THQ Just Wants a Piece of the Used Games Pie

While it might not be as frequent as it once was, it’s still not uncommon to hear publishers bemoan the existence of the used game market and express a desire to see it go the way of the dodo.

But not THQ.  No, the publisher of the recently released Homefront doesn’t want to kill off the used game market, it just wants to make sure it’s making some money off it.  THQ CEO Brian Farrell explained it to MCV thusly:

“The most important thing is we have to participate in the value chain in used games.  We understand, given our focus on the gamer, that consumers like to be able to monetise their game library. So it is an ecosystem between publisher, gamer and retailer that just has to sort itself out.  Part of it is monetising but the bigger win is keeping our gamers engaged with DLC and robust online play, and that keeps the disc in the first purchaser’s hands.”

For those unaware, Homefront and a few other THQ titles use a one-time activation code to unlock online content.  Gamers who buy the game used (assuming the original owner used the code) have to fork over an additional $10 or so to buy another code so they too can enjoy the full online experience.

EA has a similar program for its sports titles.

Via: MCV

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Contributing Editor Andrew Eisen

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  1. 0
    faefrost says:

    This always amazes me. It is or would be a completely non existant problem if the development houses/publishers and the retail channel (ie Gamestop) would stop being canabalistic parasites off of each other.

    Dear developers and merchants,

    We, the dedicated gamers do actually understand both sides of this arguement. We want new and exciting games to play. And we understand that in order to do this we do need to insure that those nice people who develop them need to get paid and need to eat. While at the same time we also need to eat ourselves. Games are a transitory experience for us and we greatly appreciate the value in being able to sell or trade back games that we have enjoyed (or not enjoyed so much) for value that we can then apply to new stuff. We appreciate having the option to buy lower cost used product allows us to explre a greater breadth and depth of what there is. We get both sides.

    What we don’t like is feeling like we have to pay extra for used. Or feeling like we are dealing with two diferent merchants at once. We really hate that. EA $10 thingy, I’m talking to you!. You suq! All you do is leave a bad buyer experience that means people will be less inclined to both buy your games, new or used, or even shop at the merchants from which they got nailed in this way. It hurts everybody. Punishing customers of any sort is bad in the long term.

    So how to you fix this in a way that everyone thrives, rather than seeking to devour each other as various stages of the channel to market devour each other?

    1. Ok this is directed at you merchants. Gamestop, Walmart, Amazon, etc. Accept that the people who are actually producing your merchandise need to get compensated for it. Even on an aftermarket used sale. Bundle a 3-5% fee or cost into your used game pricing and pass it back up the chain to the publisher. Do this for every taxable sale of a used game. Do it as a licensing agreement with the producers. make it transparrent to the customer. Yeah you may lose a little on each used sale this way, but it insures that your suppliers are providing you with a steady stream of merchandise, and are not desperately trying to move to online only or some byzantine model to operate around you. You’ve had a free ride on this. It’s time to reasonably pay the piper.

    2. Game makers. You need to accept that aftermarket used sales are a fact of life and stop thinking of them as competing with new sales. Come to some reasonable agreement with Gamestop, etc, and view the used sales are more of a product longevity concept. Bolster them by the use of DLC and such. But remember that no matter what else happens, ultimately your best business model is trying to get as many people playing your product as possible.

    3. To the above end. We really need an industrywide review of game pricing. You guys have exceeded the customers most basic price= value calculations, and that is the heart of where this problem lies. Notice how well your "classic" rerelased titles do in the $20 price range. Notice how well the Minecraft guy is doing with a $19 beta? THQ I am talking to you sirs! How well are you doing after a week of $60 Homefront being on the shelves? Do you think after all the press and its somewhat controvertial subject matter that people will be queing up to drop half a hundred on it? But somewhat disturbing story asside it has fairly good name recognition. A far greater block of people would drop $20 or $30 on it just to see what all the fuss is about. Alot of them would even pony up $10 for some extra map packs (so long as the main game does not feel shorted). And at a $20 price point most people will buy new over used.

