[UPDATED] ‘Xbox Live Games On Demand’ and the Online-Pass?

Posted July 27, 2011 by James Steel in Articles, Miscellaneous, Opinion, Rumour, Xbox 360

UPDATE 3 – Well I guess that closes that book. A response from Microsoft Customer Support states –

As I understand it, you want to know if you will have an online pass when you download the Need for Speed Hot Pursuit in Xbox Live. I will provide you some information about this.

This digital copy doesn’t include an online pass. It doesn’t have an online feature as stated on the overview. The only online feature that you have for the game is the Leaderboards. If you want an online multiplayer, please buy a disc in a retail store near you.

While they claim that the description does not state that it support multiplayer, I still feel that this is quite misleading, as unless otherwise clearly noted, you would expect the same features that you would receive on a retail disk. So there it is, think twice before grabbing Need For Speed or future EA (and other Online-Pass) enabled games from the “Games On Demand” service.

UPDATE 2- It would appear that you do need to purchase the Online Pass (at an additional cost over the initial download), at least according to EA, though I am still waiting for Microsofts response. Through the use of the Live Chat support via Electronic Arts website I asked the representative, here’s the response –

UPDATE  – I am awaiting an official response from Microsoft on the matter. If anyone has purchased this and would like to update me with the answer, please contact me at ‘james(at)push-start.co.uk’

Original Story
Online Passes have been a huge point of contention this year with many high profile releases from EA, and soon Ubisoft will be joining the club with the release of Driver San Francisco in September. These One-Use codes are printed inside the box and are required for entry by the user to access online features.

“Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit” released via Games On Demand recently and this makes it the first appearance of an Online Pass enabled game to hit the Xbox Live Service. Priced at £29.99 (already significantly higher than most retail outlets), it it seems that as well as the price, the Online-Pass could be another barrier to entry.

While it is to be expected that you wouldn’t receive any special DLC that may be retailer specific, you would expect to receive the full gameplay, both single and multiplayer that the retail release provides you, seeing as generally you are paying comparable, if not more for the Digital Copy (See Red Faction Armageddon on the PSN for £58.99).

It seems though that EA (or Microsoft) may not have thought this through if anything is to be garnered from a recent response I received from Xbox Support via Twitter.

After enquiring how the Online-Pass system would function with Games On Demand and if the release was a modified version of the game which wouldn’t require a code entry, I received this reply.

“You may need to purchase it separately”

To me, while unable to give a straight answer, this response is relatively clear, potentially meaning that you will  have to purchase an Online-Pass (at an addition cost over the £29.99) for online multiplayer and addition features. Hopefully this is an oversight by the companies involved and a patch will resolve this issue as to me this is quite unacceptable since most online retailers have the game listed for sub £19.99. Online passes through Xbox Live currently run at 800MSP (Around £6.21), this puts the price of the game at nearly double the retail price (totalling around £36.20).

What I see as potentially the bigger issue here is that the description of the title on the download page makes no mention of this potential addition cost. The retail box displays this clearly enough, but as you can read below, this seems to be missing for the download –

This November, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit will transform online entertainment for this generation. Criterion Games is redefining the meaning of cops versus racers by providing players with the opportunity to play a full career as either a cop or a racer, advancing through the ranks by accruing bounty.Players will experience stunning speeds, takedowns and getaways as they chase, battle, escape or bust their buddies.The innovative Need for Speed Autolog is poised to re-think head-to-head social competition by changing how people connect, how they communicate and how they play games with each other. Through Autolog, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit dynamically tracks and shares performance and stats so your friends actually drive your gameplay experience. So, whether you’re online or offline, the connected experience is at the heart of Need for Speed Hot Pursuit.

This is another unfortunate side effect that Online-Passes seem to be getting in the way of. While I can understand the need for this type of service due to the publisher/developer getting no kick-back from used sales, this to me is not the best practice.

Hopefully this issue will be discussed more fully in the near future. I will be following this up with Microsoft and hope to have an official answer soon.


James Steel
James Steel

James likes games! So much so, his collection spans 19 formats and near 2500 games. Keen to progress in both video games journalism and video production, he often finds himself tracking down games of all formats in the local charity shops.

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