EA and the Used

No sooner had I made my post yesterday about used games and their price does a major game development company announces a new plan to cut down on used sales, or at least recoup their losses. As you might have guessed, they plan on taking that recoup right out of your wallet.

The news is that starting with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2011, all EA sports games will not work online without a one time use code that will come in the box. Let that sink in for a moment. That means that if you buy any of their sports games used, you'll have no access to online play unless you pay an additional one-time fee that links itself to your online account. The cost of this fee? $10. Sure, you'll be given a 7 day trial period if you haven't played the particular game before, so rentals will still work online for the first week, but after that, you'll either need to buy new or shell out $10 to play online.

As I expected to see, forums were alive and well today, if well could be considered reacting with utter rage and anger. But you know what, I feel completely confident in saying to all: You did this to yourselves. Just yesterday I release a story about used game sales nearly equaling actual sales. I've run older articles in which I've pointed out that used games can quite easily make more money used then new, even if they sell less copies. I pointed out that yesterday's report showed that game developers were now making far less then they normally would off of their games due to used games. Yet now that EA has become the first to really step up and do something about it, gamers are acting like this is nothing more then a greedy money grab from EA to make some extra cash, not a response to gamers (greedy) grabs for extra cash.

For all the claims we make about gamers being smart, sometimes the grasp of economics leaves a little to be desired. So I'm just going to say this plain and simple for everyone out there: Used games are not only bad for business, they're choking the industry. If you want to see more of these punishments for used game sales, continue to be the lackluster consumers you currently are. If you want to actually support the games you buy, then pony up the extra $5! I know people can be suckers for sales, but it's 5 bucks! People spend more then that at McDonalds! You can afford $5 extra to actually send the company the message and support that you want their game, at least enough to let them have a little financial compensation for their efforts.

Used games have their place. While I have a strict used new game ban, I will go pick up titles that are several years old or hard to find used if I have to. But I won't buy a new game has been out for a year or two but is still selling used. I like to send the message to the developers that I enjoyed their titles and would like to purchase more of them. However, based on many of the responses I see from the online gaming community, the consuming gamers don't give jack about the developer. They just want to have their cake and eat it too. Talk about an arrogant sense of entitlement.


Time Enforcer Anubis said...

This still doesn't sit right with me.

The majority of gamers will go with the option that allows them to get the same product through less expenditure. That's a simple concept, and you can't really blame consumers for wanting to receive the same exact product at a lower price.

If we're talking greedy money grabs, let's bring it right back to GameStop, who are laughing all the way to the bank while the publishers target the gamers. Used sales are the core of their profits, and this is a widely-known fact. However, instead of getting competitive, the publishers decide to scapegoat the gamers, saying "You're the reason we can't have nice things," and slapping what is basically near PC-style DRM onto their games, punishing gamers simply for being consumers.

The way this is going, a backlash will come from one side or the other, and it won't be pretty for anyone.

There are two options to avoid this:

Either, all at once, convince the majority of the gaming community to spend more money to get the same content (Not likely, don't get your hopes up), or the publishers could start getting competitive, and with their current childish "He's not playing fair!" mentality toward the secondhand game market, it's looking like we're going down the path to a backlash.

Nobody wants a backlash, but nobody wants to step forward and stop the backlash.

Viking ZX said...

I should clarify that I think it's a crappy decision, and I don't think at all that it's the direction the industry should move (I've never been called an EA Troll Employee more then before yesterday) but it is something that gamers have been largely responsible for, which many gamers seem to be taking issue with. A lot of gamers don't care one way or another about actually making sure the developer gets a dime of profit, a fact substantiated by the recent release of the "Humble Bundle" where 5 classic indie games were bundled into one package that you could pay any amount at all that you wished, as low as .01 or as high as you wanted. Of course, this group is well known for tracking piracy and sale stats, and a few days into the sale they reported record numbers of piracy, mainly among the crowd that claims it would buy the game at a cheaper rate if they could. Apparently, cheaper means free, as many were opting to pay $0.00 for the games and download them.

People that buy used games seem to be cut from the same cloth. They don't care much at all about the developers (many retorts I received yesterday concerned how crappy the games were, which if is the case, why are they playing them?) and seem more concerned with getting the cheapest of all possible deals, right down to $0.00 if possible. The two largest problems I encountered was a lack of knowledge of economics (many gamers just refused to believe that reduced new sales would negatively impact a studio) and a lack of understanding in how game sales are accounted for (Developers make a third or less of the new price, publishers take another third or so, retail collects the last third).

However, I can agree that there are other villains in this case, both of which you identify. GameStop has been aggressively pushing used games for years, at vastly inflated prices, and publishers have refused to drop their prices or renegotiate distribution of funds with development studios.

