I implore you to reconsider your decision to initiate a widespread "PSN Pass" program this fall that would employ single-use licenses tied to a game's multiplayer component. Not only would such a program unnecessarily impede the resale options your customers currently enjoy with regard to successful titles like Uncharted 2, MAG, and Killzone 3; it would likely result in the exact opposite of your intent-in this case, irreparably wounding consumer loyalty, interest in online multiplayer, and the uniqueness of your brand.
The following is a straightforward list of reasons to reconsider the deployment of a PSN Pass program:
1. In a crowded video game marketplace, you must distinguish the online component of your games from those of Electronic Arts, Warner Bros., and THQ titles.
While it is true that Sony has utilized a similar program in the past (e.g., with SOCOM Fireteam Bravo 3), the associated games were PSP titles that were not in direct competition with high-profile PlayStation 3 releases such as F.E.A.R. 3 and Homefront, which likewise use pass programs. As online passes become increasingly popular among publishers, marquee multiplayer franchises are likely to follow suit. In this case, Sony would do well to differentiate itself from the competition by continuing to offer affordable, no-hassle online multiplayer to complement its uniquely free PlayStation Network service.
2. Second-hand sales introduce low-income gamers to a series or brand.
Many gamers who are between jobs or earn low wages rely heavily on the used game and rental markets. Charging an extra fee to enable multiplayer will not only artificially cap the number of gamers involved in an online community; it will also alienate those who may otherwise be inclined to save money towards the purchase of new games in a particular series or from a particular publisher when they first come out.
3. You discourage original owners from trying out the multiplayer component of a game.
If a game owner knows their game will drop in resale value once a license code is redeemed, that will discourage many owners from ever trying out the multiplayer component of a game, further limiting that game's online community and any opportunities for future sale of content (e.g., extra maps) to that player.
4. Such disincentives have not been well received.
Gamers have not exactly warmed to DRM, online licenses, and other similar restrictions of their rights of ownership. For example, Capcom's recent and well documented decision to include a single, permanent save file in Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D led to public uproar that resulted in low consumer scores on online review sites. With Sony's consumer standing already in a precarious state, would it be worth risking additional credibility?
5. If you can't stop the resale market, what's the point?
If the point of an online pass program is to inhibit or halt the resale of Sony-published games, such a program would likely miss the mark. Again, owners are more likely to never try out a multiplayer component so as not to damage resale value, and even if they did, they can still resell the game at a lower-than-desired price point. In other words, if a game is going to be sold, it's going to be sold. You'd likely delay the sale rather than discourage it, and alienate your customer base in the process.
In sum, the recently announced PSN Pass program would likely alienate and infuriate current and future customers, fail to stop resale, and would cause Sony to miss an opportunity to further distinguish its published titles from the competition. Again, I ask that you please reconsider the PSN Pass program.
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