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Jed Whitaker avatar 8:42 PM on 10.20.2011  (server time)
Online Passes: The 1% Punishes Us All

If you stand back and look at online passes from both stand points, you will get a better understanding of them. Game developers work hard and deserve their money, while users shouldn't be punished for wanting to get their games for cheaper. But what are the real reasons behind having these passes?

The first logical reason: piracy

Piracy has always been around since the invention of software. Retailers thought computers wouldn't take off and refused to stock software, therefore piracy was the only way most people had to get their software. These days if you know how to use a computer and read you can easily pirate any form of media on the market. But the thing about online passes...they aren't new, they have been around for years on the PC in a way. PC games and software have been using serials to combat piracy for quite some time, serials are required to receive updates or play online, therefore preventing would be pirates from accessing the full game.

Fast forward to today, consoles have online functionality, but are lacking in the security department. If you can download a game and burn a backup, you get access to online, as there is no other verification besides the game data that you own the game and have the right to play online. PC publishers realized a long time ago that if they give pirates a taste of the game, but prevent them from playing online at the very least, that it may actually encourage them to purchase the game, an extended demo, if you will.

Online passes now make this a reality for consoles, in a sense, but instead of buying the game, you pay $10 to play your pirated copy online. Of course this only really applies to Xbox 360, as Wii has no real security or online passes to speak of (maybe EA games?) and the PS3 has it's online locked down, at least to pirates, as they obviously let hackers in willy nilly.

The second logical reason: cost of bandwidth

The initial purchase of the game covers the costs for the development and advertising of the product, but what about all that bandwidth users eat up? Think of it this way, you own a pet shop, you breed some really fine pussies there, you get a hot new litter of kittens in and sell them to people who adore the quality of your pussies, but then you have to pay to feed those pussies until they die...

This mostly applies to Sony consoles and EA games (the two main offenders) but the cost of bandwidth and online is becoming increasingly expensive. Both Sony and EA have dedicated servers for their games that users can freely access, and without a paid online service for either of them, it's like throwing money into a fire. Xbox Live, on the other hand, makes users host games, not giant server clusters...which makes you wonder...why do we continue to pay for Xbox Live...oh that's right, Twitter and Facebook integration... (NOTE: Gears of War 3 has dedicated servers, as well as a few other AAA titles.)

Sony charges publishers for their bandwidth used towards download content, reportedly 18 cents per gigabyte. Notice how few demos there are on PSN when compared to the Xbox Live Marketplace, now you know why. To a publisher, it can be very costly to release a demo on PSN, especially if the game flops. You can't blame Sony for their approach, they don't make people pay to play online, so they have to get their money somewhere, so they go to the publishers and shit is starting to roll down hill to the players.

But does Logic Prevail?

Is it right to punish the user for buying a used game? Near launch it makes sense as the servers are still up and active and they have mouths to feed, but months after As a gamer you have to realize if you purchase a game months after it has released the online community will be nearly non-existant unless it's a AAA title. So before you cry about online passes, remember, it's a choice you are making if you purchase it, you don't have to.

Batman: Arkham City has some cat women content on the disc that is unlocked for those that purchase the game new, with used consumers having to pony up $10 for that content. It equates to having launch day download content, as it adds trophies and achievements on top of the normal limit. I really don't see a problem with doing this, no one complains about paying for download content down the line that they missed out on cause they didn't pre-order the game, and the same should be the case here.

The Eventual Solution

Soon everything will go digital and will not require you to leave the house to get the latest game, something pirates already have the conveinance of. If the video game industry needs to change anything, they NEED to go digital, It's better for everyone involved. The industry needs to look at the music and movie industry and learn from their pasts. Today ITunes, Spotify, and Netflix reign supreme, people want what they want, and they want it now. Microsoft and Sony have been offering digital versions of their games, but only months after release, which kind of defeats the purpose.

The next generation consoles need to be 100% digital, it impacts piracy, cost of manufacturing discs, and is conveinant for the end user. Look at Steam, you can access your games anywhere, it's magical. Now imagine doing the same thing with the next generation Xbox, now imagine that next generation Xbox streaming the game like OnLive does...can you see it...IT'S THE FUTURE! And that, my friends, is my "Cable Guy" like prediction.

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