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The Problem With Used Games

Times are hard. The economy sucks, gas prices blow, games are expensive, and yet this fall has seen the release of some of the best titles yet. What do you do? 

You travel to your local GameStop and buy a used game.

By now, most of us are well aware of the fact that publishers and developers don’t like the used game market. Resales of used titles results in huge profit margins for retailers, but the people who actually put the time and effort into creating the game never see another dime from it. A lot of possible solutions have been thrown around by developers lately, and I want to take a moment to address the most recent one. Earlier today, Platform Nation’s own Gemini Ace reported on Mike Capps’ recent comments about potentially charging gamers to complete a game. Capps throws out a hypothetical dollar amount for such a service: $20. 

It will never, EVER, be that much.

Let’s talk marketing for a minute; a game is developed by one company, published by another, pushed to distributors through agents, distributed by wholesalers like Ingram Entertainment, and sold to consumers like you and me through retail outlets. Each of these entities takes a cut of potential profits. Developers more often than not only make a couple (as in two) dollars off of each game sold. These profits go towards paying off debt from the development process and building capital for creating a new game. 

Yeah. One or two dollars. A developer would have to be an incredibly greedy slimeball organization to try to milk $20 straight out of consumers who purchased a used title. If Capps’ scenario does become a reality, then hell will freeze over. Now, that’s not to say that gamers won’t be looking at a possible fee, but expect something more along the lines of $5. 

Why not $20? It would be a hellish scenario for retailers, who would be forced to cut down prices on used games to around $20 in order to compensate for the developer’s additional endgame fee. Developers wouldn’t dare screw over companies like GameStop by doing this. Retailers are really the backbone of game sales; even with the gradual adoption of digital distribution for console games looming, most people still want to own a physical disc purchased from a brick and mortar store. Retail merchants serve game publishers fairly well. Most people buy their games from Wal Mart or Best Buy, which don’t even sell used games in the first place.That’s not to say that used sales don’t take a substantial percentage of possible sales from the industry, but don’t buy into the doomsday scenarios.

Bottom line: $20 to finish a game? It ain’t happening.

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  • I hope you're right. I don't really understand why he made the statement in the first place unless it's to test the waters.

  • Well, he did seem to say it very generally, and tried to not apply it to Epic specifically. This article actually started out as a comment in your article; I realized quite quickly that it was too long.

  • $5 ain't happening either unless Epic and other publishers and developers are too dumb to realize what's happened to the recording industry because of heavy handed industry management. Your article doesn't address how it would massively affect the consumer, and it would.

    Why? Because the concept of PROPERTY OWNERSHIP is something most people take very seriously. If I buy a game it is MY choice what to do with it. If I want to trade in a game for store credit or cash, that's my right according to the law because I OWN the game. A policy like this is exactly what the RIAA has done and said "Sorry, you don't own that CD. So you can only do with it what we say you can."

    The result? Massive piracy because many people aren't opposed to paying for music but they simply want to choose what they want to do with their music but aren't given that opportunity by the RIAA and music labels.

    A policy like this for games would result in massive devaluing of a game for the consumer. Who's going to purchase a used game when the ending costs $5-10 more? Not many people IMO. Far, far more will simply install a mod chip and pirate games rather than pay for an ending that should be on the game in the first place.

    This isn't DLC, this is "renting" you the ending to the game you purchased. DLC is extra content that you don't need to buy to finish the main story that the developer intended you to finish when the game was released.

    The only way this works is if new game prices are SIGNIFICANTLY cut. I'm not paying new prices when I can't sell that game for very much because the developer has decided to inhibit the ending of the game. It's like Ford telling you that if you sold your car the new owner won't be able to use the air conditioner because they'll turn that feature off.

  • For most publishers, games aren't considered "owned property." When you purchase a game, you are purchasing a license to play it. Hence the ability for developers like Bungie to ban people from their games for violating EULAs

  • For most publishers, games aren't considered "owned property." When you purchase a game, you are purchasing a license to play it. Hence the ability for developers like Bungie to ban people from their games for violating EULAs

    An example from EPIC (http://www.epicgames.com/ut2k4_eula.html):

    "License. The software accompanying this license and the related documentation (the "Software") are licensed for your use and gaming enjoyment, subject to terms and limitations in this license agreement. The license fee you paid gives you the right to use the Software."

  • For most publishers, games aren't considered "owned property." When you purchase a game, you are purchasing a license to play it. Hence the ability for developers like Bungie to ban people from their games for violating EULAs

    An example from EPIC (http://www.epicgames.com/ut2k4_eula.html):

    "License. The software accompanying this license and the related documentation (the "Software") are licensed for your use and gaming enjoyment, subject to terms and limitations in this license agreement. The license fee you paid gives you the right to use the Software."

