Upcoming fantasy RPG Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning uses publisher EA's Online Pass to lock out singleplayer content from second-hand buyers.
Destructoid spotted that the EA-published title contains a single-use code to wall off an entire faction quest line, with those that buy pre-owned forced to pay a further fee to access the content.
In a post on the game's official forums Curt Schilling, head of 38 Studios, which has co-developed the RPG with Big Huge Games, said that the content in question was day-one DLC, and that online passes were required to keep studios like 38 in business.
"Day-one DLC, to be clear, is free, 100 per cent totally free, to anyone that buys a new copy of Reckoning," he wrote. "We must make a profit to become what we want to become. The only way we do that is to make games you cannot wait to buy. If we do that, and you do that, we want to reward you with some cool free stuff as a thank-you.
"You can argue with methods, or process, and absolutely you can bitch and gripe about any day-one DLC you are charged for, because I think I agree with many on that, but we are trying to create something here, product and company-wise, and it takes dollars to do that.
"There is no nefarious attempt to do anything underhanded here, you get the content, no matter what platform you purchase the game for, or what outlet you buy from, for free."
Reckoning is out for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on February 7. Last week co-developer Big Huge Games admitted the biggest threat to the game's chances was that people were still playing Skyrim and had no interest in or need for another sprawling high-fantasy RPG. "In which case," design lead Ian Frazier admitted, "we're hosed."