Aylon has strong opinions on "the used game problem"
Is buying a game secondhand equivalent to pirating it? Does buying a game secondhand at your local videogame retailer hurt the industry such stores rely on? There are few more polarising debates in our hobby today. Many industry luminaries think secondhand sales are hurting them, but does that make it true? Aylon thinks so - but please remember, his views do not necessarily reflect those of NZGamer.com
Used games are bad for the gaming industry.
This isn’t debatable, it’s fact. Now, just so I am clear, for the most part I am not talking about buying your games via TradeMe, eBay, or Adam from Maths class. I’m talking about going into an EB Games retailer and purchasing one of those “pre-owned” games in order to save about $10. If you do that, you are damaging our industry and it would be great if you would stop. If you aren’t going to stop though, then at least stop throwing a temper tantrum whenever Developers/Publishers try to make it a less appealing option.
Among all the new Xbox rumours going around, there was one that the new console would implement a system that blocks used games from being played. This, of course, is still a rumour and no details of how it would even work were given. Obviously a lot of people were upset about this, but personally, I think it is a necessary evil. Yes, it sucks that this could stop me from lending a game to a friend or possible remove game rentals from the equation entirely; but what do you expect the industry to do? Used games are costing them billions of dollars every year.
Last year Quantic Dream - the developer of Heavy Rain - estimated that they may have lost up to US$13.7 million from used sales. That’s a lot of money and puts into perspective the kind of figures we’re talking about. In 2010, Gamestop (The American version of EB Games) made 54.7% of it’s gross-margin profits from used games.
Some argue that used car and book sales are have been around for much longer without those industries complaining about or fighting the effects. Firstly, they still make money from used cars, because when they break down they sell & supply the parts needed to repair it. Secondly, of course used sales hurt those industries as well. And thirdly, the price difference between new vs used in those industries is usually significant. They are great savings, but for used games you are only saving about $10. I’m sorry but being prepared to hurt the industry we love for a $10 discount makes us seem kind of cheap, don’t you think?
Another point I’d like to make is that the car manufacturers and book publishers don’t have any real ways of fighting used sales and that they most likely would if they could. Evidence of this is the book industries adoption of E-Books. Gaming publishers, due to the technology behind their products, have a lot more options to combat used sales; can you really blame them for using them? Sure they make money from the initial sale, but come on, it’s a business, they want money for every potential sale of their product.
Even if you think it’s just greedy CEOs wanting more, they still represent a business and making money is a priority for them. Also, they have to think about the artists, programmers, producers, and a lot of other people who make your games in return for a paycheck that feeds their families. When you make sure 100% of the profit from your purchase goes to the retailer and not them, how can you get mad at them for wanting to do something about that?
Another thing to keep in mind is that, if you do choose to purchase their games used, then you aren’t technically their customer - so why do they owe you anything? The sense of entitlement from some gamers is mind-boggling.
Publishers have tried a lot solutions recently to prevent people from buying used or trading their games in. This includes adding multiplayer to games that were known for their single-player (Bioshock & Dead Space), special downloadable content (DLC) or bonus missions (Catwoman stages in Batman: Arkham City) and online-passes that block the games multiplayer unless you enter a one-use code.
I’m not a fan of unneeded multiplayer, because even if it’s great, usually no one plays it (RIP Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood). Also, online-passes that block multiplayer aren’t a great move, since it potentially limits the size of the online community playing the game. However, I can understand why they do it as a way of making up for the costs of maintaining the server. I get that these methods can suck, but then again, I buy my games new, so it’s never going to be a problem for me.
What’s disappointing is when I see people getting pissed that content for single-player games is held for new purchasers. The only people who could rightfully be mad are those without Internet access to download the content. For everyone else, why you mad bro? Why can’t a publisher incentivize their potential customers to purchase the product new? It’s smart/good business. You don’t get mad at an infomercial asking you to call in the next 5 minutes to get a bonus training DVD do you? And if you bought that product second-hand a week later from somewhere else, you wouldn’t get mad if the DVD wasn’t included.
So why do people get mad that EA provide 7 extra side missions in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning for those who buy the game new? They even allow those who buy it used to purchase them separately if they really need 7 more quests. There’s that entitlement again.
On the bright side, as digital purchases become more common this whole issue will be removed entirely, because you can’t trade in digital games; and you know why? Because you don’t really own a digital purchase - look at Steam games, do you really own anything in your library? It’s more like leasing, which is what a lot of this issue comes down to. The perception of ownership based on a purchase.
The reality is things are changing and the future for console gaming is heading in the same direction as PC gaming. For years you’ve had to enter a one-use CD-Key or Authorisation code for PC games. Why is this such a problem for consoles when it has worked perfectly fine on PC for years? In the end, there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it anyway. So best to accept it and move on with the comfort of knowing that, in the long run, it is better for the industry so we can continue to get the great games we love. Say it with me my fellow gamers... For the greater good!
So, where do you sit on the used vs new debate? Sound off in the comments below.