    Find a way to give the creators or publishers some reasonable recognition in used or business related aftermarket sales, that is invisible to the end user/customer. Accept that used games sales exist and are something good. Accept that they do not compete with new sales and model yourselves accordingly. And above all figure out a pricing model that expands your pool of customers rather than continually shrinks it. Stop giving all of the new customers to Facebook and the Apple store. If both sides in this fight don’t learn that smaller pieces of a bigger pie is the only way they will win and survive then ina  very short amount of time we will all be playing Farmville.

    Just my 2c 


  2. 0
    hahanoob says:

    Forcing me to explain why you’re wrong is not moving the goalposts =) I should have kept to my initial instincts and ignored you when you brought up Goodwill =P

  3. 0
    hahanoob says:

    Okay? And book publishers don’t like it either.

    Unfortunately I’m not even sure what you’re trying to say anymore. This is why argument by analogy is stupid. Why do you prefer to discuss used game sales in terms of books instead of in terms of games? Do you feel it aids in understanding somehow or is it just convenient for your position?

    Also, who the hell is "us"?

    Oh right. I remembered. I was saying Gamestop equivalents would have popped up. I can make all kinds of arguments for why this isn’t really equivalent to used game sales. The most obvious of them revolve around volume. Other easy ones is that used books aren’t identical to new books as used games have traditionally been (boks get worn, torn, drawn in). In my experience people hold on to books longer. Etc, etc, etc. There’s no company posting 8 billion a year profits based mostly on used books ergo there’s no Gamestop equivalent here. 

  4. 0
    Adrian Lopez says:

    "Again: If you saw a new book retailer pushing trade-ins and used books over new product, you would see similar outrage from book publishers."

    Do us a favor and look at some books on and then get back to us.

  5. 0
    Adrian Lopez says:

    "It’s better than the guy trying to argue with me using comparisons to charities."

    I also mentioned, which you are conveniently ignoring.

    "At any rate all I need to do is ask you why, even with "copyright law coming down hard on the side of the consumer," have never walked into a store to buy a new pair of pants or a book and have some employee try to offer me a use pair of the same pants or same book for 2 dollars less?"

    Go to the purchase page for almost any book on and you’ll find there an offer to buy a used copy of the book, often for a lot less $$$.

  6. 0
    Kommisar says:

    Miss the point of my post much?

    Used sales are not the problem.  Gamestop pushing used sales is the problem.  Yes, the publisher gets paid when a customer buys a new copy.  Great, everyone’s happy.  But when a customer who would otherwise buy a new copy (thus paying the publisher) gets a used copy instead because "Hey, it’ll save you $5!", then the publisher gets nothing, and Gamestop gets the $20-40 mark-up from when they gave someone a pathetic amount of trade-in for the game.  That practice is not helping the customer, the publisher, or the industry.  It is only helping Gamestop.

    Again: If you saw a new book retailer pushing trade-ins and used books over new product, you would see similar outrage from book publishers.

    And what nonsense are you spouting about "books stagnate the market when there are too many of them" and "not enough new books with new information in books to make them worth buying"?  So you’re saying that most people didn’t buy the last Harry Potter book because "there were already 6 of them on the market"?  That’s so illogical it’s ludicrous.

    And if we’re going to argue books are the same as video games, let’s make that argument based on the same kind of transaction.  Can you sell an ebook you’ve read already to a friend?  In almost all cases the answer is NO. Where is your 1st Sale copyright law coming down like a hammer now?

  7. 0
    hahanoob says:

    "Er wow…ignorance bliss much?" 

    "Miss the boat much?"

    I find it exceedingly difficult to take you seriously. You could also try a spellcheck. 

