In a lengthy interview with IndustryGamers, EA CEO John Riccitiello talked openly about EA’s decision to introduce the Online Pass system (also referred to as Project $10.)

“We did this because we’re evolving a service,” Riccitiello said. “We provide at least a third of all the benefits associated with a game after we ship it – and that’s not a mathematical equation behind that, I’m just scanning my team to see what they do. And it’s going to be 50-50 in no time, and in that world we’re ultimately going to figure out the best way and the best way to price those services.”

“We’re going to continue to experiment with smart models to support the heavy, heavy use that people are giving our games, not for two weeks like they used to be, but for a year or more post-release. I mean the project is only half done when we ship it. It keeps going. We’re selling services … it’s incumbent on us to prove the value, and that’s what we’re going to do this year in spades. We’re going to prove that what we say is not disingenuous.”From a publishing point of view, what Riccitiello says makes perfect sense. If players are getting more life out of their games, they are not spending that time buying other, new games. Publishers have turned to the idea of paid-for downloadable content (DLC) in order to generate revenue from the extended lifespan of titles.

At times this means providing desirable extras and expansions, but it can also lead to suspicions that various features that may have been present in the original title just a few years ago are now being withheld in order to sell them to the player later.

However, Project $10 differs from the basic DLC model, and this is something which Riccitiello did not appear to address in the interview. For all the talk of expanding and enhancing the online experience, Project $10/The Online Pass appears to offer nothing particularly different to buyers of new titles. The pass will simply be included (as part of the usual retail price) as a way to gain access to features which previously would have been accessible without this artificial barrier.

The Online Pass does not act as ticket to bonus content, it acts as a barrier to restrict content from those who buy the game second hand. EA will get no additional funding from Project $10, except from those who purchase games second hand and want access to the additional goodies. Whether this system is morally right or wrong, to present it in any other terms is seriously misleading on EA’s part.

It may seem crass, but it is always wise to follow the money. EA’s job as a publisher is to make money from you, the games consumer. As the company has reported gigantic net losses for the past three years, they are desperate to increase revenue. Schemes like DLC and Project $10 are designed purely to reverse this cash shortfall. Commericial interests and consumer benefits sometimes coincide, but this is not always the case.

Granted though, I’m one of the people Riccitiello characterised as the “small number of people that carry a cynicism about publishers in general.”

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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