"I Feel Used" quips Volition Designer Jameson Durall in a post on #AltDevBlogADay. In a lengthy post Durall rails against the used games market and how it is "significantly impacting the revenue" developers receive. He talks about how great it is that developers are coming up with new ways to recoup money from the used games market such as online pass codes:
"Some consumers complain about this method because the precedent has always been that it’s included in the price and should come with it. It did for the person who actually bought it first…so was saving that $5 at Gamestop worth it for you?"
Don't worry, the tone gets even worse as he goes on. Besides liking the idea of the (rumored) price point being lower for digital games compared to retail games on the PS Vita, Durall is delighted to hear a rumor that Microsoft might even disable the use of used games on its next Xbox system:
"There’s another big rumor about the next Xbox console that could really start to shake things up…it won’t play used games at all! Personally I think this would be a fantastic change for our business and even though the consumers would be up in arms about it at first…they will grow to understand why and that it won’t kill them."
He also seems to look down his nose at game lending to a friend and thinks the Amazon method would work pretty good for games:
"Another issue would be with simply lending the game to a friend, but maybe they could implement something similar to what Amazon is doing with their Kindle Books lending policy. The license of the game could be transferred for a set time to another Gamer Tag and the original owner won’t be able to play during that time. Seems like it could work."
Finally he concludes that players just don't realize how much it costs to put a game on the market:
"In the end, I fully believe that we have to do something about these issues or our industry is going to fall apart. People often don’t understand the cost that goes into creating these huge experiences that we put on the shelves for only $60. They also don’t seem to realize how much they are hurting us when they buy a used game and how pirating a copy is just plain stealing. Maybe something as simple as educating them could help solve the problem…"
My goodness, there's so much to take in in that post that is wrong. This is the part where I rant (the opinions below are mine, and not necessarily those of GamePolitics or the ECA).
It's interesting that before 2007 or 2008 you didn't hear anyone even talking about the used games market. It's almost like it didn't exist... except that it had existed for as long as console systems have existed. So why does it suddenly have such an impact on new game sales? But forget about that for a minute - the real question is, do developers really deserve a cut of game sales AFTER they have already sold a new copy of the game to the consumer? Shouldn't this fall under the First Sale Doctrine? Why are games any different than any other product you can physically touch like a car, a shirt, or a music CD? Used music sales have been around for decades but the music industry never went out of business. Why do games, facing the same challenges that the music and the movie industry faced (and still face), deserve special attention?
And if used game sales are so dangerous to the video game industry (and the oft cited menace of piracy) why don't we ever see any cause and effect in publicly traded companies' financial results? After all, if used games sales and piracy do so much damage to the game industry and cause job losses, shouldn't they be able to put the amount of financial damage being caused on paper for everyone to see? The reason they don't "put those numbers on paper" is because they have no idea. Sure, they can "claim" that piracy and used games (which some developers consider equally damaging) steal revenue and cause job losses, but they just can't seem to prove it beyond using estimates not based in reality (for example, a pirated copy of a game equals one lost sale, or one used game sale equals one new game sale being lost).
The real truth is that the damage caused by used game sales is like the threat of communism infiltrating Hollywood the 1950s: an apparition conjured up by parties seeking to create a cause for a danger that is not real. But instead of blacklisting actors and directors, the industry is using its messaging to convince consumers and the games media that their actions to further monetize what used to be free is fair. It is fair because games costs so much to make, and because they don’t have a fair deal with GameStop, and because used game sales aren’t shared with game developers, they reason.
Yes there are inequities with the deals that publishers and developers have with GameStop, but this is hardly the fault of the consumer. When publishers and developers use punitive measures to recoup unverifiable losses (online pass codes, DRM), they do more damage to their future than any used game sales ever could.
For another fine rant on this same blog post, check out No High Scores.
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