The Online Pass Has Not Created a Huge Revenue Stream for EA

Posted September 10th, 2011 at 5:15 pm

First introduced by EA Sports in 2010 the ‘Online Pass’ has since spread to be used by several prominent companies – if not already considered the norm in the industry it will be in the near future. The idea behind the program is to insert one-use codes in retail copies of games that provide access to online functionality while leaving those who purchase the game used to pay a fee of $10. In speaking at a tech conference (via Gamasutra) EA’s CFO Eric Brown discussed how the ‘Online Pass’ has performed for them. 

“The revenues we derive from that haven’t been dramatic. I’d say they’re in the $10-$15 million range since we initiated the program,” he said. While the sales are not “dramatic” in volume, he pointed out that it is all “found revenue” that comes from users who previously “consumed bandwidth for free.”

Of course the whole idea of consuming bandwidth “for free” is faulty logic, as it’s always going to be one user whether the original purchaser or not. It’s always made sense however for companies to want to capitalize on the secondary market which potentially eats into new game sales.

$10-15 million would mean only 1-1.5 million people have paid for the ‘Online Pass’ and that isn’t a very significant number especially when considering it’s been up and running for 15 months now. Each one of the Ultimate Team modes in FIFA, Madden, and NHL all bring in well over that amount just on their own to put things in better perspective.

What can’t be calculated is how many people have chosen to buy a new copy rather than wait for a used copy due in part to the program and that “encouragement” may ultimately be the bigger factor in continuing and expanding on the concept. $10-15 million may not be a lot in the grand scheme of things but that is still essentially free money for them so it shouldn’t be discounted regardless.

While EA Sports and THQ continue the program and SCEA plans to institute it for their properties (including MLB: The Show) going forward there still appear to be no indications that 2K Sports plans to hop on the ‘Online Pass’ bandwagon.