Crap. I can’t sleep (I never can before big press events), so you get another boring, opinionated article to pore over. With all the overly dramatic (and highly annoying to folks like me with large game libraries) fuss over used games and how developers and publishers aren’t making a dime off sales of pre-owned games (or consoles, for that matter), I figure I may as well add some opinions about a few things here. First of all, it’s the industry itself to blame for NOT capitalizing on the used market sooner, which helped breed the concept of used game retail in the first place. Had the big publishers figured out (say, back in the 90’s) that buying into a retail chain or setting up an online shop where their games could be fed back into profit, we probably wouldn’t be seeing this narrow-minded view of all used sales as the crime of the century (next to the piracy issue that the industry is even more toothless against despite some recent “victories”)…
There’s a bizarre over-panic knee-jerky mode the industry has been in for a while in regards to first piracy and now used games that reminds me of someone who builds a house and then finds out he’s got termites in the basement and a slightly leaky roof. Under normal circumstances, these problems could have been mitigated significantly with the proper early responses. What happens is a lot of sitting back and letting things go to rot while all the while saying “Oh yeah, I’ll get to it!” over and over as the munching and dripping slowly yet steadily increase. Common sense says if you see a problem, try to stop it as best you can while making sure you don’t paint yourself into a corner in the process. When the damn house has collapsed around your ears and you’re wondering what the hell happened and why it happened so damn quickly isn’t the time to call the roofer and exterminator. Of course, this stubborn to the point of self-cannibalism mindset is pretty standard throughout many people, industries and governments, so it’s not as if the game industry is the sole victim of its own lazy (and quite bureaucratic) behavior.
Another thing to consider is the fact that many gamers who simply can’t afford to drop full price on NEW software rely heavily on used games OR budget-priced reissues in order to get into some of the best-selling franchises or play games they’d ordinarily have skipped. While there are indeed a few million core users that run out and snap up popular games on day one, many others wait a few days or weeks for used copies to come in simply because their budgets don’t allow for dropping $50 and up per game (particularly in an economy that’s still struggling on many fronts). The measures imposed by the industry to drive ALL gamers towards new product range from shady to downright ludicrous, but all of them have been branded up the wazoo with perfectly-crafted PR spin that makes them look palatable… provided you’re under a certain age and ONLY if you have a damn decent broadband connection and are willing to be nickel and dimed to death by a thousand micro-transactions.
Even if we all bought into these well-planned schemes with slick-sounding names, there are at least two groups of gamers who are royally screwed should the used market be completely killed off. Those groups would be poor gamers who’ll be priced out of AAA titles and sick children who rely on donations of used games in order to add a little joy to their lives. Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and any other developer or publisher that only produces digital content are all deluded in that they continue to ignore the not so small gamer base that still doesn’t have reliable high-speed connections either due to the cost or the fact that some areas in the US aren’t yet in this century when it comes to Internet connectivity. These blinders worn by the industry as a whole also cover up the fact that ignoring these users (some of whom will actually pay more for physical product) only hurts their bottom line in the long run as the enforced evolution of digital gaming shuts out too many potential consumers.
As for the sick kids, well… OK, it’s a lousy sympathy play on my part, I’ll admit that much. However, there’s a big question here that needs an answer. As charitable organizations such as Child’s Play and even some children’s hospitals that rely on constant donations of used games during the holidays and other periods, what are they to do when these games eventually dry up? You can’t ask the parents of a child who’s ill (or a medical facility that cares for them) to shell out money they’d use for treatment or recovery for online passes to unlock single player content, upgrades or even entire games for that matter. You also can’t ask the game industry to entirely fund every program that relies on donations of physical copies of software to host free content for every sick child that wants to play one of their games for any number of reasons. The least of which, mind you would be how do you get kids recuperating at home in areas with crappy online connections their game therapy if the only way they can play is to redeem a code they can’t use (nor their parents or guardians afford)?
Of course, this is the part of the article where I’m supposed to offer up some sort of amazingly well thought out solution to this issue, right? However, I probably don’t have one that anyone in the industry wants to listen to. I’ve been saying for years that succesful or not, we’re moving too quickly into uncharted territory and that physical retail needs to have a presence in some form or another before being phased into a last resource for the non-lazy out there. Some smaller publishers such as Nippon Ichi and Xseed Games that run their own online shops have the right idea in getting their games to gamers as physcial copies with or without bonus materials.Personally, I think far too much emphasis is being placed on “collector’s” editions than needs to be and in fact, cutting back on production of these goods significantly can help keep physical media alive a bit longer. I’d rather play a great game with NO bonuses than a half-baked product that requires patches out of the box that comes packed with five pounds of stuff that doesn’t make the game playable.
One fix I’d recommend is for every publisher that wants to whip up a Limited, Premium or other edition that costs more than the standard retail package (or digital download, which should ALWAYS be a lot less expensive than a packaged release) is to ASK the user base what they want in these collector’s versions BEFORE committing to creating them. Spend a few weeks or months getting a tally of those gamers who are serious about spending that extra loot and if there are enough to warrant a SINGLE minimum run, take pre-orders from those folks and deal with each one directly through an official web site. This would free up retail space while also letting those gamers who aren’t able to afford these sets that the words PREMIUM EDITION mean exactly that. Sure, this will tick off those who’d in the past, simply wait until overstocked premium boxes hit rock-bottom prices before snapping them up.
Of course, that’s only a tiny percent of the entire problem here, but again, I can’t think of any decent solutions that involve the current trend towards kicking used games (and those who buy them) where it hurts. Yes, developers and publishers should be paid for their work, but claiming that killing off used games is the only means for this to occur while making those honest (and honestly broke) consumers scapegoats will only keep that segment of users angrier no matter how much anyone in the industry claims they have the “best” way to generate income for those that make and publish software. Naturally, given that everyone wants to copy Apple, Facebook and every other analyst-driven stat-heavy speculative feeding frenzy insanity that guarantees a million selling weekend, a few hundred million downloads other blowout numbers without regard to the FACT that nearly every game is different and needs TIME to find an audience (*whew!*), every gamer is now at the mercy of a pie chart on some office wall rather than basic common sense.
Eh, but what do I know? I’ve only been playing games since 1972 (Gottlieb’s Batter-Up, by the way…)