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Penny Arcade got it wrong.
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: The Used Game Debate
I like Penny Arcade.  I've been reading them since about strip #20, and while I don't always agree with what they say, I like the way they say it. 

Their latest post backs THQ's assertion that used game sales 'cheat' developers out of their rightful cashpile.

Quote by PA's Tycho:
I honestly can't figure out how buying a used game was any better than piracy

That's so wrongheaded I have a hard time being coherent with my reply.  I wrote a quick note to PA that talked briefly about my own experiences running an independent game store, but I think Techdirt summarizes the issue better than my emotional wailing:

Quote by Techdirt:
This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the law, basic economics and the customers THQ is failing to serve. On the law, Ledesma and others should familiarize themselves with the First Sale doctrine before making silly statements. On economics, repeated studies have shown that a healthy secondary market for products actually significantly helps the primary market. If you take more than a second and a half to think about it, it's easy to understand why. If there's a healthy secondary market for products, it reduces the risk for the buyers in the primary market. That is, if they buy the product and don't like it, they know they'll be able to resell it and recoup some of their losses. That makes it effectively cheaper for them to buy the primary product, increasing the number of sales. On top of that, the secondary market also helps in markets like video games in acting as a good way to segment the market, and get new buyers into a game or series of games. I'm sure many of the folks who are now buyers in the primary market, at one time purchased an earlier game in a series used. How is it that so many video gaming execs have so much trouble recognizing these basic concepts?

Yeah, that.

For what it's worth, here's what I told PA:

I am a former retailer, I ran a nicely successful independent shop in Canada for four years. For us, there's simply no way to stay in business selling new games. On big releases our wholesale cost was more than EB's retail. Used games were our lifeline, it's how we kept the doors open.

There are many good reasons to support used games, here are only two:

- retro titles. How else will you find an old game? I'm not happy being at the mercy of a publisher's desire to sell me what I want, the way I want it. If the publisher doesn't want to re-release a game, you either pirate it (emulate) or find a used copy. Could you imagine if every SNES game was a dead cart 'cause the phone number to call to re-activate its features no longer exists? Dreamcast games have this problem, with servers that no longer exist. EA shuts down their game servers very early. How long do you think THQ will be selling these activations?

- cost. People buying new games factor in the fact they can sell it when they buy the game. In Australia $120 is fucking robbery for a new game, but when I'm forced to buy a domestic release I do so knowing I'll get a large chunk of that back.

Used sales have always existed for everything. Cars, toys, tools, books, games, furniture, everything. That DRM gives the ability to control used sales does not mean it's a good idea. What if your xbox breaks? What if you have two machines in the house? What if THQ's server forgets that you're a legitimate user? The potential problems with this are insane. It's akin to digital books and DRM'd media: The only people who suffer are legitimate customers. Used game buyers will simply learn to pirate instead of buying at all, and then both THQ -AND- the gamestores suffer. THQ may be padding their own bottom line but they're screwing a lot of other people.

This is nothing more than a money grab by greedy, ignorant people.
BLEARGH
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Member since Oct 2007 · 316 posts
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On one hand, I'm always customer-centric in my view of any market. So for games in particular, being able to buy and to sell used games has more benefits than disadvantages for all parties, as the article you cite argues.

On the other hand, I'm a little bit outside of the system here because I simply don't trade in my games. As an obsessive collector, I hang on to nearly every video game I buy because I'm paranoid about missing out. My gaming habits are odd in a way that fits that; I remember buying Morrowind and then not playing it for eight months, largely because I wasn't in the mood until that particular moment. I want to be able to reach up on the shelf and grab the game I want to play right now, and that option is less open to me if I trade away a game.

Is it possible that video game publishers don't make games that have that sort of longevity? You don't see people pawning their Monopoly boards, because they have a sense that they might play the board game tomorrow, a month from now, or a year from now. Why don't people feel the same way about Grand Theft Auto III? My impression of the THQ situation is that they're looking at the problem backwards.
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User title: Kitten Blaster
Member since Feb 2010 · 89 posts
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Quote by Kendrick:
Is it possible that video game publishers don't make games that have that sort of longevity? You don't see people pawning their Monopoly boards, because they have a sense that they might play the board game tomorrow, a month from now, or a year from now. Why don't people feel the same way about Grand Theft Auto III?

the difference is that (most) single player games have a finite lifespan to them because there is a story to follow and that's all.  however, multiplayer games like monopoly have different experiences because you are playing with a person.  also, games that allow you to expand on the game like LittleBigPlanet have no limit as you are restricted to only what you can think of.

markets for game rentals would be slammed if there was a required code just to play the game offline.  i use gamefly (which rocks) and if i had to pay $5 for every game i had to rent, i would quickly be compelled to "hack the system" to eliminate such bullshit.  i go through games pretty fast since starting gamefly because i'm not being bled dry for money and i can get almost any game i want within a week's time.

