive U.S. carrier for the Apple phone, keeping it out of rival Verizon Wireless’ hands. So it offered a generous and recurring monthly data program for the iPad.

One thing, though: another firm, Global Wireless Solutions, released a study this week comparing all the major wireless providers in New York City. It found that both Verizon and AT&T were about 99% reliable, with throughput up to 20 times what they offered five years ago. Assuming that GWS’ data is accurate, and that AT&T did actually make the iPad deal to keep the iPhone away from Verizon a little bit longer, maybe that deal doesn’t matter–at least for iPhone owners in New York.