Buying Used Games (And The Other Fees)

Let me catch you up on the story thus far. Game developers sell you a game. You can trade that game in at stores (who re-sell them as used,) and you get store credit. Simple, right? Enter: politics and money.

If you do buy a used game, you (increasingly?) have to pay an additional charge to play online, something that was included with the initial purchase price. Recently the Creative Director of THQ (the publisher of the game,) Cory Ledesma tells CVG:

“I don’t think we really care whether used game buyers are upset because new game buyers get everything. So if used game buyers are upset they don’t get the online feature set I don’t really have much sympathy for them. … That’s a little blunt but we hope it doesn’t disappoint people. We hope people understand that when the game’s bought used we get cheated.”

Today Tycho of Penny Arcade chimed in, (PA being a huge webcomic often seen as “the voice of gamers,” they they’ve often shrugged off the label,) and Tycho is vehemently against the purchasing of games from the secondary market. This has raised the ire of many gamers.

Personally, I haven’t bought many games second-hand in the years past. Then again, I haven’t bought many games at all in years past. I’ve raised my standards in gaming, largely to Shadow of the Colossus and a few other games that carry both their story and an interesting subtext well. That said, I’m bored, and thought I’d make some comments.

o If trade-ins are really the problem, why not look toward those who are running the trade-in market? The Games Industry has turned a blind eye to their business partners (GameStop, Target (as of today), etc.) who, if this truly a grievous crime, are the perpetrators. To use a possibly-reaching comparison, publishers are like fathers beating on their children for doing what their mother says is okay. And the father refuses to address the mother’s implicit guilt in rearing her child. It’s not the child’s fault. The marriage is bad.

o Imagine you made songs for an iTunes and the songs sold for a dollar each. Then imagine iTunes introduced a service that lets people sell songs back to the store for a quarter each, and sold the “used strips” for fifty cents and keep all the profit for themselves. This would eat into your potential profits. Would that be the fault of the fans, who truly enjoyed your song but wanted to get it for the cheapest price possible from those who didn’t? The fault of iTunes who agreed to sell your music, but is screwed you? Or your own fault for supporting the site that not only with your music, but pre-order bonuses, and tons of give-aways in your deal with them, as game publishers do with game stores?

o Quite simply, it’s double charging for a portion of the game included in the original price.

o IANAL, but I imagine there would be no legal problem with cracking the second-charge scheme. As that portion of the game was included for the price of purchase, after that it’s up to the person who bought it to decide what to do with it. So long as no one tries to use the service after they sell it, or duplicate the service, I really doubt they’d have a case.

Bonus points:
o If people felt a developer’s games were worth keeping, this wouldn’t even be an issue, but they’re largely not — hence the all too common scenario of developers constantly pumping out annual updates for full price. Note that the “fighting words” were over a game that’s had a yearly iteration since 2000. What impetus do they have to make a game that players will even WANT to play years later when they’ll be forced to make a new one next year anyway? You think too many people are looking to sell their copies of Civilization or games from Team Ico?

o I own an Xbox 360. Thanks Microsoft, for giving me the chance to pay publishers extra to play a game online that I’m already paying you once to play online on an Internet connection that I’m already paying someone else for. Dicks.