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EA Sports Online Pass: Buy new or pay $10 to play online

5:49 PM on 05.10.2010 // Samit Sarkar

Last year, EA Sports introduced the long-awaited Online Franchise mode in Madden NFL 10. But if you wanted to play it, you had to either buy the game new and type in a one-time-use code that came in the box, or pay $10 for a code. This year, EA Sports is extending that policy across all of its games, and now, the code won't merely unlock a single online mode -- it's a gatekeeper for online play altogether.

You may not know Electronic Arts' "Project Ten Dollar" initiative by name, but if you've bought an EA game in the past year, you've probably dealt with it. It encourages gamers to buy EA games new -- as opposed to renting them or buying them used -- by offering bonus content with a pack-in code; used buyers and renters have to purchase a code for $10 to $15 in order to access the content. Examples include the Cerberus Network in Mass Effect 2 and the "VIP" content in Battlefield: Bad Company 2, both of which cost $15.

Starting with the release of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 on June 8th, all EA Sports games going forward will include a code in the case, and you'll need to type in that code in the menu in order to enable online play. If you buy an EA Sports 11 game used, or if you rent one, or if you borrow one from a friend, you'll have to buy a code from the Xbox Live Marketplace or the PlayStation Store for 800 Microsoft Points or $9.99, respectively. Of course, EA Sports will still afford you the privilege of purchasing DLC (or downloading free DLC) for its games, but without an Online Pass, you'll only be able to use the content offline.

Thankfully, EA Sports has included a provision for renters and borrowers: if you don't want to buy a code, you can activate a free seven-day trial of online play -- but you can only do it once per EA Sports game. Surprisingly, GameStop is on board with the EA Sports Online Pass -- the retailer will be selling Xbox Live Marketplace points and PlayStation Store cash cards alongside the 2010 EA Sports games.

Frankly, I don't have a problem with publishers trying to incentivize new purchases, and I'm not surprised that EA Sports is going as far as preventing renters and used buyers from playing online. As EA Sports' Senior VP of Worldwide Development, Andrew Wilson, notes, "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." I bet they'll see a marked increase in new purchases of their 2010 games. What do you guys think of this?

To find out more about the Online Pass, check out the FAQ here or the tutorial embedded after the jump.

Samit Sarkar,
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