Last year, a few video game publishers started withholding online multiplayer from used video games unless buyers paid $10 for an activation code. I figured that was just the beginning of the attack on second-hand sales.
Sure enough, SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy Seals charts a new course in punishing used game buyers, and it’s at once better and worse than the status quo of $10 online passes.
As described on the official Playstation Blog, SOCOM 4 will let all players access the game’s multiplayer portion — as it should, because online play has always been SOCOM’s main attraction — but used game buyers will miss out on special guns, game types, and other perks to be added later. To get these features with a used copy of the game, you’ll have to buy a $15 activation code.
Sony’s spinning this bundle of features, dubbed “SOCOM Pro,” as an enhancement for new game buyers, rather than a drawback for used copies. It’s semantics, sure, but it’s also the direction in which these used game restrictions should be going.
Multiplayer paywalls do little to entice the customer. Players need to get hooked if they’re expected to pay for extra features, and two-day trials, like the ones Electronic Arts offers with its used games, don’t cut it. Sony’s approach with SOCOM Pro is more like some of the “Lite” apps you find in the iOS App Store. They’re enough to enjoy on their own, but a subset of players will be interested enough to pay extra for more features.
My concern is still that over time, publishers will hide more features behind activation codes, so the used version is barely worth buying. SOCOM 4 is another step in that direction.