EA Continues To Piss Off Lots Of Customers By Trying To Block Used Market With Single Use Codes

from the such-anger dept

Late last night, people started submitting variations on this story about how EA is expanding its controversial program to use one-time use codes on EA Sports Games, which basically let purchasers access more aspects of a game, but only with the purchase of an additional $10 or $15 code. The only real reason for this is to hold back the used video game market — something that the video game maker has been bitching about for ages, saying totally nonsensical things, such as claiming that used video games defraud the industry and are bad for consumers.

Of course, the actual research suggests exactly the opposite. A robust secondary or “used” product market actually helps boost the original market in a variety of ways. First, it creates some product segmentation, allowing those who wouldn’t necessarily buy the product at the higher price to get into the market. Second, it actually makes the original game more valuable, because buyers know they can turn around and sell it and get some of their money back at a later date. Taking that option out of the market actually hurts the demand in the primary market.

But, an even bigger issue is just how much people absolutely hate annoyances like this. I wasn’t going to post the story originally, because it’s just a continuation of EA’s program. But people have been submitting it non-stop all morning — and every single one of them is expressing serious anger about this decision on EA’s part. Compare that to the widespread love and admiration from people buying the Humble Indie Bundle of video games, where the developers specifically decided to focus on rewarding customers, rather than punishing people for doing stuff they didn’t like. Now, obviously, EA is much bigger than a bunch of indie developers, and perhaps they feel they can get away with obnoxious practices because they’re so big, but it’s a strategy that is likely to backfire in the long run. Pissing off your biggest fans and customers is not a long-term strategy for success.

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Comments on “EA Continues To Piss Off Lots Of Customers By Trying To Block Used Market With Single Use Codes”

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faceless (profile) says:

This is not just about used games!

Many EA games use these codes to lock features out of the game period. So if you have a wife, girlfriend, brother, sister, cousin, roommate or friend who plays your game on your console, they can’t play the full game because some features are locked into the EA Account that used the code.

So, even someone buying new is screwed if they aren’t the only gamer in the house.

Anonymous Coward says:

Pissing off your biggest fans and customers is not a long-term strategy for success.

Sure it is. Just ask the recording industry.

“The future of E.M.I. has been thrown into doubt after Mr. Hands failed to reach an agreement with its lender, Citigroup, over the label’s £3.2 billion ($4.7 billion) debt.

Now, Mr. Hands is reportedly hoping to persuade investors to put up £360 million to prevent a breach of the company’s loan covenants.”


Music is so corporate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Oh yeah. EA’s 4.2 billion in revenue is really quaking under that pressure. Ea made more money in half a day than the entire Indy bundle’s developers made since conception.

Again, cute to criticize EA (and other media conglomerates), but really you want to criticize the people that buy into these schemes. EA is simply trying to make a buck. Also, they are trying an experiment, something I thought the Masnick was gung-ho about!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Probably so. Netscape never had revenue generation like EA has and had a questionable business outlook from the beginning.

Yahoo never changed its model with the times. I fail to see how that is relevant here? EA is finding a new source of revenue, and actively engaging it. We should both applaud experiments like this and stay away from them if we don’t like it. Whining about it does nothing productive.

abc gum says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, apparently being a Scrooge is good for the short term bottom line. Go figure. I think they teach this principle in Econ 101, but thanks for the headsup anyway.

How is it “cute” to point out a flaw? I don’t get it.

It is interesting to watch a large corp “experiment” upon their loyal subjects … perhaps this is cute also ?

Same ol' EA says:

Memo to EA: charging for something does not equal adding value, it just means you want money for something. Value will always be determined by the customer.

Therefore, I submit a motion to strike the term ‘value added’ from all vendor doublespeak regarding customers paying extra for the same or less.

They can do what they want, of course, but it’s a transparent underhand poking around in pockets and a show of unwillingness to compete – they could run their own trade-in market, but they don’t so what did they think would happen? People sell and trade everything, it has ever been thus. What difference does it make if it’s the original buyer or later a second-hand buyer playing? The first isn’t playing if the second is, they’ve just switched out, tag team like.

Don’t Xbox players already pay monthly to play online anyway? Gah, this convoluted crap is what keeps me from any online type game.

How on earth did they make the colossal profits they do without this new plan? How dangerous a line they’ve walked hand in hand with the used game market for lo these many years! Please.

