Just Asking – Used Games

Feature

Just Asking – Used Games
P(re-o)WNED!

Armbands or no, we’re cannon-balling straight into the deep end this month, paddling about the issue of Second Hand Games Sales and how it affects the Industry, Publishers and Gamers themselves.

According to Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida, the Playstation 4 will not block used games. This is news now. It was not a generation ago... an indication of how contentious this issue has become.


But why the schism? People sell on their cars, their clothes, their houses. So why all this gaming guff?
Goggles good and tight? Let’s plunge the depths...

Is it safe to say Publishers aren’t too enamoured with the second-hand market? That their real gripe is with the loss of potential profit? More gamers are enjoying their product. Fewer gamers are paying them for the privilege... Does their fear stem from a concern sales will diminish as consumers exclusively avail of the second-hand market?

But in fairness, who only buys second-hand? Are they immune to the unadulterated elation of launch day?

Still, if five humans play Crysis 3, but EA only see profits from a single sale, where is this $70+billion industry headed if not the drink?


But is the Used Market actually cannibalizing sales? (And why does the term cannibalizing never have positive connotations?) Perhaps it generates long-term interest ? Maybe only that one person was ever going to buy Crysis 3? Perhaps the only reason the proceeding four so much as looked Prophet’s way was due to the increased availability and reduced price of the pre-owned section? And as an ancillary, surely those four individuals in question are now more likely to shell out for future EA or Crytek titles?

Sadly, Publishers cannot reliably track second-hand sales. This makes it harder to gauge how many gamers not only play, but legitimately enjoy their efforts. But what of Mirror’s Edge? Sales hardly staggered, however thanks to the pre-owned market, word of mouth and its overall quality, would a successor (spiritual or otherwise) not be greeted with open arms? And open wallets?


But when projected sales continually diminish, doesn’t this cause domino effects, specifically when pricing the final product? Or, despite the costs involved, should all Publishers be expected to take this financial hit? Really? And is every Publisher as financially endowed as Activision? Uh....?

So, does the used-market artificially jack-up the cost of games? Or do Publishers, in-actuality, refuse to lower them?


Though it’s doubtful any real-world publisher employs an insidious “Punish our paying customers” policy, many gamers feel this reflects reality. With tightened purse strings and less free time, can the enlightened gamer be expected to drop €60 on a 6 hour experience?

Quality is expected. That’s a given. No question. However for sixty big ones, gamers appreciate some additional longevity, novelty or replay value for their investment. Have any of you ever found a pre-owned copy of Skyrim? There’s a reason for that...

Elsewhere, the rental market is a fabulous gateway for exploring niche titles. In the past year I have rented The Darkness II and DMC. Have I done anything but sing their praises since? Won’t I keep a weather eye out for the next project from Digital Extremes or Ninja Theory?
Care to try and stop me?!

What of Development Houses? Don’t low sales risk a Publisher’s wrath? (Do I get points for using the term ‘Wrath’?!) The industry weeps when a solid developer disbands due to financial struggles. Consumers accuse Publishers of not backing them sufficiently. Publishers call gamers stingy, call retailers greedy.



Retailers, eh? Those jerks; maybe they’re the real villains?
Maybe not?

Remember HMV? Remember GAME? Give it a month. But what incentive have Retailers to re-stock from the manufacturer when the second-hand market replenishes stock and generates free money? Do they retard the industry, or aid in its growth?

It’s safe to say they have their own problems, so let’s shift perspective to the consumer:
The Games Industry is a monster, right? But it could stand to be bigger! And perhaps rather than sucking its blood, re-circulating pre-owned titles actually expands the core user base, effectively oxygenating the industry?

Wouldn’t a potential gamer be far less hesitant to fork over €25 than the standard €60? And if they take a liking to it, what are the chances their willingness to become a long-term consumer multiplies?


Is it fair to say people prefer to spend their cash on unspoiled, unopened products? I do. Less hassle. And I show affection for certain developers, studios and artists by spending a few extra quid to support them. Don’t you?

“Well, depends on your definition of a few extra squid, doesn’t it, Jack? You self righteous jag!”

True dat! And perhaps even those who exclusively purchase new games appreciate the option to trade in older titles against them? As the unimaginably wealthy supermarket conglomerate says, Every Little Helps...
Besides, it’s our property, it’s ours to sell, correct?

Perhaps if Publishers/Retailers instituted a regular sales drop i.e. 10% per week? Surely sales at a reduced rate trump no sale at all?

Unfortunately, the Price-Drop route has been relinquished in favour of a digital solution. Online passes now lock out multiplayer content while post-launch DLC and micro-transactions provide steady revenue streams directly into Publisher pockets. And while being locked out of deathmatches stokes our ire, is it a stretch to state gamers are unanimously on board with the digital model?

Has the Steam sale, Playstation Plus or Humble Bundle done anything but flourish? And given everything is online now, everything (including the recently announced PS4) is community orientated, socially geared, can there be any doubt that we gamers will hear of quality content and in turn will pay for quality content?

Good games will make money. History is probably on my side with this one... But answer me this, and remember, I’m just asking, is it the duty of the consumer to accommodate the spending of said money? Or does that responsibility rest with the supplier?

Also, Mirror’s Edge: Woooo!


Just Asking – Used Games on ClickOnline.com
About this author

jack@clickonline.com
Staff Reporter
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