Online passes have quickly generated a raging debate in the gaming community, as more and more publishers attempt to claw back revenue from the seemingly swelling sales pool of pre-owned video games.
Pre-owned sales are a concern for the industry, as developers see no return from second hand flogging and the scene can potentially do big damage to a title's profits - and our chances of seeing sequels.
EA's previously estimated that it lost almost 2.5 million in sales to pre-owned purchases of the original Dead Space. You might jeer, but GAME's reported that a quarter of its sales come from pre-owned - that's potentially a lot of lost cash not just for EA, but small developers too.
We can understand the industry's concern then, but the current fix, the online pass method which EA currently operates for everything from Mass Effect II to FIFA, remains controversial. Buy a copy of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit from the pre-owned bin and you'll find yourself locked out of online play - unless you shell out more money so EA gets a cut.
Other publishers have been keen to adopt the controversial method too, with THQ set to lock pre-owned players' online progression in upcoming FPS Homefront, unless they fork out for an online pass.
The debate over the 'pay to unlock' method has been feverish. But it's not just a large portion of gamers who are against the rise of the online pass; sections of the game development community itself disagree with in-game locks as a method of tackling pre-owned sales.
One such voice is Rick White, producer of upcoming third-person shooter Inversion, developed by TimeShift dev Saber Interactive.
Rick argues that the most positive method of reducing pre-owned game sales is by making a deep game in the first place with plenty of replay value. Here's what he has to say...
I think in North America at least you have that problem where, especially with the economy the way it is, people would just rather buy their games used - wait for two months and then buy it.
I think the challenge is... for me personally putting locks in the game to force you not to buy pre-owned is dicey. I would rather do something like we're doing with Inversion where we're giving you multiplayer, we're giving you co-op, we're giving you a cool, compelling story and lots of cool elements in the game.
You're going to want to own it. You're going to want to have it more than a weekend. The story is long enough, where as in some games the story is only say six to eight hours long, so why would I buy it, right?
So one thing we need to commit to as gamers and developers is to make you want to own our game because there's a lot of content, make you want to own it because you can play with your friends by playing co-op and playing multiplayer.
But that content has to be compelling; if your multiplayer sucks, your co-op sucks and your story's only six hours long... why am I going to spend $60?
Make it $60 worth. Make your game truly worth the $60 and make it good. Put your love and passion into it and people are going to want to own your game. I mean, do people really rent Call of Duty?
Inversion will be released on February 12, 2012. See the latest screenshots here.