Rocksteady Studios have made the decision to include an online pass with their highly-anticipated single-player game Batman: Arkham city. The pass, included with every new copy of the game, will unlock the certain sections of the game that include Catwoman. Apparently, this equates to around 10% of the actual campaign. What happens if you decide that money is a bit tight, and you choose to hold out for a pre-owned copy of the game? Well, for starters, that 10% of the game is locked out, unless you decide to stump up and pay for the online pass through XBL or the Playstation network.
Now online passes have been around for a while. In theory, I don’t really have too much of a problem with them. What with piracy being as rampant as it is, developers need to claw back as much cash as they possibly can for, at times, their years of work getting that game out to market. Developers see absolutely nothing from the sale of a used game. Not a penny. So in trying to get some hard-earned back for their efforts the online pass was developed. Basically, every new game would come with a code that allowed you to play online. Enter the code and bingo, off you go. Decide to purchase that game pre-owned, and you have to get your pass by a purchase from the MS or Sony marketplace. The devs then get a slice of that pie. What else can the developers of said game do to get paid from all of their efforts?
Obviously, the answer is to incentivise the customer to purchase the game brand new. Make the content appealing, make the new package so drool-worthy that your average gamer will cut off his thumbs to get a hold of that game. In theory, it sounds pretty simple. In practice, however, it’s just not working.
Go into your local game store the next time you’re out and about, be that Game, Gamestation, your local independent….whatever. Go in and have a look at the new games that are due to come out soon. The amount of pre-order bonuses, deals, collectors editions and boxed sets you can get is absolutely off the fucking scale. Vanilla edition, hardened edition, steel edition, jelly edition, titan edition, erection edition….it’s getting beyond the point of hilarity. Whenever I see a new game due out i’m getting to the point of literally not knowing what one to get. “Pre-order now to get an exclusive character skin”, “Pre-order now for 2 exclusive weapons and maps”, “pre-order to get the pointless fucking replica clothing patch”. What happened to just walking into a shop and picking up a game, knowing you were getting the same content as every other fucker? When faced with buying a game now, i’m getting the choice if this version, that version, the bigger boxed version….it’s fucking killing me. And we’re not just faced with different versions of the game, oh no….now we get different content dependent on what shop we buy the c**ting game from! Gamestation and Game have an exclusive Robin pack that you only get if you purchase the game from them. The piss is being taken, and we’re just lapping it up like there is no tomorrow. Especially if you’re a Playstation 3 owner. Remember all those guarantees about online gaming will ALWAYS be free on the PS3? Well, with the whole online pass deal you can forget that can’t you?
In no other form of media do we put up with this. Be that the DVD market, the used book market, CD’s, whatever. Imagine the scenario. You go to your local second hand book store and buy a book. Just as you’re getting to that gripping finale, there is an insert which states “to enjoy the rest of this book, go to www.you’rebeingfuckingblagged.com and pay just £4.99 to have the final chapter emailed to you instantly. You don’t get deleted scenes and making of documentarys locked out if you buy a second hand DVD. And imagine the uproar if you bought a pre-owned CD and you had to pay another few quid to have the vocal track added to the songs. Only in gaming do we get this. I know you may very well say “well, there are no chains of shops that sell those items second hand like games shops do”. That means fuck all as far as i’m concerned.
What does the online pass mean for the tens of thousands of gamers that DON’T play online? What about multiple accounts on a single console, such as what you may find in a student household? Another scenario. Both me and my brother live at home. We both own an Xbox 360, and because money is tight we club together and buy the games we want together. We buy each game brand new, as we love gaming and want to see developers get every single penny they deserve. I play Batman: Arkham city for a couple of hours and activate the online pass. My brother then takes the game, plays it for a while and bingo. He can’t get the Catwoman content as i’ve already used the pass code. Instantly he’s locked out of that content, but why? He bought the same new copy as I did.
What need to happen is this. Game developers need to open a dialogue with retail. It sounds simple, and it is. Rather than take the online pass approach, they just need to make it clear that without them the gaming shops would be shut. It’s as simple as. Of course it will be difficult to impliment, but it’s not impossible. With retailers such as Game selling pre-owned games for just a fraction under the price that the new game is anyway, surely they can take off a sizable slice for the actual devs of that particular game? The dev gets their cut, and the retailer still makes more on the sale of that game that they would do on a copy of that new title anyway….everybody’s happy.
There HAS to be a solution that will benefit developers, retail and more importantly, the people that actually fork out for those games, that’s you and me. I for one would call for all of the major players, be that Activision, EA, Ubisoft and Game, Gamestation and HMV to start to actually make contact and see what can be done about the situation. If the current situation keeps on as it is, i’m going to get fed up very quickly with the current gaming climate. With the economy being as fucking shite as it is, most gamers, like myself, have to be very cautious about what purchases we make, hence the huge pre-owned gaming industry. What I would do is simple. Make one, no…maybe TWO versions of a game. A standard edition and a bells and whistles huge collectors boxed set, just for the fans that are into models, art books and all that other bollocks. Every new copy of the game, if it has an online mode, comes with 2-3 maps and weapons that are EXCLUSIVE to a new copy. They will never be available for download, or as an in store bonus. People who purchase the game second hand are as free as anyone else to play online, to download new maps, guns, characters….whatever. But they will never get to play those exclusive maps. I can already hear people whining about it, but if you want the maps, just save that extra £10 or whatever and get the game new. If you want to save that amount, just do without the exclusive maps. You’ll probably just veto the fucking things when they come up in the playlist anyway, so quit whining! Don’t make any of the DLC game changing, such as what gamers were moaning about when the Battlefield 3 DLC was announced. Just give us a few extra skins, differing weapons and maybe some exclusive avatar items.
I know I may be making a simplistic arguement, in in parts ok, it’s a bit naive. But something has to be done. Just look at some of the games that currently need an online pass, or have done in the past;
Batman: Arkham City
Battlefield Bad Company 2
Dead Space 2
Driver: San Francisco
EA Sports MMA
Fight Night Champion
Madden NFL 11, 12
NCAA Football 11, 12
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit
Need For Speed Shift 2
Socom Fireteam Bravo 3
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, 12
UFC 2010 Undisputed
WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2011
It’s starting to become the norm. So. I’ve decided to cut my cock off to spite my sex life. I for one am not going to purchase Batman: Arkham city when it’s released here next week. This isn’t a call to arms, i’m not asking you to do the same, i’m not going to start making pointless fucking petitions and send them off to Rocksteady studios….i’m simply not getting it. I WILL buy the game eventually, and it will be a new purchase. I’m going to wait until next year when the obvious “Game of the year” edition will come out, when all the DLC and bollocking content will be in the same package. I know i’m going to miss out on a game that by all accounts is probably the best game anyone will play all year, but when it come to single player content being locked out it’s a decision that I cannot support, and I truly hope that other like minded souls will do the same and make a very, tiny, miniscule dent in the total sales figures of BAC.
Even if you totally disagree with what I have to say, i’d like to hear your thoughts. But please, keep the comments on track. If you just post something stupid I won’t even approve it for comment. I want to really hear your thoughts on this matter.
Until then, i’ll leave you in the hands of the dynamic due themselves….
Batman: Arkham city is due for release on 21st October, 2011. On Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.