‘I Feel Used,’ Quips Volition’s Jameson Durall on Used Games

"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.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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  1. GoliathWon says:

    No. He's saying that the rumored game-system association of the next XBox system would cause issue with people lending games to other people.

    Edit: Oh, I see how you came to this conclusion, the way this article is edited. If you look at the original blog post you see that he had been talking about how this feature would affect game rentals, thus the "another issue" comment.

  2. Andrew Eisen says:

    Sure.  In using the word "issue," he's categorizing game lending as another thing that is going to cause the industry to fall apart.


    Andrew Eisen

  3. GoliathWon says:

    Could somebody please explain to me how the Hell the sentence "Another issue would be with simply lending the game to a friend" could possibly be characterized as "looking down his nose" at game lending?

  4. rma2110 says:

    I really wish gamers would stop selling their unwanted games at GameStop. It's a total rip-off. Use E-Bay or Amazon. A simple garage sale would probably get you more money. I feel like publishers continue to support GameStop with exclusive DLC just because it helps them justify online passes and point to the EVILS of the used game market.

    I am so very glad that I am a single game player. Non of this on-line nonsense for me. Oh, and if the Xbox Infinity ant-used game rumor turns out to be aything but a publisher's pipe dream, I will eat my shorts. Not buying that rumor for a second.

  5. Pixelantes Anonymous says:

    I am so glad I didn't buy Saints Row III.

    It's been on my "wait till hits discount bins" queue, and this little whine from the makers of the game validates my decision to wait perfectly.

    I'd write what I'm actually thinking about this, but I'm afraid it'd get caught in the profanity filters.

  6. Papa Midnight says:

    Publishers and Developers seem keen to try the patience of even the usually complacent-with-whatever-they-get console gamers. Keep it up, and, sooner-or-later, even their patience will run thin. At that point, I'm willing to bet it will be like 1983 all over again… Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  7. Samster says:

    These arrogant, anti-consumer industry reps are really getting on my last nerve. Couldn't agree more with the opinion finale of the article – used sales are a non-factor in every other entertainment medium and video games do not deserve special treatment. If the gaming industry keeps putting consumer rights on the back bench, that's what will hurt their pockets more than anything else.

  8. Non-entity says:

    The only way GameStop can have a copy available for $5 less during the launch window is if someone else already bought the game, at the new game price, and subsequently decided the game was not worth holding onto.

    The only entity at blame in that situation is the developer.  The used industry isn't taking money that rightfully belongs to the developers, it's taking advantage of the gap between what the developers want and what the market actually thinks they're worth.

  9. Erik says:

    And I'm willing to bet that those sales, as compared to new game sales for such games, are few and far in between.

    And so help me if Microsoft prevents used games from being played on their next console I will not purchase it.

  10. Kojiro says:

    The big fallacy here is the belief that the developer sees no money from a used game sale, and that is simply bullshit.  I buy a game new for $60.  I play it, sell it for $40, and I use that $40 towards another new game.   Sure, sometimes kids buy beer with their used game money, but I think a vast majority of used game sales directly fuel new game sales.

    Something like this rumored single-owner system on the next Xbox would mean I buy fewer new games, and the people who usually buy used games from me are reduced to piracy.

  11. MechaTama31 says:

    I don't think that scenario is what they're worried about, so much as somone walking into GameStop in the launch window for a game, and buying a used copy for $5 less than the new one.  GameStop really pushes those sales, and stuffs their own pockets at the expense of the game publishers and developers who would have seen the money from that sale.  I'll bet you most people who are willing to pay $55 for a game would also be willing to pay $60 if the $55 copy wasn't there.

  12. Erik says:

    This tripe bullshit again.  I just *love* how these morons assume a 1 to 1 relationship with used game sales to lost sales.  Generally when I buy a used game I have an extra $20 in my pocket and I decide to trawl the bin at the local gamestop.  What I buy when I do that are games that I can tolerate, not love.  I have no intention to throw $60 on such a crap game.  Some excecutive that thinks that I could, well THAT I consider stealing.  Do you want my money?  Make better games and stop fucking crying.

  13. hellfire7885 says:

    My guess is copies of Saints Row: The Third are finding their way onto used game store shelves.

    Giving how upset some fans have been over the DLC, story, and a host of other things, I'm thinking the problem is not the use market.

  14. CK20XX says:

    When developers talk about hating used game sales, sometimes I wonder if they really mean they hate Gamestop in particular.  Their virtual monopoly on the trade provides a bad face for it, to say nothing of all the other reasons people can't stand them.

    That said though, forcing people to buy your games new would simply be replacing one oppressive regime with another.  It's only going to drive people to online piracy.  Treating your customers with love and respect is what will get you far.  If you treat them with disdain, I think you'll find that they'll return the sentiment.

  15. RedMage says:

    Here's a bit of advice to developers complaining that used games are cheating you out of royalties:

    Shut the hell up.  You failed to create real incentive for us to buy your game new.  You failed to compete in a competitive market – because that's what this is, first and foremost.  Stop whining and hang your head in shame.

  16. Andrew Eisen says:

    Attempting to incentivize buying new is all well and good but upsetting your customers in the process ain't the best way to go about it, methinks.


    Andrew Eisen

  17. ddrfr33k says:

    I really hope Volition is going to keep those online pass servers running until the end of time. (or 2012, if we really are on the verge of an apocalypse)  What if Mario Kart 64 required a pass code for multiplayer?

  18. ddrfr33k says:

    There could not be a truer quote, silversnowfox. IDGAF if that's your sig, it fits way too well in this article and comment.

  19. silversnowfox says:

    What was that? Couldn't hear you over the noise of modding my new X-thing to get around the stupid no used games feature.

  20. GoodRobotUs says:

    "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."

    Or, which is actually more likely, they will simply change their choice to a product that is more suited to their needs. Assuming that people would 'get used to it' is a recurring mistake in history, because people are far, far better at adapting around it.

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