    Anyways, most AAA games now are definitely not offline still. In fact the entire premise of this discussion is a redeemable code giving you access to multiplayer features. I’d argue the prevalence of strong multiplayer experiences and online components in video games is actually the result of a changing market directly influenced by used game sales (though more so piracy).

    So no the publisher has no right to money from second hand sales (as in the transfer of the physical media) but neither is it possible for them to collect even if they tried. The publisher is free to dole out online connectivity to only to their customers though. Which is what’s happening here. 

  8. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    Miss the boat much?

    Books are copyrighted and traded the same was as most video games as most video games are offline still. While books do not have current upkeep they do have the ability to stagnat the amrket due to there being to many of them and not enough new books with new information to make them worth buying.

    The game publisher has made a sale and thus has gained all the money they are entilied to, and that single unqie item being sold to someone else dose not negate the fact the item is there and being used in the frist place clogging up the market like the used book.

    I have a dream, break the chains of copy right oppression!

  9. 0
    Kommisar says:

    Books are not software.  Let’s get that straight.

    Books do not cost the publisher money to operate after they have been printed and distributed.  People don’t call publisher customer support lines because they have problems opening their books and accessing the contents.  Publishers don’t have to maintain servers so that people can read their books with their friends.


    If you walked into a Barnes and Noble, and they started pushing a used copy of the new book you wanted to buy for a dollar less… don’t you think the publishing houses might have a problem with that and do something to try and make the retail chains stop doing that?


    The games industry doesn’t have a problem with used sales.  You buy a game for $60, play it, enjoy it, and then sell if to your friend for $20… no one has a problem with that.  You get a little of your investment back, your friend gets a good deal… no worries.

    But retailers like Gamestop make a huge amount of their bottom line pushing trade-ins and used sales.  This does NOT help the customer (who’s NOT getting a good deal by paying $5-10 less for a used game than for a new copy).  It does NOT help the publisher (who’s not getting ANY money out of the process at all).  The only party well served by Gamestops aggressive used sales push is Gamestop.

    If you want to be mad at someone because game developers have to do things like use once-only activation codes, be mad at Gamestop.  Don’t be mad at THQ or EA because they want to be paid for their work so they can keep making games.

  10. 0
    hahanoob says:

    I had 3 replies to choose from and I have to pick the one where the guy is calling me a kid as the most reasonable one =D It’s better than the guy trying to argue with me using comparisons to charities.

    At any rate all I need to do is ask you why, even with "copyright law coming down hard on the side of the consumer," have never walked into a store to buy a new pair of pants or a book and have some employee try to offer me a use pair of the same pants or same book for 2 dollars less? Answer that (I can think of many, many reasons) and think a little on those answers and you will begin to understand why the industries actually have very little in common.

    Maybe then we could even talk more about games and not pants! For example I find DLC a less palatable response from the industry than one-use codes. The former if done poorly can really irritate customers. The latter doesn’t really effect customers too much (people who buy used games from Gamestop are not game industry customers, they are Gamestop customers). Though I do wish the industry could find a way to target Gamestop and only Gamestop with their initiatives. Nobody reasonable has a problem with people selling their games on craigslist or eBay or even the mom-and-pop used game shops that offer a fair value for trade-ins. A healthy second hand market is good for all industries. Gamers who can get a decent price on their used games now have more money that they’re probably going to spend on more games! Yay for everyone! The problem as I see it with Gamestop is they’ve basically constructed a machine to transfer huge amounts of money from people who want to buy games to a shitty retail chain. If they offered $50 for a used game they wanted to sell for $55 this whole thing would be a non-problem, but they don’t.


  11. 0
    Sabrel says:

    This arguement makes no sense.

    One person buys the game new, one person is using the online servers. He keeps the game and never has to pay more for the server usage.

    Other person buys the game new, uses the online servers for a while, then sells the game. Other user starts using the online servers. There is STILL only ONE user’s worth of server use happening here. But the THQ plan would have them making an extra $10 while still supporting the EXACT same number of end users.