  • For most publishers, games aren't considered "owned property." When you purchase a game, you are purchasing a license to play it. Hence the ability for developers like Bungie to ban people from their games for violating EULAs

    An example from EPIC http://www.epicgames.com/ut2k4_eula.html):

    "License. The software accompanying this license and the related documentation (the "Software") are licensed for your use and gaming enjoyment, subject to terms and limitations in this license agreement. The license fee you paid gives you the right to use the Software."

  • For most publishers, games aren't considered "owned property." When you purchase a game, you are purchasing a license to play it. Hence the ability for developers like Bungie to ban people from their games for violating EULAs

    An example from EPIC http://www.epicgames.com/ut2k4_eula.html

    "License. The software accompanying this license and the related documentation (the "Software") are licensed for your use and gaming enjoyment, subject to terms and limitations in this license agreement. The license fee you paid gives you the right to use the Software."

  • Since the third party market isn't, in itself, illegal, I'm sure that if a console publisher decided to do something to inhibit the value of a product being sold, that one would go straight to court. I'm unaware if the U.S. Supreme Court has ever weighed in on the issue of EULA's. But if a huge industry like console gaming tried this I wouldn't be surprised if somebody with pockets deep enough took litigation that far.

    This is also absolutely a self defeating strategy for the developers. Period. They get tons of bad press, ill will by their consumers and they can't do anything about pirating already or they'd have shut it down by now. This kind of mindset expressed by Epic has gotten the RIAA exactly where the music industry is now, losing billions of dollars to piracy.

    I agree with your points about why it's bad in terms of the gaming stores. In fact I'd also add that when people make used purchases in Gamestop other places it gives the store a chance to talk the consumer into a pre-order for a brand new game. IMO that's a far more effective sales tactic than simply stuff on the 'net. Also, gaming stores sometimes give people a chance to play demos and see videos of upcoming games and those gamers without Live may only get that at the game store. My Best Buy and Walmart (for example) only have an opportunity to play already released games, not demos of upcoming ones or see videos. Walking into a game store and seeing a video of an upcoming game you hadn't known about or really considered purchasing might influence a purchase of a brand new game later and make the developers money.

    I just think that this strategy is far, far worse in terms of how it would impact the consumer. It's like the gaming industry is taking a blueprint from the RIAA, except they don't understand the RIAA is losing the economic battle.

  • Since the third party market isn't, in itself, illegal, I'm sure that if a console publisher decided to do something to inhibit the value of a product being sold, that one would go straight to court. I'm unaware if the U.S. Supreme Court has ever weighed in on the issue of EULA's. But if a huge industry like console gaming tried this I wouldn't be surprised if somebody with pockets deep enough took litigation that far.

    This is also absolutely a self defeating strategy for the developers. Period. They get tons of bad press, ill will by their consumers and they can't do anything about pirating already or they'd have shut it down by now. This kind of mindset expressed by Epic has gotten the RIAA exactly where the music industry is now, losing billions of dollars to piracy.

    I agree with your points about why it's bad in terms of the gaming stores. In fact I'd also add that when people make used purchases in Gamestop other places it gives the store a chance to talk the consumer into a pre-order for a brand new game. IMO that's a far more effective sales tactic than simply stuff on the 'net. Also, gaming stores sometimes give people a chance to play demos and see videos of upcoming games and those gamers without Live may only get that at the game store. My Best Buy and Walmart (for example) only have an opportunity to play already released games, not demos of upcoming ones or see videos. Walking into a game store and seeing a video of an upcoming game you hadn't known about or really considered purchasing might influence a purchase of a brand new game later and make the developers money.

    I just think that this strategy is far, far worse in terms of how it would impact the consumer. It's like the gaming industry is taking a blueprint from the RIAA, except they don't understand the RIAA is losing the economic battle. And this is coming from somebody who's never pirated a thing in my life, including music because I want to see the artists get paid. But if the gaming industry makes it a choice between paying an extra fee to play a mediocre game, I'll either quit gaming and they lose a consumer or I become a pirate.

  • nice job. i found it a little hard to believe the $20 price.

  • I strongly oppose pirating video games. That said…I know several people who do. Maybe the price point is too high for them already? I'm sure they have their reasons.

    The bottom line is that Gamestop is not the enemy here. I totally agree that without Gamestop's pre-orders, a small percentage of gamers wouldn't be aware of what's out there.

    The most insipid thing I see about the distribution of games is the process. Why would publishers / developers waste time SHIPPING games to retail stores thus decreasing their profits when they could send them directly to gamers eliminating one of the middle men? If they have me pay for shipping, they could afford to lower the price of the game.

    They could charge $40 or less for a game and I'd pay the shipping. That's about the price of the digital distribution method right?

