Warner Bros are sliding into the morasse that is the Online Pass Rip-Off with their upcoming release of Mortal Kombat. The successful publishing house looks set to join uber-rip-off merchants EA and THQ by limiting access to bundled content by using the “online pass”. As we’re wearily aware by now, the pass is one-use only, meaning that if you sell the game on, the next user will need to buy a new one. And they ain’t cheap, at c. $9.99 or 800 MS points.
The story isn’t 100% confirmed yet, with Joystiq revealing an email, apparently from WBIE to retailers, that spells out the plans. Most devious of all, if true, it seems there’ll be no notice on the game packaging or in promo material to reveal the lameass liability lurking within. And with WBIE behind F.E.A.R. 3 and Batman: Arkham City, it looks like the tentacles of publisher greed are squeezing their slimy mitts ever tighter round the poor gamer.
But wait. Not greedy you say? A fair way to make money, and to compensate developers for the ongoing provision of online content to subsequent users who’ve paid nothing to the developer?
Tosh. We already pay for online access (on Xbox at least) – developers should go cap in hand to Microsoft if they want help footing the bill. And we’re getting rinsed left, right and centre for DLC at the same time. But the difference there, at least, is that most of that content isn’t essential. Having publishers block crucial gameplay elements like online multiplayer is tantamount to theft – selling us a product with those features, and then nicking them back if we pass the game on. Would it be fair for Ford to sell you a car, but take back the steering wheel if you sold it on?
OK, I get the difference. Publishers can differentiate between the core product and the online content and package the latter as a ‘bonus’ for the original purchaser. But that ‘bonus’ is given on the basis it’s for the life of the game. If I sell, I’m ending my access early – I should be able to release the unused value in it. And even if you don’t agree on that, there’s no way that $9.99 – a quarter of the cost of a typical RRP, or closer to half the price of a second hand sale – is a fair price for online content. And there’s no way that hiding the policy, as WBIE are rumoured to be doing, is a fair way to act.
This isn’t balancing things out – it’s a rip-off price, and a rip-off policy, and it’s definitely going to damage the online community.
So come on publishers – play fair. Admit to the online pass if you use it, price it fairly if you must have it, or, better still, drop it altogether and swallow the tiny cost yourself.
Vive la revolution!