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In an attempt to avoid being labeled as the most evil video game corporation in existence today, Electronic Arts responded to the uproar over the Online Pass expiration controversy. To quickly recap, an Online Pass basically enables a one-time code for the consumer to access special features or online functionality within a game. After using the code it becomes unusable by anyone else on any other system. Hence, if the original owner decides to trade the game in, anyone else who purchases the game used will not be able to access the special features or play the game online unless they buy a separate online pass. In this way, Online Passes are supposed to be privileged to the original consumer who bought the game brand new and no one else.
The problem, however, is that as reported in the earlier story, gamers have been complaining that purchasing some games brand new still rendered their Online Passes invalid. Meaning that even though gamers bought the games new they still couldn't access certain features such as the ability to play online. EA, however, wanted to clear the air about the expiring of Online Passes and ensure gamers that only some games have legitimate expiration dates for their Online Passes, but the rest aren't supposed to expire.
The response comes courtesy of Joystiq, who contacted EA to get an official verdict on what was going on with this whole Online Pass expiration thing. According to a EA support rep, the Online Passes aren't supposed to expire at all but they admit that some games, brand new, will have pass codes that can expire (however the network would have to be designed to reject the code after a certain period of time given that there's no such thing as a system automatically implementing time-restrictions, so saying the codes aren't supposed to expire is actually a straight-up lie) and that only some games were originally designed with preset expiration dates, such as Dragon Age 2, in which all the Online Passes expire for the game in March, 2012.
What's more is that this is even in the End User License Agreement, so if you wanted to throw it up at EA and say they had no right...well, if you consented then yeah, they did. The thing that makes it look bad for EA is the fact that such a thing would even be included in the EULA, meaning that they had already estimated that the pass codes would expire. And again, expiration dates would still need to be set within the system given that no network infrastructure can code itself for such a thing. In other words, this implementation was deliberate, just like with the Origin account deletion clause that EA claimed wasn't supposed to be in the EULA.
Now, according to Joystiq's paraphrase of EA's response, it's actually possible to re-acquire a working Online Pass for a new game if the code is expired, for free. However, as mentioned in the ShackNews report, those trying to re-acquire pass codes for games they bought brand new ran into problems with EA's technical support, sometimes getting the run-around via several different reps before getting a new pass-code. And here's where things get hairy: How do you determine if an Online Pass is from a brand new or used copy? What happens if someone owns multiple consoles trying to redeem a pass-code for one even though they may have used the original code on another? What happens if someone with a used copy and a pass code tries to get the code revalidated? Etc., etc.
Joystiq is still seeking further clarification from the higher ups at Electronic Arts given that the PR boilerplate response still doesn't explain why they enacted timed expirations for the Online Passes in the first place.
Of course, what an EA rep says to the public doesn't really mean much. In simple terms it's like a rapist saying "Here's a coupon for some Huggies".
But seriously, what else is EA really going to say that coincides with honesty or truth? You really think they're going to say..."Yeah, it was a scheme to get people to pay extra money to play older games online...shucks, it looks like we got busted, though."
The Online Pass was supposed to be used to fight piracy and used game sales (which is bollocks all the way around given that smaller publishers should be using a tactic like that for higher profits, not publishers who make billions of dollars a year) but realistically the Online Pass just seems like a less than coy way for EA to make a little extra dough on games that are already past their prime.
So, boys and girls, what did we learn from all of this? That most people will probably think it was just a simple mistake on EA's part and majority of people will still support them anyways. We also learned that good PR can allow you to get away with wallet raping people to no end.
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