Stirring the den of thieves

Seems quite a few feathers got ruffled yesterday. Funny how quick people jump to defend something when called out, and how far they will go to rationalize their behavior. I’ll restate my main point from yesterday right up front, so you can read the rest of the entry with it firmly in your mind:

If your method of acquiring a game does not include paying the developers, you are a parasite rather than a fan of gaming.

Now you can bring up how times are tough, how you have thirteen kids to feed, what economic theory you believe in, how many times you visit the library, what car you drive, whatever. I don’t care. If what you do to acquire a game does not meet the condition above, you are not helping to create better games, you are not rewarding the effort of the people who entertain you, and you are, in my mind, a problem for gaming.

Thankfully it’s a problem that will soon no longer exist (or at least be minimized), as developers now have more and more tools at their disposable to eliminate this behavior. Steam is one of the better examples, as it’s a quick and easy method of cutting out places like GameStop or eBay, and we are seeing more and more games (especially the ‘little guys’) go exclusively in this direction, be it Steam itself or something similar. The other major benefit of something like Steam is that the developers have more control over their product, so they make the decision on when its time to have a sale, when its time to drop the price, or when to create a bundle deal. But unlike the used-games market, a Steam sale or bundle still rewards the developers, and still sends a ‘more of this please’ message to all of gaming.

One topic somewhat related to this is the notion that a pirated or stolen copy of a game is or is not a lost sale. Obviously to drum up drama and exaggerate the cause the games industry is going to say that every stolen copy is a lost sale, while the pirates and thieves will counter with the fact that if they can’t steal a game, they would not have played/bought it. Often the thieves will include “but if I liked the (stolen) original, I might buy the sequel/expansion” justification. What a joke. Why, if you are willing to steal the original, would you then opt-in to pay for part two? Is anyone really buying that the scum who stole the first part are now going to get in line with everyone else and pay up if the option to steal again exists?

What is often overlooked however is this: if the option to steal did not exist AT ALL, would the parasites still stay away? My guess here is no. Let’s say you have 20 hours a week to game, if you can’t fill that time with stolen games, I doubt you will step away from gaming all together and, say, hit up that library to read a book instead. You might be ‘forced’ to buy older/cheaper titles or wait for Steam sales if indeed you to have those thirteen kids to feed, rather than playing a new title the first week, but you WOULD be paying the developers who entertain you. It’s this angle that is the biggest loss in terms of piracy or theft, and more so because when forced to pay up, most consumers, and especially those truly on a tight budget, would put more thought and effort into their buying decision, and one would hope that would allow quality titles to float to the top. With rampant piracy, a title might sell better not because it’s a better game, but because it has more intrusive copy protection and so more people are ‘forced’ to buy it. That’s the exact opposite message most of us want to be sending.

Chuck-o-the-day: When running out of ammo, Chuck Norris stood in the line of fire, took three shots to the chest, and used them to reload.

56 Responses to Stirring the den of thieves

  1. Dickie says:

    Again, there’s no point to this argument. Buying used is completely legal. Piracy is not. By all legal standards, there is a clear definition between the two. This moral grandstanding is nothing more than financial elitism.

    Would you also like to start adding a tax to all game sales to compensate developers for these “lost” sales from Used games, similar to what the record industry proposed?

    Games Industry Inc. is already adapting to the times. Look at the plethora of DLC and the new approach to online keys. That is the real way forward for the industry, in which they can collect money from Used purchasers. Unless, of course, the industry can somehow convince our legal system that the huge body of standards protecting consumers and their right to resale is wrong, but until then the argument against used sales is moot.

  2. Jim says:

    By your logic buying a used car, laptop, boat, iPod, etc, makes you a parasite because you are not helping the original developers of the product.

    Why does software have this special status?

    • SynCaine says:

      Different business models (car manufacturers still make money off used cars), different products (a ‘used’ game is no different once installed than a ‘new’ one), different availability (there is no GameStop for iPods for instance), different impact (game devs make 100% of their money off the direct sale of a game, where something like an iPod is just a platform for other sales) etc. All of this makes comparing gaming to other products near pointless.

