The long and the short of it: EA is playing games with content in terms of the “online pass”. For Battlefield 2, it was a few maps and the VIP Pass would get you them. Don’t have a pass? Pay up $12 and you can get the maps. Preorders also came with perks unlocked for high level players. There’s two problems I see with this system. One being that it’s not uncommon to have multiple gamer tags on an XBOX. I know my wife keeps one and I keep one. We got fed up with the permissions being different and this gamertag having something that the other gamer tag didn’t, so my wife doesn’t user her tag anymore. The net result is that MS loses their $50 a year. But, this was only for netflix or whatever, it never was really codified for games. Now there’s stories of people saying that they’re unhappy that two gamertags on the xbox have access to different content. Now as a parent, if my two kids wanted to play xbox and I either had to pony up $12 or save $50/year for a gold gamertag, it only makes sense to drop the one subscription. And, since a lot of the XBOX games don’t play with two people split screen against random strangers on XBox Live, it’s not like the lack of a second gamertag puts a dent in anyones gaming.
However, the vague threat of letting $50 subscriptions keel over a year later doesn’t really impress Microsoft – where I see the push against this coming from are services like NetFlix and GameFly and even the MS Games on Demand service. The games on demand service in particular doesn’t give you anything – even a manual. How are people supposed to get the codes? What happens when the game is $5 and the code is $12? Or for gamefly and netflix, does EA think people are really going to pay money to play online? Probably not. More on the point if I were gamefly, I would probably be suing EA for anticompetitive practises.