So you can imagine our surprise when news broke today that EA, the pioneers of the online pass system, are set to be scrapping them for all future releases. It's certainly come somewhat out of the blue, with the official reason being given that scrapping the program is a "direct result of players' responses" – although why it's taken three years to renege on it is anybody's guess. And while the original reason for starting to program was that the money was essential server maintenance and development, EA's senior corporate communications director John Reseburg has declared that they're “still committed to creating content and services that enhance the game experience well beyond the day you first start playing”.
In all, it does seem something of a rash decision from EA, as despite widespread customer disapproval, their games still went on to sell huge numbers – as proven by the sales figures for each iteration of the Fifa franchise alone. In fact, revenue for online passes alone netted EA somewhere between $10 and $15 million in 2010, and that was before it escalated from just sports titles to every EA game going. All things considered, the more cynical amongst us may suspect that there's another reason for the backtracking, which may well rest at the feet of the next generation. Rumours were rife that the new Xbox and Playstation would somehow block used games, and while Sony have issued a statement to say that won't be the case, Microsoft have made no such comments – and when you consider that Microsoft and EA have been chummy since the early days of the 360, there's a distinct possibility they've only dropped the online passes because the next console(s) will effectively make them redundant.
EA weren't the only company using the controversial system, though, with games from both Codemasters, Ubisoft, THQ and Sony coming with single-use codes too – although there's no news on whether other publishers will now be pressured to drop them too. EA also didn't disclose which of their games would be the first to come without a single-use code, although they did suggest that from this point forward no more online passes would be included – we'll have to wait and see whether the dreaded piece of paper makes it's appearance this autumn in Fifa 14 then.