Devalue your product before it’s sold. Shut out new potential customers working their own budgets. All are thieves anyway, even those that buy new. I expect nothing less than this type of stuff from EA. I used to be a repeat customer who always bought new, but they’ve literally driven me away from their products due to overbearing DRM or overcomplicated online tethering or underwhelming adventures in coding or this nickeldimey nonsense. I’d actually feel like a dope for buying from them anymore.

They don’t change unless sued and they don’t learn, they exploit. That’s how you destroy brand loyalty. Well done!

I don’t even want their stuff used and it’s ALL DOWN TO THEM – not pirates, not the economy, EA itself. Sad thing: I’d buy if they’d show they didn’t hate me so much for being a paying customer…not holding my breath.

My EA haet, let me show you it.

iamtheky (profile) says:

What about the additional costs they take on to offer online competitive play and DLC? It seems I get a lot more support for COD-MW2 than I did for Lode Runner. As long as the game is completely playable as advertised without the need for additional content where is the issue?

As they progress through re-pay strategies, I would guess the next step is the WoW subscription model for console games….. and then patent that guess.

open2discussion (profile) says:

Re: Re:

How about the fact that EA already got the full value of the game – $60 for the console version – when the first sucker bought it. I’m absolutely positive they factored that money into their support/online play/server cost structure model and will have plenty of leftover cash from that overblown $60 price for advertising and endorsements to the millionaire sports heroes they plaster all over the front covers of their games.

Any money they gouge (yes, this is price gouging) from the resale market is pure gravy in the shareholders’ pockets. Think warranty from Best Buy without the extra work on EA’s part.

A resale of a console video game disc requires no extra servers, no extra support, and no extra legal costs than it did for the original first sale. This needs to be brought to the attention of the FTC and the Supreme Court and shown for exactly what it is – a blatant attempt to circumvent the first-sale doctrine. In the end, EA can do what they like… but I can guarantee that EA will eventually lose its shirt in doing this. Either from the backlash of the gamers, or the class action suits, or backlash of resellers that can’t unload their shelves of inferior products because no one wants to buy a half-crippled product used.

Perfect Example: Mass Effect 2. Gamestop already has had to lower their price by $10 ($45 used) for the used version of this game to match the normal resell value of $55 because they know people won’t buy this game for more than it would be worth brand new.

$60 – new (includes code for $10 of crippled content)
$55 – normal used price at Gamestop(no $10 code)
$45 – now used price at Gamestop (no $10 code)

It would cost a gamer $65 to buy the game used if Gamestop didn’t eat $10 of their normal resale profits. It won’t be long before Gamestop realizes this takes a dump all over their profit model, and they stop or severely limit sale of EA products in favor of other development organizations that don’t screw them or their customers.

Talk about devaluing a product in the long run for a short-term gain. EA, watch out. Give yourselves a few months or a year… but you’re about to reap what you’ve sown.

Yakko Warner says:

Re: Re:

Online competitive play is part of the development of the game. It’s $60 already spent and collected for that disc. If that disc is resold, it’s no additional burden, as the original player can no longer play it (they’ve sold their disc, see), and the new owner now takes up that space already paid for.

Other DLC is already sold at an additional cost. Or did you forget paying $15 for that COD-MW2 map pack (the so-called “Stimulus Package”)?

Dirk Belligerent (profile) says:

EA Wants To Be The Evil Empire Again

For forever EA was known as the Evil Empire, milking franchises with annual roster updates and minimal feature improvements. They had to resort to massive licensing deals (e.g. the NFL) to ice out competition when 2K Games was making better sports games and selling them for 40% of the MSRP of EA’s games. Then they started to mellow out, backing original IPs like Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space, and generally not being d-bags.

Sensing the void, Activision stepped up and started making even EA’s abuses seem mild by running formerly gold franchises like Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk into the ground so ferociously that only a bloody pulp (and plummeting sales) remained. Their last golden goose, Infinity Ward, has been destroyed with all the top talent packing up and heading over to…whoops! EA!…because ACTV figured the best reward for the house that delivered the biggest selling ANYTHING in entertainment was to screw them on promised payments and firing the bosses. Activision is the cancer that Blizzard has to worry about infecting them and Bungie (and Halo fans) are about to find how how terrible the House That Pitfall Built can be.

But lo and behold, here comes EA taking their code cards in new games to the next level by shutting out those who pick up last year’s models for massive savings. While not as d-baggy as Ubisoft’s “Treat Paying Customers Like Thieves” DRM program, it’s still a nasty cash grab in a down economy and people are likely to respond with a hearty “FTS!” to the scheme.