  12. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    Precisely. I hammered this out when EA announced their project $10. The cost of maintaining multiplayer servers drops considerably after the first 6 months and continues to fall until they decide to pull the plug.

    What many people don’t understand is that not all of the 10 million people who buy a game will be playing online. Many of them won’t at all. Many others will play online for a few weeks to a few months. And not all people who buy the game second hand will be playing on line. It follows similar patterns as those who buy new. Additionally, these secondhand customers online habits are offset by people who bought firsthand not being on the service anymore.

    This does not hold true for piracy however. So I give them that.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  13. 0
    MechaCrash says:

    It’s true that they don’t get a cut when the second person buys the game used. But the first person is no longer using up any server resources, because they no longer own the game.

  14. 0
    GrimCW says:

    wouldn’t it make more sense to make a game that lasts, is good, and actualy decent DLC to push it further? i’d think that would keep it in the original purchasers hands more than selling crap DLC.

    Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age come to mind tbh in the way of good content, replayability, and moving forward, especially on PC for DA.

    cheesey map packs with 3 maps for 10 bux is trash IMO, and thats what most companies seem to think makes good DLC *glares at microsoft and IW*

    now actuall modes/weapons/gear/new SP content.. now we’re talking, but space it to far out and people will lose interest very fast.

  15. 0
    kurifu says:

    Books have no maitenance costs to the publisher once you bought it, primarily due to their lack of online ability. Expecting publishers to take a loss for the sole benefit of the consumer is equally greedy. Of course they could just charge a subscription fee to everyone who plays online games (new or used), but since market demand wouldn’t respond in a way that lowers the retail price of games really first hand buyers would be paying more in the end (I like the current model more).

    If you think you can produce a better business model, please do so… I’m not holding my breath though.

  16. 0
    CyberSkull says:

    This is like if book publishers put in a code in a novel so you could download the ending. You got your money when it was bought new. This is just greed.

  17. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    Er wow…ignorance bliss much? Clothing runs on either trade marks or patents so its not the same as normal copyright but all other forms of media from books to magazines to tapes to CDs they all fall under the grand scope of copy righted media which from the consumer prospective 2nd hand sell is protected by law, the first sale doctrine forces(or at the very least tries to) whatever licensing shceme the physical product has to be able to change hands without the IP owners consent.

    I have a dream, break the chains of copy right oppression!

  18. 0
    aIM hERE says:

    Are you serious, or is my sarcasm detector badly calibrated today? Don’t they have secondhand book stores or secondhand record/CD stores in your town, or did they close down and you’re too young to remember them? The comparisons with books, or DVDs or records is extremely pertinent, because the issue about used game sales relates to the right of resale of physical copies of copyrighted works without the permission of the copyright holder. And far from being a ‘false analogy’, these things share a number of legal properties in common.

    The reason that the book and music industries haven’t been scrambling to respond to the existence (whether you know about them or not) of second-hand resellers of their goods is because copyright law long ago came down HARD on the side of the consumer (and by extension, the second hand reseller) here. You’ll find it enshrined in the "first sale" (if you’re american) or "exhaustion of rights" doctrines in copyright law itself. In America, the law code is 17 USC 109. Go look it up. Basically anyone has the right to rid themself of a physical copy of a copyrighted work and pass it on to any third party they feel like, and the copyright holder has absolutely no legal power to stop that happening.

    The difference here is that because of the nature of software, it’s sadly possible to render useless the consumer’s right of ‘first sale’ using technical means, and instead of doing just exactly that, a lot of rent-seeking greedheads working for games companies have resorted to whining about the likes of Gamestop. I’m not sure why they feel the need to loudly complain about their customers taking advantage of a law which they can just render obsolete with some industry-standard obnoxious customer-hating DRM system. On the other hand, some of them do learn, and THQ has gone for just such a system. THQ doesn’t even want to abolish our legal rights, it just wants to tax us for exercising them.  Not-quite-totally-removing-the-public’s-legal-rights-entirely is the sort of thing passes for a fair compromise in thief^Wcopyright-holder land.



