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Posted by s0nicfreak on Feb 9, 2012
Why “blocking” used games is fair.

Why “blocking” used games is fair.

There’s been a lot of talk about ending the used games market lately, and rumor has it that the “next xbox” will block used games. While that’s horrible for the people that like to save 5 or 10 bucks on physical games, I think it’s great.

From the game makers’ point of view, buying a used game is exactly the same as pirating. They went through the work of making the game, and then you come into possession of the game without the game makers seeing a cent of your money. It’s even worse than piracy for them in a way; when you pirate, you may buy the game if you like it. But if you buy used, you most likely aren’t going to go buy it new no matter how great it is.

For the customer, used games are a form of deceit. Customers think they are doing the right thing by buying a game instead of pirating. The used game is right there in the store, next to the new game but costing a little less. Many people think they are supporting the game industry by buying used; but the reality is that they are only supporting the stores that sell the used games. These stores give a person $2 – $5 for a game, slap on a $45 or $55 price tag and then put it next to the $50 or $60 brand new game.

A few companies – and a lot of people – are saying blocking used games is unfair to custumers. Customers should be able make a few bucks off games they no longer want and save a few bucks on games they do want, they claim. Now it is well known that I believe customers should be able to make money off games – but not when that money is given to the customer or an outside company rather than the game companies. It’s fair for customers and game companies to compliment each other in ways that make both money. It’s not fair to take money out of the game companies’ pockets and instead put it in the customers’ (or GameStop’s).

And fairness aside, let’s look at this logically. If the game companies don’t make enough money, they can not continue to exist. If they don’t exist, their customers can not exist. No one can make or save money on good games if no one can afford to make good games.

Not that I’m claiming that used games are bringing an end to the games industry; used games have been around as long as games have been around, and the industry has survived. And things like digital distribution, dlc, microtransactions, etc. are likely to bring an end to the used games industry long before the used games industry has the chance to hurt the games industry. I’m just looking at what is fair for everyone rather than what is fair to only the customers or only the used games sellers. Imo it is fair to play a game, and if you think it is worth money, give the makers of the game some money.

If you want to save some money while still supporting games, buy digital. But buying a game that is already used when you could buy it brand new for just a few bucks more, or the same price digitally – or even less if you watched the digital sales – isn’t fair to the customer nor the game makers. And putting on blocks to prevent the lie that used games are fair is completely fair, because the customer has the option to not buy any of the products if they don’t like the blocks.

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6 Responses to “Why “blocking” used games is fair.”

  1. Cameron King says:

    “It’s not fair to take money out of the game companies’ pockets and instead put it in the customers’ (or GameStop’s).”

    That’s literally not what’s happening. No one is taking money out of game companies’ pockets. If the products were well priced, the second-hand market would soak up the copies easily and all that would be left would be newly published copies.

    What the market is telling the games companies behind this, is that the value somewhere is wrong, either the game is too shit for the asking price, or the asking price is too high for that type of game, or both.

    Here’s an experiment you can try. Go into a GameStop or equivalent and try to find a copy of Mario Kart Wii in the used game section. Can’t find it? .. try the new games section, ok got it, how much is it? -Still at launch price?!?! -SURPRISE!! (jazz hands).

    “Supply and Demand”, please read about it.

    • s0nicfreak says:

      Used copies of Mario Kart Wii are in stock in EVERY SINGLE gamestop near me, and there are NO NEW copies available without the wheel. Take a look for yourself if you like; my zipcode is 46319 http://www.gamestop.com/wii/games/mario-kart-game-only/74294 (So okay, in that situation they don’t have it used for $5 less than new, because they don’t have any new to compete with anymore, except the with-wheel version which is $10 more.)

      So to start off with, you’ve got that wrong. Also, your experiment is flawed. First, because you chose to use Mario Kart Wii as an example – which happens to be the best selling racing game of all time. So the issue certainly isn’t that no one wanted to buy it at launch price.