Or they’ll pony up. I remember the howls when Guitar Hero II’s DLC pricing was announced. The inability to a la carte the tracks; the griping about the pricing; it was all heard and much grousing was sprayed across teh Intarwebz, but then people went and bought the tracks anyway – “It sucks, but I really want to play [song title]” – and the die was cast. Sellouts.

dryii says:

get your facts straight

This article is ridiculous. First it’s inaccurate in implying the original owner/purchaser of the game has to spend more money to access all the features. The charge EA is implementing only applies to folks that purchase the game used.

Second, this issue makes me wonder why folks believe that Gamestop, and other resale retailers who had no part in making the game, are doing nothing wrong by buying the game back from player at less than $10 and then selling it again “used” for $30 – $40, or more, is OK. 400% profit from doing basically nothing but storing the game on their shelves until the next buyer comes along. Now EA has implemented a feature to also recoup some of the resale value of the game they created… this is “evil” why?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: get your facts straight

“…this issue makes me wonder why folks believe that Gamestop, and other resale retailers who had no part in making the game, are doing nothing wrong by buying the game back from player at less than $10 and then selling it again “used” for $30 – $40, or more, is OK. 400% profit from doing basically nothing but storing the game on their shelves until the next buyer comes along.”

This is not evil, it’s tapping a lucrative market that the publishers have failed to realize. If it weren’t a viable market, it wouldn’t make so much money.

Etch says:

Re: No YOU get your facts straight

People buy second hand games because they can’t afford new releases. Their prices are way overblown. SO when you can’t afford a new game, you buy a slightly older game for a cheaper price, and get more use out of your console!!

Meanwhile, you wait for used copies of this new game to hit the market and buy it once its out. This won’t affect the sales of new games because if these second hand gamers can afford to buy them new they wouldn’t wait!

Gamestop used games is for suckers. I bought used games from craigslist/ebay. 50% off or more. Then its worth it.

The whole used market model was proven to invigorate the economy and keep old used goods that would be kept thrown on a shelf somewhere or in the garbage bin back into circulation, enticing trade and generating new cash flow! Not to mention benefits to the environment/recycling.

Besides, its our right as consumers to resell OUR goods. But for them to slap a charge for using the game in another console is bullshit. I have 2 PS3’s, one at the office and one at home .. , I have to pay extra to have it working on them both?? BULLSHIT!!


What pisses me off more is the markets that these fucking game manufacturers not only ignore, but they block completely! Like markets that aren’t in Europe/Americas/Japan!

I recently moved from Canada & US to live in Egypt, and quickly found out that I’m not allowed to buy any games or content online! I’m fucking paying for it with my US credit card, so what’s the problem?

Even the legal overpriced games that I purchase from Game stores here, (I’m talking 300% pricier than US games after duties, tariffs, whatever ), some won’t allow me to play online because my IP is coming from Egypt!!

These kinds of Herculean controls over what we do with something we purchased legally is too much and it pushes people to pirate!! I didn’t believe that to be the case until I moved to Egypt and found out that for the entire African/Middle eastern market, the only way to get what you want working is to crack it!

Movies/Games are pirated not because people can’t afford them, but because there are no other alternatives for more than half of the globe’s population!

The reason I stopped purchasing PC games was because of all the bullshit that goes with it, DRMs, Video card not compatible, etc. I started buying games only for console because you stick it in the console out of the box and it works! … But now I have to worry about all this shit again! One time fees, IP address tracers.. etc!

Fine .. you do that, meanwhile, I will encourage piracy until they start getting their act together and start treating good intentioned customers well. This is more than a slap in the face, this is pure, smelly, brown BULLSHIT, and I’m pissed.

dryii says:

Re: Re: No YOU get your facts straight

ROFL, your response is very amusing to me. You start by talking up how used games “invigorate the economy” and end by promoting stealing.

The creative minds (programmers, artists, etc.) that work to give us new games, or even find innovative ways to enhance established franchises, deserve our support. If you don’t have the means to give back for the hours and hours of enjoyment you receive from playing the game, then you really shouldn’t be playing it. Period. I don’t think $10 to the manufacturer/distributor for the additional, ever changing online component of the game is unreasonable for someone who’s acquired the game at such a significant discount.

Etch says:

Re: Re: Re: No YOU get your facts straight

You clearly don’t get it, or just didn’t read anything I said.

My argument is when there is no other way to get content in countries where it is not available, even legally.
I purchase Blu-Ray Discs and all my games are authentic, 100%.

