Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Used Games - Frugal Spending Or Development Theft?

My exposure to this controversy started with this Penny Arcade comic. That led to further reading. And it looks like the dust-up was triggered by this article.

The ramblings that follow are just my opinion, not those of anyone like my employer (who I tend to leave out of my blogging.)

First, I'll admit that I had never given this issue much thought, and even thinking about it there are still two sides and I'm not 100% behind either.

On the developers' side, I can see their point. They invest money in developing a game, not a cheap endeavor, on the hopes of selling enough copies to make a profit. Used game retail undercuts that model. And while the buyers of used games may use "being on a budget" to justify buying used instead of new, if they are that hard up maybe they shouldn't be spending money on a video game. The same justification is leading to the death of brick-and-mortar specialty retailers in favor of mass online retailers.

There are a couple of ways to end a large chunk of used game retail. An online verification model or digital distribution model would eliminate the ability to use used games. The people that will howl the loudest are the ones that, as THQ put it, aren't their customers anyways. Of course the latter model will kick the legs out from under video game retail as a whole, a very big Eff You to the retailers who have been peddling these companies wares over the years.

If you know me, you'd think that this would be the end of it. I'm all about being willing to pay and extra buck to make sure the right people get the money. I buy my comics from the same comic book store for years even though it would be cheaper to get them online.

Here's the dilemma. If we endorse this sort of restrictions on this type of media, how long until it spreads like wildfire to other media formats? Will I no longer be able to take a blu-ray I bought to a friend's house? Will someone not be able to take music from home to work? While these may seem like a stretch, it's a slippery slope.

Regardless, developers are already introducing disincentives to buying used games and it's not like second-hand shoppers can vote with their dollars. Actually, their refusal to buy the games used would help the publishers' cause. If you have Gamestop stock, you might want to reconsider.

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Anonymous Dave T said...

1)If I buy and read a book, I can sell it. Same for a Music CD, a Movie CD, or the like. As long as you don't keep a bootleg copy, I see games (Video or Computer) the same way.

2)If someone is selling the game, they are no longer entertained by it. So, it can be argued, the developers failed somehow.

I can *understand* the other side, but I don't agree with it. I buy the game new to support the developers. Either I decide I hate it quickly, in which case they gyped me, and I resell to get some money back...or I played it for a long time, and am now tired of it. The chance that whoever is buying it from me used would buy a new version of an old game is pretty slim, so the developers aren't losing anything there.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Oz said...

I do a fair amount of shopping at Half Price Books, and on a couple of occasions I've taken old books in to them. I never really gave any thought to the publisher/author not getting anything out of the transaction. Then again, I tend to buy books at HPB that I don't find in the regular bookstore.

Just like Keith often lends me books. Or you read my comics. Or we all get together and watch a movie that one of us bought. Once we buy it, it's our property.

My guess is that the used games market is cutting into the new games market, so retailers are ordering less, which in turn means the developers are seeing less of a return on their development investment, probably while enviously watching used game sellers make more profit on the used game than the publisher or original retailer did on the new game. Given the online component found in many popular games, it has made various schemes to thwart this more practical (as opposed to say a book, which they have no way to track the reading thereof).

One idea I have no problem with is that some games offer bonus content only available with the new game, as an incentive. Carrot rather than stick.

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Dave T said...

On HPB...
I buy a lot of stuff from them, but if I have old books, they go to my local Library. HPB offers almost nothing for them, and I'd prefer many people getting to read them (best case) or the Library making a bit of money selling them (they have a used book store *in* the Library), and my kharma getting a small boost (I know it needs it!)

8:00 PM  

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