With EA's decision to charge $10 for online play and Ubisoft and THQ looking to follow suit, is it about time that game publishers started selling local and online play separately? Drop the price of the local play to $50 and charge another $10 for those who want to play online.
It seems obvious that $10 is the price that EA has given online play is all they value that feature at. So why make everyone pay for it when getting a new copy when those who purchase used have the choice?
I find it hard to believe that everyone who buys a game new will play for any extended period of time. EA has already decided to give everyone a 7 day free pass designed around the idea that people will borrow or rent their games and want to play online for that time. Why not give that option to everyone who buys used or new and then charge everyone the $10 if they want to go online for longer than that.
According to a recent NPD study of the online habits of gamers (source), only 54% of gamers play online. So that is a possible 46% of game buyers that are paying for a feature they will not use. So why are we forcing that purchase on them?
We live in an era in which it is easy to sell games in smaller chunks and give players more options. The more purchasing power we give players, the more likely they will be to spend money on the parts of the game they value.
One common concern could be that gamers would feel "cheated" if they have to buy online separately from the offline portion. But this would not be a real concern to the gamer if the offline portion is less than the normal cost of a current game. So if the gamer can purchase the offline portion of the game for $50 and the online portion for $10, they would still be spending the $60 they normally would if they were buying a game from the current pool.
But why stop at offline and online portions? Could it not also be possible to separate the offline single player portions and the offline multiplayer as well? Sell those separately and give players the option? Think of each portion as an upgrade or expansion. As long as you are not price gouging those players who buy the complete gaming experience, they probably won't mind.
Now there is the necessity to make some part of the game mandatory for the buyer. If they want access to the multiplayer, they will most likely have to own the single player. With the existence of expansion packs, that is already an accepted restraint. We don't have to do this. It is possible to create a full gaming experience from the parts of the game. The trick would be to make the individual parts work together. This is possible as well.
So what are we waiting for? Let's break up the games and sell the parts separately.