The PS3 store that I can access from Egypt won’t allow me to purchase or download anything because it can tell I’m logging in from the Middle East, so the only way for me to watch my favorite shows is through the black market.

The creative minds absolutely deserve our support, and I’m not promoting stealing. I’m promoting relaxing the ridiculous restrictions that restrict instead of promote, and ends up descriminating between its customers.

Same as the Used and New Games, more restrictions for no good reason!!
They will be killing the second hand market by doing that, and that can’t be a good thing for them. The second hand market isn’t their enemy, its their friend, but they only see numbers!

If all older games are just as pricey as the newer games, the console makers lose!

Clueby4 says:


Why evil:

– The games are, more often then not, hosted by customer devices
– EA has no problem pulling online play for older titles.
– EA has already been compensated by the original customer; whose seat is only being reused the used game player does not add additional load.

The back end cost are a joke; especially when not many games are provided dedicated hosts by EA. So what do they really have to fund; website and a host list(s).

jedipunk (profile) says:

Re: Evil

I see the online pass as a lifetime (of the game) membership to the a privileged area that new buyers get free with the game and used buyer must pay extra for. What club would allow the free transfer of a lifetime membership to someone else when a member gets tired of the club?

Regardless, why should EA or anyone shell out more support costs, hardware costs, etc. for a person who buys the game 6 years after it came out (that would be me btw)? Even if it is negligible, those are dollars that could be used elsewhere rather than on someone who gave no money back to EA.

To address others complaining of borrower/renters getting access, EA does allow a 7 day trial for each game prior to purchase.

Games/Software have an expected shelf life on which companies anticipate an ROI. If people don’t like the terms vote with your wallet.

kryptonianjorel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Evil

Regardless, why should EA or anyone shell out more support costs, hardware costs, etc. for a person who buys the game 6 years after it came out (that would be me btw)? Even if it is negligible, those are dollars that could be used elsewhere rather than on someone who gave no money back to EA.

I don’t care if those dollars can be used elsewhere, those dollars are supposed to be used to support a game I bought legally, whether or not i bought it used or new.

So, are you saying that if I buy the game new on day 1, it should work for me 6 years later, but it shouldn’t work for people who bought it used? Most of the value of the game is that people can sell it and recoup the some of the purchasing cost. By making people who buy the game secondhand pay something to the developer, the game’s original cost should be lowered to compensate.

jedipunk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Evil

So, are you saying that if I buy the game new on day 1, it should work for me 6 years later, but it shouldn’t work for people who bought it used?

Yes, that is what I am saying because buying used adds no income to the people supporting the online pass system. If the online pass required no maintenance from EA then I would feel differently.

Refer to my club analogy.

Club X is built. Memberships are valid for a lifetime. Investors expect that these fees accumulated by members will pay for upkeep. New members use resource more often the older members. As member interest wains, Club X benefits.

If Club X allowed for members to sell the membership then Club X will have a group of members that have not contributed anything to the maintenance of the building. They are only there because they got a good deal when a previous member moved or got bored. So now the new member has extended the life of a membership ruining the anticipated ROI to the company.

If we extend this out and allow for the possibility that eventually everyone will simply transfer their membership to recoup their cost then Club X will cease to be. No new income means that they will operate in the red and go under.

jedipunk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Evil

I don’t care if those dollars can be used elsewhere, those dollars are supposed to be used to support a game I bought legally, whether or not i bought it used or new.

If you bought the game used then none of the money you spent went to support the game.

Developers give everything a shelf life. A game you bought in 1991 is not going to work on systems today. My father complains about this a lot. He hates today’s games and his old computer (that will play the game) barely works. He thinks his new computer should be able to play his old game.

Danny says:

Re: Re: Re: Evil

Not only the money issue but trying to cut out the used game market pretty much makes it impossible for game companies to build up legacies. By that I mean where would Mario be if none of his games worked six years after release. A few examples: Super Mario Bros. hit America in 1986. Imagine if suddenly in 1992 no one was able to play their copy anymore? 1993, wave bye bye to the original Legend of Zelda. And how about the noob shit storm that would have happned in 2003 (6 years after FF7).

My point is if they start building expiration dates into game you can kiss franchises and legacies goodbye. Oh and mess around and own a game for 7 years then somehow lose it or it gets damaged beyond playability? S.O.L.

jedipunk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Evil

But they are not building the games to expire.