I still say in the end however, that it is a matter of $5. Five lousy bucks. People spend more then that at McDonalds, yet many gamers argued with me yesterday that they simply couldn't afford the new price so they were forced to buy used. And that's a load of utter bull. GameStops greed keeps used games prices just $5 below the new price very regularly. If you can't afford to pay just $5 more on a game that is already $55 in order to ensure that a lesser known studio stays up, gaming may not be the hobby for you. I think gamers are very responsible for the current used games problem, we've known for years what buying used games would lead to, many publishers and development houses warned us over a year-and-a-half ago that they would do this to recoup losses, and we didn't change, so they did it.

There's a stickier issue at work here concerning who has the power to determine the workings of a game: the buyer or the seller, but I'll leave that for later.

Time Enforcer Anubis said...

Yeah, I think we can both agree that the gamers you spoke to are stupid. If it's a matter of money, just wait for the game's price to drop. This is why I don't buy games near the release date anymore. I can't afford to do so, and $5 isn't much of savings, which is something else GameStop tends to sodomize its consumerbase with, but that's an issue for another time.

I myself am extremely disheartened by the fact that we are heading toward a backlash, and I'm bracing myself for when that happens, but, like I said, there are two ways to avoid it, and, unfortunately, both groups in control of whether or not the backlash happens are stubbornly holding their ground.

As much as I'd love to be able to convince however many million gamers or whatever quantity makes up the majority of gaming that the extra $5 is worth it to keep developers and publishers alive and keep gaming from dying a horrible screaming death, that's basically impossible.

Like you said, a lot of gamers don't care, and that's a shame, but unless they get some incentive to start caring, they never will, and better to get them genuinely caring so they buy new on their own than to force them into buying new with DRM, which, while good for business, will piss a lot of people off.

The "easy" way would be for publishers to start getting competitive, mainly with GameStop, because they're probably the ones profiting most from used sales. In any other industry, if somebody starts making a profit off of your loss, the thing to do would be to step it up, not punish the customers for not shopping at your store.

The publishers are expecting to move their numbers without needing to be competitive. They're expecting gamers to buy from them, when GameStop offers the same product for less money, and that's an absurd proposition. I don't like the way GameStop does business, but dammit, they're competitive, and it works out for them. The publishers need to beat out GameStop. I'm praying they beat out GameStop, because just you and me buying games new isn't gonna stop the backlash.

Viking ZX said...

On the topic of gamers not caring, I do think that the current problem has been substantially increased by the amount of casual/new gamers who have entered the hobby in the past few years. While many hardcore gamers may be familiar with the aspects of the situation, odds are a recently converted gaming Mom isn't going to know about Developers, Publishers and Retailers when she sees two copies of Mario Galaxy, one of which is $5 cheaper. She's going to grab the used one without realizing that such a simple action is having consequences across the industry. With such a large influx of new hobbyists, the amount of inexperience with how the industry both works and runs has decreased substantially. many casual and new gamers expect the games industry to work in a manner similar to the movie or film industry. To whit, it does not, a fact that the games industry is very proud of but many newcomers are unfamiliar with.

This situation seems to be compounded by the fact that many of these new gamers are not seen in any gaming circles. Its as if a popular fishing hole used by a few well-connected and grizzled old fishing buddies was suddenly overrun by a horde of new fishers, all with little experience and with no knowledge of how any actions at that hole were taken prior to their arrival. Being so new to the sport however, they have no way to be taught the protocol and general knowledge of the sport, there are simply too many of them for the old hands to teach. The organization is sporadic, some of the newcomers don't want anything to do with the old timers, some are know-it-all's who already think they know the system, and the ones who really want to know don't know where to turn.

Every new media goes through turmoil, but these teenage years for the gaming industry could lead to some broken hearts before things stabilize.

One possible solution to redirect the backlash. EA and other publishers are doing this to protect shareholders interests, as they say. What's to stop gamers from buying stock and forcing the company into a change? We don't like business suits ruining our favorite developers so why not buy the developer? One large scale, and difficult, solution.

Time Enforcer Anubis said...

You've got a good point and, sadly, there's no real way to fix the fact that many new, casual, and inexperienced gamers are hard to convince, and it's a shame because, in order to drive the gaming industry and community in a healthy direction, we need to provide guidance to the newest additions to the gaming community, but, at the same time, they're being pulled by more detrimental portions of the community and have no idea where to turn. As a result, we get situations like this, where most gamers either don't care where their money's going, or have misconceptions about the industry, leading to an overall decline in profits for the publishers and development houses, even though people are still buying games.

Convincing that many people not only that they're wrong, but that they should spend more money on an already expensive product, is just about impossible.

The only viable solution would be for the publishers to start competing directly with GameStop so people will buy from them instead of giving GameStop all their money.

Getting gamers to buy stock and force the big publishers to change is an interesting solution, and would probably work if we could teach however many million or hundred-thousand gamers that make up the core of gaming how the stock market works. And judging by how the gamers you spoke to fail to understand the concept of distribution of profit, teaching them the stock market seems like trying to teach quadratics to a second-grader.