what i fear with online activation is when the servers go offline and it's no longer supported.  after that, you cant play the game and you are completely fucked.
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: Sorry I mentioned it.
The more I think about this, the more I regret even bringing it up 'cause the discussion is so obviously and totally idiotic.  Penny Arcade have taken a tiny part of a huge puzzle and drawn a conclusion that fits only that part.  It's akin to studying a human being by focusing solely on the fingers.  "Sensitive, sometimes dirty, largely incapable of communication."  Entirely true, but it's a worthless observation when you consider the whole body.
BLEARGH
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User title: 21st century digital boy
Member since Sep 2007 · 17 posts · Location: Cambridge, UK
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On the other side of the spectrum, I entirely agree with some of their points. If you want to buy a game in order to support the developer rather than "just" to play it, buying used is the wrong thing to do. If I want to specifically support a studio or signal to a publisher that yes, I would like more of this kind of thing, I make a conscious effort to buy new, even if the game is significantly cheaper used (a recentish case of this was De Blob on the Wii, or my repeated purchases of World of Goo and Aquaria from various sources and for various people).

It's possibly also worth noting that I do try and support independent games shops when I can, rather than chains. Shame the only one in town is a hole, but on the other hand they're the only one that still does proper retro stuff. GAME have given up on pre-PS2 software and hardware entirely, and Gamestation (both chains belonging to Gamestop anyway) have literally two short shelf rows for it.


However, both Gabe and Tycho have made hilarious and badly thought-out statements in their defense of the comic (which, since it is again a different facet of the issue, I do also agree with - if you buy a game used, you are not a customer of the developer/publisher), and I would have expected them to realise this and backpedal at least on those. Or maybe they were just being deliberately as extreme in order to fuel the debate some more, and plausibly enough the shitstorm may have been an overreaction to the comic itself.

Of course, with digital distribution becoming more and more common, the entire debate is becoming less relevant by the day anyway, soooo.
"Hell is a pretty rotten place. Not only is it damn hot, but its inhabitants also have a rather deranged sense of humour." (R. Karsmakers)
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: Well, yeah, but...
I can't even agree that buying used means you're not a customer of the developer.  I mean, never mind that someone who purchases a new game has no direct relationship with the authors (dev gets paid by publisher gets paid by distributor gets paid by chain gets paid by franchisee gets paid by customer) you're still a user of their product.  Only retarded people would dare abuse their users like this, it just doesn't make sense beyond the short-term cash grab.

When someone buys your product and gets kicked in the face, they don't remember that they are punished for buying used, they remember that you kicked them in the face.  You know why sequels sell so well, often better than the original?  Because the first games were sold to one user and then to four more, increasing the sequel's audience to five.  If every subsequent user had bootprints on their cheek, how keen would they be to buy another of your products?

When you buy a used game you directly support the entire industry that supports your favourite dev.  They might not know your name, but if you didn't buy directly from them in the first place, they wouldn't know you anyway.  When the Gamestops of this world look at their sales figures and realize that this dev's games are a consistent, long-term volume seller, new and used, they'll be more likely to order more from them in the future too, don't you think?

There should be no stigma on buying used games, 'cause you're still buying games.  Kicking people in the face for not buying them the right way is stupid.
BLEARGH
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Quote by NFG:
When someone buys your product and gets kicked in the face, they don't remember that they are punished for buying used, they remember that you kicked them in the face.  You know why sequels sell so well, often better than the original?  Because the first games were sold to one user and then to four more, increasing the sequel's audience to five.  If every subsequent user had bootprints on their cheek, how keen would they be to buy another of your products?
/thread
"...either stop and think or fuck right off" (TheOutrider)
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Member since Nov 2009 · 4 posts
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The problem is that the game studios are selling a product but want to act like it's a service. It used to be in this world when you bough something you owned. Now all we do is license the right to use. While you own the physicall media you don't have any rights when it comes to the software. See the recent VERNOR v. AUTODESK, INC. case to see that we are loosing what control we did have.

If game studios want as much control over their games as they profess they need to make living games. Internet enabled games that are a service, tied to the publisher in a hard but meaningful way. So that they can't be resold, or used without the publisher being a part of the equation.
Supermighty Fear and loathing on the virtual frontier.
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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I can't believe this is still an issue for some people.

Battlefield 3 executive producer Patrick Bach says that killing used games would result in a magical burgeoning of variety in games, 'cause it's just so obvious every game is the same because publishers fear their games will be re-sold.

Say what?

"So if you think that there are too few new IPs on the market, no one can take that risk if their game is at risk of being resold too many times. Therefore you see a lot of online games being the most popular. You mentioned that you feel like a lot of [online shooters] have the same formula and this is one of the reasons, which most people seem to not realise.

So on the positive side you could see more games being created because of this, and also more new IPs, because there'd be a bigger market for games that don't have for instance multiplayer. There could be awesome single player-only games, which you can't really do these days because people just pirate them, which is sad.

People won't start buying more games 'cause you make them less valuable.  How hard is it to learn this lesson?  Fucking over your customers is never a good idea.  NEVER.
BLEARGH
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