    I despise video game pirates because they remind me that gamers are becoming more and more spoiled. Everybody wants to play the game…but they don't want to pay the price. Maybe it's just me but I put more stock into user reviews because they actually invest their own money when playing a game.

    But regardless of the developer's and my own detest for gaming pirates, piracy will exist and used games will become more popular unless developers/publishers take steps to lower the price of their games.

    As for as the legality of used sales, regardless of the supposed "licensing" fee or what publishers think, gamers are allowed to resell property they purchase legally under protection of the first purchase doctrine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine….If licensing was the big issue, then I don't think Sony would allow game sharing for the majority of PSN titles. Until companies start doing what Sony planned to with the one game branded to one console idea, licensing means absolutely nothing.

  • I strongly oppose pirating video games. That said…I know several people who do. Maybe the price point is too high for them already? I'm sure they have their reasons.

    The bottom line is that Gamestop is not the enemy here. I totally agree that without Gamestop's pre-orders, a small percentage of gamers wouldn't be aware of what's out there.

    The most insipid thing I see about the distribution of games is the process. Why would publishers / developers waste time SHIPPING games to retail stores thus decreasing their profits when they could send them directly to gamers eliminating one of the middle men? If they have me pay for shipping, they could afford to lower the price of the game.

    They could charge $40 or less for a game and I'd pay the shipping. That's about the price of the digital distribution method right?

    I despise video game pirates because they remind me that gamers are becoming more and more spoiled. Everybody wants to play the game…but they don't want to pay the price. Maybe it's just me but I put more stock into user reviews because they actually invest their own money when playing a game.

    But regardless of the developer's and my own detest for gaming pirates, piracy will exist and used games will become more popular unless developers/publishers take steps to lower the price of their games.

    As for as the legality of used sales, regardless of the supposed "licensing" fee or what publishers think, gamers are allowed to resell property they purchase legally under protection of the first purchase doctrine (

    I strongly oppose pirating video games. That said…I know several people who do. Maybe the price point is too high for them already? I'm sure they have their reasons.

    The bottom line is that Gamestop is not the enemy here. I totally agree that without Gamestop's pre-orders, a small percentage of gamers wouldn't be aware of what's out there.

    The most insipid thing I see about the distribution of games is the process. Why would publishers / developers waste time SHIPPING games to retail stores thus decreasing their profits when they could send them directly to gamers eliminating one of the middle men? If they have me pay for shipping, they could afford to lower the price of the game.

    They could charge $40 or less for a game and I'd pay the shipping. That's about the price of the digital distribution method right?

    I despise video game pirates because they remind me that gamers are becoming more and more spoiled. Everybody wants to play the game…but they don't want to pay the price. Maybe it's just me but I put more stock into user reviews because they actually invest their own money when playing a game. If you didn't buy the game, how you can you really tell me how much you value the game? You have spent no money and lost the key motivation to stay honest.

    But regardless of the developer's and my own detest for gaming pirates, piracy will exist and used games will become more popular unless developers/publishers take steps to lower the price of their games.

    As for as the legality of used sales, regardless of the supposed "licensing" fee or what publishers think, gamers are allowed to resell property they purchase legally under protection of the first purchase doctrine ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_…%3C/a%…) If licensing was the big issue, then I don't think Sony would allow game sharing for the majority of PSN titles. Until companies start doing what Sony planned to with the one game branded to one console idea, licensing means absolutely nothing.

  • I strongly oppose pirating video games. That said…I know several people who do. Maybe the price point is too high for them already? I'm sure they have their reasons.

    The bottom line is that Gamestop is not the enemy here. I totally agree that without Gamestop's pre-orders, a small percentage of gamers wouldn't be aware of what's out there.

    The most insipid thing I see about the distribution of games is the process. Why would publishers / developers waste time SHIPPING games to retail stores thus decreasing their profits when they could send them directly to gamers eliminating one of the middle men? If they have me pay for shipping, they could afford to lower the price of the game.

    They could charge $40 or less for a game and I'd pay the shipping. That's about the price of the digital distribution method right?

    I despise video game pirates because they remind me that gamers are becoming more and more spoiled. Everybody wants to play the game…but they don't want to pay the price. Maybe it's just me but I put more stock into user reviews because they actually invest their own money when playing a game. If you didn't buy the game, how you can you really tell me how much you value the game? You have spent no money and lost the key motivation to stay honest.

    But regardless of the developers' and my own detest for gaming pirates, piracy will exist and used games will become more popular unless developers/publishers take steps to lower the price of their games.

    As for as the legality of used sales, regardless of the supposed "licensing" fee or what publishers think, gamers are allowed to resell property they purchase legally under protection of the first purchase doctrine (

    I strongly oppose pirating video games. That said…I know several people who do. Maybe the price point is too high for them already? I'm sure they have their reasons.

