Following EA's announcement in late May that it was eliminating the Online Pass program, gamers braced for "the twist." That occurred last week when Microsoft finally announced the digital rights management (DRM) scheme for the Xbox One, which would have made an Online Pass program unnecessary. However, with Sony's announcement the PlayStation 4 will follow the current model of game console DRM and used games, it was a question if Online Pass was back on the table at EA.
"We're not crafting a strategy to bring [Online Pass] back, you will not input codes to unlock your game, it's not going to happen," said Gibeau. The executive then moved on to tell us the company's decision to kill Online Pass and Microsoft's Xbox One DRM plans weren't linked at all, therefore PlayStation 4's recent reveal wouldn't have changed their decision on the program anyway. He called the Online Pass program "flat out dumb."
"The amount of money that we made, it didn't replace the amount of frustration we put on our customers and it didn't offset the reputation damage it caused the company. So we said 'it's not worth it,' and so the idea was, look, 'don't do stuff like that anymore,'" said Gibeau, noting the company had the opportunity to wipe the slate clean under interim CEO Larry Probst.
The original theory behind Online Pass, also known as "Project Ten Dollar," was to charge used games buyers a fee for using the company's servers. Gibeau notes EA will make money in other ways through services.
"Do used game buyers of FIFA participate in Ultimate Team? Yeah. Is it possible they might buy DLC? Yeah. Frankly, we're being more nuanced and sophisticated about it. Before we used a blunt instrument. Now we're going to be like 'Look, they own it, they bought the disc and it's theirs. They have a legitimate right for not doing anything illegal.'" Gibeau continued, "If we want to be progressive about it, we will make online services available to them that if they want to buy they can, but they don't have to. At least that way we participate in some monetization. The reputational damage [Online Pass] was causing us was in excess of the dollars we were making."
Gibeau acknowledged the company's reputation isn't the best with gamers and that this tension creates inherent distrust, but he said there was no conspiracy with Microsoft and he had no idea what Sony would do. He concluded, "At the end of the day, we're not going to replace [Online Pass]. It's not coming back. It's dead."