      • Snafzg says:

        Do you seriously still think gaming is a unique snowflake that should receive special treatment in its current state?

        You can find minute differences in every semi-comparable product niche if you dig deep enough (e.g., books vs. DVDs or cars vs. computers). The thing is, by law, they are all treated equally (games too). If I buy something (not lease or rent) it is mine to do with as I please, (keep, toss, trade, or re-sell). That’s the way it is, dude. By laaaaaw.

        So you’re right, comparing gaming to other products is near pointless because the law recognizes that while there are differences in business model, availability, impact, and “etc.”, the act of “buying” something means you own it.

        You’re calling consumers scumbags when it’s really the game developers’ fault for not having a smarter business model that generates indirect profits (like autos for instance).

        If they want to move from a sell model to a license model, power to them. If they want to cut down on waste (packaging, discs, etc.), power to them. If they want to charge for expanded content/features, power to them. If eliminating the middle man and the costs associated with hardcopy production drops the price of games (like it should), power to them.

        The thing is their current business model puts them in the same league as book, DVD, and CD publishers. Those industries have a “used” market. Don’t blame consumers for taking advantage of it.

        • SynCaine says:

          Laws generally trail behind technology, and that is exactly the case here. The laws are simply inadequate to protect developers from being cut out of the picture (and as people have yet to counter, what ultimately is the consequence of that action?)

          But as I said in the post, the devs are taking steps to correct the inadequacies that the law changes are too slow to do. This entire thing will be a moot point in a few years, where the only option the parasites will have is either pay the devs, or don’t play.

        • Snafzg says:

          I guess we shall see, but with all the different models and game types to choose from I doubt we’ll end up with a one-size fits all business plan that every developer and publisher sticks to.

          There will always be variety and consumer options, at least I hope so. After all, wouldn’t it suck if everyone drove a Brand X auto with Operating System Y on their computer and ate Acme brand canned beans, while listening to generic pop band #362?

        • SynCaine says:

          Devs coming up with ways to stop their product being distributed without them profiting has nothing to do with variety though, unless you are talking price variety (and if Steam is any indicator, the average price of a game is going to drop faster than it would if GameStop was the only way to acquire a game, used or new).

        • Snafzg says:

          By variety I mostly meant the different studios coming up with their different business models.

          MMO example: Darkfall vs. Free Realms vs. Guild Wars

          Other variety could be console vs. PC vs. mobile vs. multi-platform, DLC, Apps, social games, etc.

          A gamer right now has numerous options at his disposal. I hope this remains the same even while the industry aims to streamline their profits.

      • Jim says:

        How does a car manufacture make money off of a used car?

        If you are talking about spare parts 90% of those are made by different manufactures. They are also usually installed by a locally owned shop.

        There are also places like gamestop for used cars

      • Spidubic says:

        I can buy a used car from a neighbour, and buy all the parts I might need from a source other than OEM thus cutting the car manufacturer out of the loop entirely. They would not get a nickel from me for the used car.

    • Brindle says:

      actually games SHOULD be like music/movie or other similar media and you do pay for each ‘use’. Games str fire and forget. Luckily, as Syncaine mentions,digital format with online authentication will make it harder to outright pirate. my little development shop (Koioworks) that made 4 highly reviewed PC titles might still be in business if digital distribution was there when we released our games – that were pirated 50 to 1.

  3. Mala says:

    That is not the same point you made yesterday. Use whatever adjective you feel is right, but it is NOT the same thing as stealing, morally or legally.

  4. Ludo says:

    Both the used game market and Piracy, no matter your opinion, is indeed a stone in the shoe of game developers, true.

    However, Publishers should get creative and build a back-end market for older titles to induce “bargain hunters” away from stores like Gamestop. Steam is an example: often they have weekend deals for games “on the cheap” and even sell entire studio collections at a discount.

    Once consoles games break fully away from physical media then Gamestop will have to rethink their own business model.