  19. 0
    hahanoob says:

    Actually, it’s nothing like books or clothes or whatever other comparisons you want to make. If it were like those things we’d be discussing those things because some kind of gamestop equivalent would have popped up to take advantage of it by now and so too would those industries be scrambling to respond. Discuss the actual issue on it’s own merits instead of resorting to false analogy. 

  20. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    Well its not that bad of an ideal. Look at it from a digital age "inf copy" perspective.  An IP owner whats to get money for its IP when its distributed for monetary gain. The trouble is copyright is so utterly broken we can not even begin to make it so  distribution based around monetary flow(ads,donations,direct sell) is leaned on while distributed that is not tied to any monetary flow is allowed and even supported by the industry.


    And before you start in you go after sites that share links or indexing information or logs that eventually connect to copy right files in whole or part amd force them to either pay for a license or stop their illicit profit activities period. And while obscurity has and will do more damage than current levels of world wide piracy we really need to look at copyright and change it to balance the rights of the IP owner and consumer that or just limit copy right to 5 years after first sale and limit trademarks to unique symbols but not full color characters,ect so you can’t lock out this IP or that IP by grabbing up all the characters it also allows anyone to use all of a public domain IP and the best of creative people will be easily found by their trade mark.


    As for levying against physical sale , take 10% of each sale, bar code each product,you can either mail the data in once a year like taxes or do it instantly with cheap Ccard like equipment ,2% funds the system and yearly what they have is broken up and distributed to IP owners, whats left over is kept in an insured account where it makes interest and so IP owners who are not in the list can be paid IP owners are listed via researching the products that are in the system and from IP owners who come to the program and give their copy right information to them, after verification they get paid.


    Only people and business’s that sell more than 2000 annually in used products have to used the system.

    I have a dream, break the chains of copy right oppression!

  21. 0
    Adrian Lopez says:

    "Used items are used. Different in some way than when brand new. It’s why they cost less."

    Yes. All the used games Gamestop sells are used, including the ones that have no codes of any kind and therefore work just as well as their brand new counterparts.

  22. 0
    hahanoob says:

    How is it screwing anyone over? They’re buying a used item. Used items are used. Different in some way than when brand new. It’s why they cost less. Unless you’re assuming Gamestop will price the game within 10 dollars of a new copy so that buying the used game plus a code will cost as much or more as new. Which they will. Which I agree is shitty, but has nothing to do with THQ.

  23. 0
    hellfire7885 says:

    Meh, almost makes me not want to pre order Saints Row: The third.

    While it wouldn’t effect me getting the game new, I don’t want to screw over someone else if I choose to trade it in.

  24. 0
    greevar says:

    This is just absurd behavior. These people have been fighting hard to get the public to view their games in the same light as a toaster or a mop, but when people sell and trade them second hand, they get upset? Now they think they should be able to punish second hand buyers in order to negate the benefit of buying used over new just so they can have more first hand sales? Unbelievable! What’s next? Are clothing makers going to demand a cut of second hand sales of their clothing donated to the Salvations Army or Goodwill? What’s the thinking here? Every other company that sells a "product" has to accept the fact that people will buy used "products" instead of new because they can save money. What makes games that are fixed and limited to a physical disc, and therefore become a physical "product", so exceptional? Why do game companies who claim so profusely that their games are "products" have a fit when people buy/sell/trade them like any other "product"?

    I have no sympathy for these people when it comes to this issue. They wanted their games to be treated like physical products and that’s what they got. That includes people having the option to sell their paid-for games after deciding they no longer want to keep them. They aren’t entitled to get money every time someone new gets their hands on a copy. They have to realize that they’re going to need to price their games more competitively with the game shops if they want to beat the used market.


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