Battlefield 3 released Tuesday and enlists the company’s Online Pass for its multiplayer, arguably the key selling point of Electronic Arts’ biggest game of the year.
The Online Pass comes in all new copies of Battlefield 3 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The 12-character code is needed to unlock the online co-op and multiplayer modes in Swedish developer DICE’s latest game. Selecting these modes in-game brings up a prompt to buy the 100KB download or redeem a voucher for the Pass. If you buy the game used or rent it, the code costs $9.99 on the PlayStation Network Store or 800 Microsoft Points for Xbox 360 players.
At retail Battlefield 3 includes five different competitive multiplayer modes like Conquest and Team Deathmatch playable on nine different maps. Cooperative mode is separate missions outside the single-player campaign where two players attempt to complete objectives. Players can compete against their friends for co-op high scores through the Battlelog feature. At least on the PS3, even if one person redeems the Online Pass, other users on the same console can log into their own PSN and EA account to access these online modes. (Note: this was tested before publication)
Besides the Online Pass, players also need to sign up for an EA Origin account. If they ever played a Electronic Arts game before on their system, their EA account was automatically transferred to Origin.
If the Limited Edition version of Battlefield 3 was bought, the Online Pass also gives players free access to the game’s first expansion pack “Back to Karkand,” which will release in November. The expansion includes four multiplayer maps from the 2005 PC release Battlefield 2, as well as vehicles and weapons from the game.
The Online Pass for EA’s military shooter was rumored to exist during the summer. A DICE developer tweeted a few weeks ago that players could buy an Online Pass if they bought the game used, further adding fuel to the rumor. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 had an online pass called the “VIP Pass” but it didn’t lock anyone out of the game’s multiplayer. Instead it gave players free downloadable content. Bad Company 2 released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in March 2010.
It’s not clear if GameStop will print Online Pass voucher codes for Battlefield 3 like it currently does with used purchases for another blockbuster release, Batman: Arkham City.
EA is the originator of the online pass system, which the company began in 2010. The publisher has made $10-15 million from online pass downloads since its introduction. It claims the Online Pass is needed to manage server costs for the online title it’s used for. Publishers don’t earn any profits from customers who buy used copies of games. EA is expected to earn $4.1 billion this year.
In the past several months Electronic Arts has made statements that Battlefield 3 is competing against and will surpass Activision’s Modern Warfare 3. Battlefield 3 is predicted by analysts to sell 8 million copies in 2011. Along with Modern Warfare 3, both games are estimated to generate more than $1.4 billion, or 15 percent of total sales, for the game industry this quarter. Modern Warfare 3 will not require an online pass.
Unfortunately Xbox 360 owners currently can’t play Battlefield 3 online. The servers for the 360 version are down. An estimated time when the servers would be working wasn’t provided by EA or DICE.
Battlefield 3 retails for $59.99.
Photo by Electronic Arts