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.

Author: Jason Zajdel

Learning as I go along. It’s an awesome ride. =-)