Shelf life refers to the length of time they are willing to support a system for game play. In this case, there is the additional “how long do they plan to support online game play” question.

No company is going to keep servers online forever for online game play and these still play without the online pass. Heck, even digital music distributors are realizing the DRM servers are a pain for non subscription services. Apple is the only big one still doing it, I think, and even there you can buy DRM free. If it is a pain for something as simple song licenses it has to be a much bigger pain to maintain a server for the extras of online game play (especially when no new money is coming in).

Regardless, requiring a fee for online game play of a game bought second hand allows them to recoup some of the cost required in extending the life on online game play when that second hand purchase would not give anything to the company originally (but extended game life cost).

Danny says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Evil

I think may have misunderstood then.

I don’t expect any server to stay on forever. Simply charging a fee I for online play I can get along with because as you say there are costs to keeping those servers alive. But to me this was sounding like an intentional effort to keep that second hand buyer from being able to play online period, which makes no sense. If I buy a used game and am paying the monthly online fee why should I have to buy a code to be able to play online?

jedipunk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Evil

I can’t say that I believe this is only a move to reduce second hand sales because I think the second hand sellers (Gamestop) are going to have to eat the $10 cost by dropping the price. Second hand sales will still occur they just will not get to make a 400% profit.

If it was a move to kill secondhand sales they would make the online pass cost higher or not offer one at all. That being said they even offer a trail for free.

That being said, your currently monthly fee is for access to maybe Xbox live. It does not include in its cost premium content game manufactures may offer.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Won't buy more new games

I used to buy a lot of new games because I could sell them after I finished playing them. For whatever reason, this market is drying up. I tried to sell Bioshock 2 a few weeks after it came out and I couldn’t even get half the asking price. The reason could be the recession, it could be everyone uses GameStop and not Kijiji, or it could be that people know that a significant part of the game may or may not be available (depending on whether the original purchaser used the code).

The reality is I can’t afford to pay $70 and sell it for $30. So I’m going to switch to computer games or start buying used. I’m the rich guy who EA wants to keep as a primary customer and they are screwing it up.

Rikuo (profile) says:

What about Xbox Live

One problem here is that this screws over Xbox customers.

In order to play Xbox Live Games online, you have to pay for a Gold membership. That compensates Microsoft for their online infrastructure. Now, EA wants Gold members to have to fork out more money for a specific game? I can see this kicking off a storm.
In the end that’s THREE times I’ve payed to play online.
1. Internet bill.
2. Xbox Live Gold.
3. Now, for the specific game.

I bet if EA thought they could get away with it, they would want DNA and blood tests, plus a “small fee” every time you played the game. Welcome back to the Evil Empire.

dryii says:

Re: What about Xbox Live

If you purchase the game new, there are no addition fees for playing online, so your point is moot. Only when you purchase the game used, at what will be a significant discount, will you need to pay (one time fee) for the online features of the game. As your Internet bill and Live! Gold are recurring fees, this also doesn’t compare well in your example.

EA IS EVIL says:

EA did to one of there partners

In August 1998, Westwood was acquired by Electronic Arts for $122.5 million in cash. At the time, Westwood had 5% to 6% of the PC game market. In response to EA’s buyout, many long-time Westwood employees quit and left Westwood Studios. Because of this and EA’s newly imposed demands, games being developed by Westwood Studios at the time were rushed and left unfinished upon their release, namely Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun. All the subsequent games developed by Westwood were also “heavily subjected to increased control” by “Electronic Arts”, with ‘some of them being cancelled’.

Along with Westwood, EA had also acquired Virgin Interactive’s development studio based in Irvine, California. It was managed by Westwood and became known as Westwood Pacific, and later EA Pacific. Westwood Pacific developed or co-developed games like Nox and the Command & Conquer: Red Alert’s sequel Red Alert 2, which takes place in an alternate universe to that of the original title Command & Conquer. One of the last games released by Westwood, Command & Conquer: Renegade (an action game, which mixed elements from first-person shooters and real-time strategy games) failed to meet consumer expectations and commercial goals Electronic Arts had set for it. In March of 2003, Westwood Studios (along with EA Pacific) was liquidated by EA, and all willing staff were assimilated into EA Los Angeles. Their last video game was the MMORPG Earth & Beyond.

On March 17, 2004, Electronic Arts announced that Earth and Beyond would be closing six months later on September 22

“You Decide will EA still be the Heartless Bastard it was or can it change as for me I was a westwood fan and still am!!”

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