Over at kombo, Nick Michetti has penned a thoughtful article titled How Barack Obama Can Bring the Change the Video Game Industry Needs.
While some of his ideas have merit, a suggestion that Obama regulate the used game market marred the piece for me. Michetti writes:
We also need to rein in the used games market and not with DRM. It is fundamentally unfair that developers are being robbed of profits for work that they’ve done. If the ESA will not offer a mandate, then we’ll need the government to do so. Publishers and developers should be entitled to at least half of the price from the sale of every used game.
However, we need for there to be caps on used game prices and a Blue Book system for video games to prevent price gouging. We also need for developers to respect our tradition of the second hand market and have part of the mandate state that developers cannot use DRM to inhibit used sales.
Ignoring the fact that the ESA, which represents game publishers, has no wherewithal to issue any type of mandate to game retailers, I just don’t get Michetti’s point. Actually, I don’t get the point of anyone who is whining about used game sales (like Epic’s Michael Capps).
The reason is simple. Industry types – capitalists, all – who seek to restrict used game sales would interfere with the way markets work. And they want to interfere in a way that is purely for their own benefit and decidely anti-consumer. In this case, anti-gamer.
By way of example, let’s say that a carpenter builds a table under contract from a furniture manufacturer. The carpenter gets paid and the manufacturer in turn wholesales the table to a furniture store. The furniture store adds their markup and sells the table to a homeowner. Later, the homeowner remodels and picks up a few bucks by peddling the table through an ad on Craigslist.
Now, replace "table" with "video game." The game developer is the carpenter. The game publisher is the furniture manufacturer. The game retailer is the furniture store. The gamer is the homeowner.
In both cases, there was an economic chain. Everyone got paid for the services. Are we now going to allow the carpenter and the furniture manufacturer to say to the homeowner, "Hey, you can’t sell that table. We want everyone to be forced to buy a new table."
Of course not.
Along this line, I was impressed with a recent blog post by veteran game developer Soren Johnson (Spore, Civ series), who writes:
Many factors come into play when a consumer decides if a specific game purchase is worth the money, and one of those factors is the perceived value from selling it back as a used game. In other words, people will pay more for a new game because they know they can get some of that money back when they trade it in at the local Gamestop.
Importantly, this perceived value exists whether the consumer actually sells the game or keeps it. Wizards of the Coast has long admitted that the existence of the secondary market for Magic cards has long helped buoy the primary market because buyers perceive that the cards have monetary value.
UPDATE: Kudos to Nick Michetti, who dropped by to discuss his article in comments. I see that Kotaku also picked up the story.