    The bottom line is that Gamestop is not the enemy here. I totally agree that without Gamestop's pre-orders, a small percentage of gamers wouldn't be aware of what's out there.

    The most insipid thing I see about the distribution of games is the process. Why would publishers / developers waste time SHIPPING games to retail stores thus decreasing their profits when they could send them directly to gamers eliminating one of the middle men? If they have me pay for shipping, they could afford to lower the price of the game.

    They could charge $40 or less for a game and I'd pay the shipping. That's about the price of the digital distribution method right?

    I despise video game pirates because they remind me that gamers are becoming more and more spoiled. Everybody wants to play the game…but they don't want to pay the price. Maybe it's just me but I put more stock into user reviews because they actually invest their own money when playing a game. If you didn't buy the game, how you can you really tell me how much you value the game? You have spent no money and lost the key motivation to stay honest.

    But regardless of the developers' and my own detest for gaming pirates, piracy will exist and used games will become more popular unless developers/publishers take steps to lower the price of their games.

    As for the legality of used sales, regardless of the supposed "licensing" fee or what publishers think, gamers are allowed to resell property they purchase legally under protection of the first purchase doctrine (

    I strongly oppose pirating video games. That said…I know several people who do. Maybe the price point is too high for them already? I'm sure they have their reasons.

    The bottom line is that Gamestop is not the enemy here. I totally agree that without Gamestop's pre-orders, a small percentage of gamers wouldn't be aware of what's out there.

    The most insipid thing I see about the distribution of games is the process. Why would publishers / developers waste time SHIPPING games to retail stores thus decreasing their profits when they could send them directly to gamers eliminating one of the middle men? If they have me pay for shipping, they could afford to lower the price of the game.

    They could charge $40 or less for a game and I'd pay the shipping. That's about the price of the digital distribution method right?

    I despise video game pirates because they remind me that gamers are becoming more and more spoiled. Everybody wants to play the game…but they don't want to pay the price. Maybe it's just me but I put more stock into user reviews because they actually invest their own money when playing a game. If you didn't buy the game, how you can you really tell me how much you value the game? You have spent no money and lost the key motivation to stay honest.

    But regardless of the developers' and my own detest for gaming pirates, piracy will exist and used games will become more popular unless developers/publishers take steps to lower the price of their games.

    As for the legality of used sales, regardless of the supposed "licensing" fee or what publishers think, gamers are allowed to resell property they purchase legally under protection of the first sale doctrine (

    I strongly oppose pirating video games. That said…I know several people who do. Maybe the price point is too high for them already? I'm sure they have their reasons.

    The bottom line is that Gamestop is not the enemy here. I totally agree that without Gamestop's pre-orders, a small percentage of gamers wouldn't be aware of what's out there.

    The most insipid thing I see about the distribution of games is the process. Why would publishers / developers waste time SHIPPING games to retail stores thus decreasing their profits when they could send them directly to gamers eliminating one of the middle men? If they have me pay for shipping, they could afford to lower the price of the game.

    They could charge $40 or less for a game and I'd pay the shipping. That's about the price of the digital distribution method right?

    I despise video game pirates because they remind me that gamers are becoming more and more spoiled. Everybody wants to play the game…but they don't want to pay the price. Maybe it's just me but I put more stock into user reviews because they actually invest their own money when playing a game. If you didn't buy the game, how you can you really tell me how much you value the game? You have spent no money and lost the key motivation to stay honest.

    But regardless of the developers' and my own detest for gaming pirates, piracy will exist and used games will become more popular unless developers/publishers take steps to lower the price of their games.

    As for the legality of used sales, regardless of the supposed "licensing" fee or what publishers think, gamers are allowed to resell property they purchase legally under protection of the first sale doctrine ( var disqus_url = 'http://www.platformnation.com/2008/11/10/the-problem-with-used-games/'; var disqus_identifier = '4369 http://www.platformnation.com/?p=4369'; var disqus_container_id = 'disqus_thread'; var disqus_shortname = 'platformnation'; var disqus_title = "The Problem With Used Games"; var disqus_config_custom = window.disqus_config; var disqus_config = function () { /* All currently supported events: onReady: fires when everything is ready, onNewComment: fires when a new comment is posted, onIdentify: fires when user is authenticated */ this.language = ''; this.callbacks.onReady.push(function () { // sync comments in the background so we don't block the page var script = document.createElement('script'); script.async = true; script.src = '?cf_action=sync_comments&post_id=4369'; var firstScript = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; firstScript.parentNode.insertBefore(script, firstScript); }); if (disqus_config_custom) { disqus_config_custom.call(this); } }; (function() { var dsq = document.createElement('script'); dsq.type = 'text/javascript'; dsq.async = true; dsq.src = '//' + disqus_shortname + '.disqus.com/embed.js'; (document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0] || document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0]).appendChild(dsq); })();

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