With a few recent titles, EA has taken it upon themselves to include free content for original purchasers. While we'd interpreted this as a means to fight piracy, it seems now that the approach is being extended and expanded on EA Sports titles, it may have been more (if not completely) to reduce lost profits from used game sales.
The new program is dubbed "Online Pass", and requires you to sign up for an EA account to access online features (like multiplayer) and free bonus content. This is had through a one-time use code, meaning if you sell your game to someone else, they don't have access to the same features (unless you feel like selling your account with it, which most likely won't), at least until they purchase a $10 pass.
Note this won't affect rentals (unless you rent multiple times) as all titles include a seven-day trial per user.
EA does say it's intent on providing value with all Online Pass-enabled games, and the program is simply intended to support the online experiences -- they are costly, after all.
"We actually view the second sale market as an opportunity to develop a direct relationship with our consumers," says Andrew Wilson, Senior Vice President of World Wide Development at EA Sports. "With Online Pass everyone has access to the same premium online services and content regardless of how and where you buy the game. 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. In return, we’ll continue to invest in creating great games and offer industry-leading online services to extend the game experience to everyone. I don’t think even the harshest cynic can argue with that and instead I think fans will see the value we’re committing to deliver when they see all the services, features and bonus content that is extending the life of their products."
The program starts next month with Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 11 and will be featured in all EA Sports sim titles on Xbox 360 and PS3.