The Price we Pay

So earlier this week, a slashdot article caught my eye. It appears that some game developers are considering making vital parts of games downloadable only content after the initial owner finishes his game.

Hold off on the raging for one moment, please. This is why.

As most gamers know, a common sight these days in a game shop is the 'Used game' trend. Used games are typically sold for five dollars less then their counterparts regardless of quality or damage, and have become a very popular alternative for those looking to buy games, because hey, five bucks is five bucks.

Here's why developers are so against it. When those games are sold, the profit generated is 100% completely the stores. Rather then paying the developer $20-$30 per copy when they originally purchased the games, game resale stores tend to buy back games for 5-8 dollars (for brand new games), then turn and sell them for $5 less then the new copy. Ultimate result? The game store makes far more selling Used games then it does new games, and the developer never sees a shade of that profit.

This is why game developers are considering making vital content download only. Each time a gamer buys a used copy of the game, its essentially the same to the developer as if he had purchased a bootleg. The developer makes no profit from his game, while someone else rakes in large amounts of cash selling the same disc multiple times.

Picture it this way. Say you are a game developer. You produce a game which takes approximately two years to produce. The game goes to stores, were it sells at $50 a copy. You make $30 off of each copy sold. In the end, you sell 300,000 copies (which is a respectfully good run) making your company 9 million dollars (profitable isn't it). All is well and good, until you notice that 900,000 copies of the game sold, 300,000 new and 600,000 'used', netting the game store 6 million in profit that was from new copies and twenty-seven million dollars in used copies, of which none goes to you. Essentially, they benefited directly from your hard work with no recompense to you or difficulty on their part.

Understandably, game developers are angry with the whole situation. The root of the problem lies in the fact that video games is still a young industry that is still experiencing growing pains. Some people that take advantage of this unfortunately cause more. Due to lack of response from any other party, game developers are taking the fight into their own hands, and fighting back the only way they know how--making used games not worth the hassle.

One such method already being utilized is an initial activation code. It works by packaging a one-time activation code with the game that when entered into the game, unlocks content central to the game. Since the code is of one time use only, those who buy used copies of the game are either A) denied access to the content or B) must purchase the content for an additional price online.

Due to the profit loss brought on by used games however, developers are suggesting that instead of bonus maps or similar bonus material as an activation code, why not entire levels, such as the last bit of the game? Some have discussed the possibility of charging up to $20 dollars for the "other half of the game".

Obviously, this method would work, but in the meantime, it punishes those who either A) Rent the game B) Replace their console or even C) trade the game with a friend.

Honestly, as bad as that is for that group, I have to honestly say I support the developers on this one. They are simply fighting back against an unjust system costing them MILLIONS of dollars. Mind you, they lose millions if they sell only 300,000 copies. Epic's Gears of War 2 sold over 2.1 million copies in its first day, but according to the company the amount of X-box's reporting playing the game was over double that. You can do the math yourself, but that's a FAT wad of cash. Not even politicians are that morally decrepit.

I will declare that I do support used games. I think its a fine idea...when done rationally. A used car sells for less then a half of its original value. Same with a book. A brand new Subaru 2006 WRX retails for $34,000. A used version will cost you at most $24,000. That's about a 1/3 the price at the highest. By that rule a used copy of the game should cost far less then the $5 discount you see in GameStop.

Only one other solution presents itself outside of the solution developers are presenting. We as a public need to get off our collective couches and take action. If we stop buying used games, developers won't need to switch to making vital parts of our games downloads only. Boycott the used games, and GameStop just might get the message.

Don't just be passive either. Make it known. Buy the new game, reject their always offered offer to 'buy the used one instead' and let them know you won't be buying used anymore.

1 comment:

Time Enforcer Anubis said...

You make a good point. I agree that retailers like Gamestop trying to maximize profits is a big problem and devs are at wits end trying to rectify it. I sure hope something good comes out of this.
Certainly looks like this is the biggest thing since DRM.