It never seems to fail. Every year, one or two major games get leaked early via pirates and the industry sounds off alarm bells and talks up the staggering loses that piracy is causing.
The situation certainly doesn’t get helped by stories of idiotic employees stealing hundreds of copies of un-released games and being caught by police, especially when said thieves have reportedly already sold and undetermined number of games.
This all just fuels the argument for stronger DRM or new ways of preventing piracy. Reaction from these talks and attempts inevitably bring about backlash from the gaming community at large. The industry and community turns on itself, pointing fingers and claiming damage to each side with no real solution in sight.
While piracy undoubtedly exists, I think there is a bigger culprit to point the finger of “lost sales to piracy” at. That finger goes squarely on second-hand game retailers. Major retail chains like GameStop, Blockbuster & GameCrazy are just a few of the players who rely on buying back games and reselling them at a discount.
On the surface it seems all well and good, but when you consider that 100% of the revenue charged for re-sold used games goes straight to the retailer, effectively cutting out the Publisher & Developer from getting any kind of royalty, then it is clear the system is broken. These retailers are the real pirates, and its totally legal.
We as gamers embrace used games as they offer us a cheaper alternative to the hefty “new price” most games carry. But those days may now be in danger. Microsoft will be testing out a new attack plan with Gears of War 2 this November. By purchasing a new copy of the game, inside is a one time use code for five extra maps. Gamers buying the used copies might be able to buy the map pack online at some point, but nothing has been confirmed in that regard. If Microsoft does keep this map pack off the marketplace, it will effectively kill off the used copies of Gears of War 2.
What can be done? From a consumer stand point we are essentially caught in the middle. Buying a used copy of any game, while legal, only fuels the argument for publishers to continue to seek out ways to kill of the used market. What truly needs to happen is some kind of agreement between publishers and the used game retailers for a reduced royalty fee on the used games sold. This would help keep the used market a viable space for not only the consumers but also the publishers.
Without these two sides coming to an agreement, I fear we will see continued strides from publishers for stronger DRM, and special “One Time Codes” that can only lead to consumer headaches when you accidentally lose it.