      Secondly, just because you can’t find any game in the used game section does not mean no one wanted to buy it at launch price. Maybe GameStop isn’t taking used copies of that particular game – they DO pick and choose which games they will buy and resell. Maybe they sent them all to another city where used copies were moving better. Maybe they have it and just don’t have the box on display in the used games section. Or just maybe everyone that bought it liked it so much that they didn’t sell it.

      I know how supply and demand works, but I’m wondering if you do. Gamestop isn’t a competing supplier; if they were, there would be nothing wrong with their tactics. If GameStop made games that were in demand and priced them at $5 or $10 or even $50 less than the other average game prices, there would be nothing wrong with that. But GameStop doesn’t supply games, game companies do, and when used games are sold the suppliers aren’t being paid for something they supplied and that was demanded.

  2. Cameron King says:

    “Used copies of Mario Kart Wii are in stock in EVERY SINGLE gamestop near me,”

    Oh, ok, fair enough, I can only get first copies here.

    “Also, your experiment is flawed. First, because you chose to use Mario Kart Wii as an example – which happens to be the best selling racing game of all time.”

    That it sells really well was my point. -Why do you think it sells well? Have used copies hampered Nintendo’s ability to sell more new copies of it?

    “Secondly, just because you can’t find any game in the used game section does not mean no one wanted to buy it at launch price.”

    I need to interpret a little here, the statement above is in triple-negative. So please clarify if I get this wrong.. Ok, well, sure, if no one liked the game at all, there would be no consumer copies to be sold back to GameStop in the first place. In which case the problem for the game company is not the used market, but, arguably worse – no one bought it at all.

    On the other hand, if people loved the game so much, they would never sell it back and may even be reluctant for friends to even borrow it. -That is a good game and has a built-in lower probability of appearing in GameStop’s used game section. -Not a problem for the game company, clearly.

    “I know how supply and demand works, but I’m wondering if you do.”

    Touché!

    “Gamestop isn’t a competing supplier; if they were, there would be nothing wrong with their tactics.”

    What’s the definition of “supplier”, here? Publisher? Developer? Sales portal?

    -You mean if GameStop *made* it’s own games to sell then that would be ok?
    So no one should be allowed to own anything? Two private parties should seek the permission of the manufacturer before making a transaction between them?

    If someone buys my game, in a box, with all the goodies I provide, I don’t care what they do with the product. They can sell it on, burn it, take a shit on it, I don’t care. -I got the money for the copy I manufactured, my accountant and lawyer nod in approval, everyone’s happy.

    But not you apparently! :-)

    • s0nicfreak says:

      “That it sells really well was my point. -Why do you think it sells well? Have used copies hampered Nintendo’s ability to sell more new copies of it?”

      Some people have bought it used. If this were not true, Gamestop would not bother to keep the used version in stock. I would say it is very likely they would have bought it new if it weren’t available used. So in those cases, used copies hampered Nintendo’s ability to sell some new copies of it. Yeah, Mario Kart Wii sold a fuckton – there’s a lot of people playing games in the world nowadays. Are used copies actually hurting a company as big as Nintendo, with such low production costs as Nintendo, with such long-running world-renowned IP as Nintendo? No, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt ANY company.

      Why does it sell? It’s fun for the whole family, it’s fun for non-gamers, it doesn’t seem to involve any violence or sex or etc. so sheltering parents can feel fine buying it for their kids or people can give it as a gift to kids without worrying about offending the parents, it is a great multiplayer game, etc. etc. etc. But since Mario Kart Wii is not the average game, it’s a horrible example to use for this no matter the point, so let’s stop talking about that one specifically now and talk about games in general.

      “Ok, well, sure, if no one liked the game at all, there would be no consumer copies to be sold back to GameStop in the first place. In which case the problem for the game company is not the used market, but, arguably worse – no one bought it at all.”

      If no one liked it, Gamestop would likely have a lot of used copies* – you can’t know if you like a game until you play it, so a lot of people would have bought it, realized it sucked, and sold it. (And yeah, the fact that much of game selling relies on getting people to buy a game before they realize it sucks is a big flaw in the game industry, but that’s another rant.) However, those first buyers would be telling everyone else that it sucked, not only would lots of new copies still be sitting on the shelves, the used copies wouldn’t sell either. It would be reduced in price and eventually end up in the bargain bin. (Not that every game in the bargain bin sucks – often there are some older gems that there were just a fuckton of copies made of, and everyone and their dog has it or played the fuck out of it.)

