Will You Pay to Play Used Games Online?

Driver: San Francisco

Driver: San Francisco

EA, Sony, THQ, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros. Interactive have all announced plans to start charging for “Online Passports,” which will be required purchases for players who want to play with used game discs. Specifically, these $10 passports will be needed to play multiplayer games (like Ubisoft’s Driver: San Francisco, pictured above), but there’s nothing to keep publishers from using the same policy for singleplayer campaigns in the future.

The basics are thus: you buy a brand new game, a passport code comes with it, which you use for accessing all of the online features of the game. Once the code is used, it can’t be transfered to anyone else. So if the disc winds up in a “used games” bin at a retailer, or even if you just borrow it from a friend, you won’t be able to access any of the online features — unless you shell out an extra $10 for a new passport.

I can understand where game publishers are coming from with this; it’s a means of preventing user abuse of their online services. But it also muddies the waters between games being a tangible product, versus a virtual/digital service. With games starting to occupy more and more space in the cloud, game possession could become a thing of the past. Maybe soon we’ll all be renters, and there will be no owning games anymore.

The music industry tried out that same model a while back with devices like Microsoft’s Zune, where you had unlimited access to cloud-based music for a monthly fee. On the other hand, film buffs have taken to this business model in huge numbers, accessing Netflix’s entire inventory of movies for a monthly fee. The burgeoning digital book industry hasn’t caught onto this notion yet, but it’s probably just a matter of time.

Services like Gamefly are already already offering video game rentals (though this new policy means that playing the online portions of rented games will cost you an additional $10 per game), but are gamers ready for where this road may inevitably end?



  1. lazarus64 says

    i’m sorry, you understand where their coming from! please explain youself abit more here. you say “it’s a means of preventing user abuse of their online services” you mean the ability to play their game online, who is that abuse? this is not cloud downloading either, you’ve just bought the hard copy of the game not a digital copy, its old school retail, let me ask u this, if u went to buy a second hand car would u expect to a fifth of the car price to the maker to unlock a biometric lock fitted by the maker to key it to the last owner? if the answer is no then don’t understand where their coming from and u don’t agree with this new “online passport”. its their way of of making money out the second hand games market, they already charge enough to make their money on the games already and if their not, easy make better games instead of rolling out rubbish. cloud downloads cost less because of the lower price costs of not having to make a hard copy, buying online passports for second hand games should mean the RRP should be lowered so we see the savings of them charging for second time play. neither of these things are happening, its just a way for publishers to increase their own profits

  2. OldGamer says

    I dunno… I guess the problem is that all the EULA’s I’ve seen say we only own a license, rather than the software itself. Using the above driving allegory, it’s not so much owning the car as owning the small piece of plastic that lets you legally _drive_ the car. The extra $10 would let you keep the piece of plastic, but would have new details on it, like your own name and photo id (okay, bad example, but you get the idea). Sure, it’s another way for the publishers to make money, but if you’re playing the game online, $10 for a transfer of license to play the game is a small price to pay to play a game secondhand, unless the secondhand game was only $10 cheaper than new obviously. The only downside I can see is that the gaming companies up the prices in the future and make the game uneconomical to buy secondhand.

  3. Siquo says

    What you’ve got to remember, which was pointed out in the review is the people who rent games.

    We pay for a service, we pay good money for this service. We don’t ‘own’ the games, we pay to rent them for a period of time.

    This means we cannot play the full game without paying an extra £8 / $10, is this right for a service we’re already paying for?

    We then send the game back, but we don’t get our £8 / $10 ‘licencing fee’ (as it’s been referred to) back.

    Paying an extra £8 / $10 per rental will make the rental market completely pointless.

    If all the developers jump on this band wagon, expect the rental and second hand markets drop quicker than a [removed] in a [removed]

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