      *Relative to the amount of copies in existence. The only way a company can make a fuckton of copies and get them in stores is to have a track record of good games, in which case they probably aren’t going to make one that no one likes, and even if the game sucks you’re going to have fans of the series or company buying it.

      “What’s the definition of “supplier”, here? Publisher? Developer? Sales portal?”

      Supplier would be the developer. The sales portal is called the dealer or seller. The publisher is kind of part of the supplier, a middle man between the supplier and the dealer. Only with Indie games (and even then, not all of them) are the dealers also the suppliers. Think about it like drugs – a drug dealer is someone that sells drugs, but a drug supplier is someone that grows/makes drugs. Sometimes people do both, but not often since they’re very different jobs with different risks and it’s hard to juggle both.

      “If someone buys my game, in a box, with all the goodies I provide, I don’t care what they do with the product. They can sell it on, burn it, take a shit on it, I don’t care. -I got the money for the copy I manufactured, my accountant and lawyer nod in approval, everyone’s happy.

      If you and your accountant and lawer were all happy no matter what people did with the games they bought, your company would be quite a rarity. Game companies have fought against used game sales since – well, since used game sales existed. They don’t care if you take a shit on the disc, but they care if you give it to other people, because they want those other people to give them money for the game too. Why do you think you don’t see used PC games in GameStops anymore (although it wasn’t called GameStop back when you would see that)? Companies found a way around the First Sale Doctrine with PC games. When you buy a game, you aren’t really buying the game, and therefore you aren’t buying the ability to do whatever you wish with the game. You’re buying a license to play the game on the suppliers’ terms. So sure, you can do whatever you wish with the DISC – but not with the CD key or the data contained on the disc or etc. Because the disc is not really the game. Why do you think companies are trying to find ways around it with console games now? They care. They want the money to go to them instead of to GameStop. The only way they can make more games is if that happens. The only way they will make more GOOD games is if good games sell well new. More Good games being in existence in the future is more important to me than saving $5 – and if you knew how much of a cheapass and coupon user I am, you’d know that meant a lot. :)

  3. Mike S. says:

    As an aside, I don’t know how you maintain a good site while having four kids. That’s insane.

    I think you’re making the relationship between used game sellers and game creators to be parasitic when it’s actually mutually beneficial. When you trade in a game, there’s a good chance you’ll take the money you get and buy a new game. When you buy a used game, there’s a good chance you’ll take the money you saved and buy a new game later. The game seller gives the game creator free advertising with his shelf space, so that benefits the creator. A new game that is sold, used, and set aside does nothing more for the game creator. A new game that is sold, used, then resold might inspire the person that bought it or their friends to discuss the game with friends, or buy their own copy of the game, or buy the sequel.

    But perhaps most of all, companies should not be able to dictate what I do with something they sell me. What if Lowe’s sold a hammer and then said I am not allowed to give it to a friend? What if I bought a Toyota but was forbidden from reselling it? What if I could buy a cookbook, but I had to sign an agreement that I would never use Pillsbury products in conjunction with any recipe from the book? How about buying a CD but being told you could only ever play it for yourself and two other people, anything more was illegal?

    I respect the game creators’ rights to earn money for their creation. But that can’t come from restricting me the buyer.

    • s0nicfreak says:

      >When you trade in a game, there’s a good chance you’ll take the money you get and buy a new game.

      And there’s just as much chance you’ll buy a used game.

      >companies should not be able to dictate what I do with something they sell me.

      Well then I hope you tell them that by never buying a console game (they are limited to only working on the game company’s console, the company will ban you from online play of you modify your console, and countless other restrictions), nor a Steam game, nor any pc game with any sort of DRM… nor an ebook, nor an mp3, nor a razor that only uses blades made by the same company.

      And you actually ARE limited in the amount of people you can let listen to a CD. http://www.askamusiclawyer.com/archive/can-i-play-cds-i-own-at-work.html

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