    • TariqOne says:

      Or sell the damned used games themselves? Their real beef is that they don’t have a piece of a secondary market. Maybe if they got off their butts and came up with a method to buy back games and resell them, they’d have that cut.

      It wouldn’t be hard. Retailers are screwing the used-game customer coming and going, giving little value for the trade in and slim discounts on the used product. A consortium of developers/publishers setting up some kind of alternative could almost assuredly cut the retailers right out of the business.

      Bottom line, all the learned-helplessness moaning in the world doesn’t change the fundamental fact: there is NO REASON to treat games differently from other content-based products. DVDs, books, CDs, porno mags, they’re all fully ownable and tradeable.

      And let’s be frank. This argument is really a cover for crap practices like DRM that bricks a purchase after a few installs, or requires an always-on internet connection. And there is of course always a willing contingent of supporters ready to rally ’round the pro-DRM flag and claim that the secondary market is the debbil.

      End of the day, they want the retailers out of the secondary market, they should push them out.

      For me its mainly a non-issue, having only recently purchased a PS3 and not being a software pirate. I’ll continue to vote with my wallet and support indie and other innvoative developers with early or release-day purchases, and continue to wait on gaudy monstrosities like MW2 until they’re in the 10-buck sale on Steam.

      Sorry, but I’m not politically or morally required to join in some plan give Bobby Kotick full retail value for every single player who ever plays MW2. I really could give a crap.

  5. Snafzg says:

    I’d also like to point out that in _one_ way, from the perspective of a game developer, used games and piracy can be seen as the same thing: a lost sale.

    In a dozen or more other ways used games and piracy are completely different.

    It’s easy to see that used games hurt the gaming industry but to narrow your focus to one tiny aspect and then equate two things as “exactly the same” in a blanket statement is misleading and false.

    Otherwise you wouldn’t have such an issue comparing used cars to used games. In some ways they’re the same, but in others they’re not (even though by law they’re samey enough to fall under the first-sale doctrine).

    Surely you can follow this logic.

    • SynCaine says:

      It’s just not a path I want to go down, because what about things like a used game buyer calling up tech support vs a used car buyer going to a dealer for a new part or a fix? The game devs suffer twice, while the car company still sees some profit.

      Because gaming, especially how it is effected by the internet and the ease of digital distribution (legal, company-endorsed, or otherwise), is still in its infancy, it has not had time to develop back-up ways to catch profits. And again, once it does, what do all those poor family guys with a ‘tight budget’ do then? I doubt they give up gaming.

      • Mala says:

        If I buy a used game and call tech support how is that worse for the game company, the person who bought the game originally isn’t going to be calling anymore.

        • SynCaine says:

          But they might have already called, possibly about the same issue you just called about (most tech support calls came from new users).

          Either way, the odds of tech support being called (a cost) increase as the number of users of a game increase, with the devs only seeing an initial sale. If the sales model was not going to change, devs would be forced to factor in 2, 3, 5? different people possibly calling tech support per sale, increasing the final price of a product.

          The model IS changing, so again this is less of a factor, but it still stands as an example of why it’s pointless to compare gaming to, say, used cars.

      • Snafzg says:

        I definitely agree here. I’m all for businesses trying to increase profits. Business is what keeps our economy going. Yay business!

        As you said, the gaming industry is still pretty new. I’m sure they’ll figure it out eventually, and heck, maybe they can even increase their revenues while still maintaining a “used” market.

        Maybe they could own or at least dominate the used game market.

        What did Ticketmaster do when Stub Hub started encroaching their business? They bought them out.

        What did Ebay do when PayPal started taking a piece of the online auction pie? They bought them out.

      • Jim says:

        Who calls tech support for a game?

        I have never even considered calling tech support for a game.

        The only games I can think of that will need tech support are MMOs and they don’t suffer from the used market the way console games do.

        With a console game (really the only games you can buy used) what is tech support going to say.

        Is the disk in the xbox? Does the controller have batteries?

        • SynCaine says:

          Work a day of tech support, it will blow your mind what people call about.

        • Jim says:

          I do work in tech support. But I just cant see how a console game would get tech support calls.

          If it does not work people will return it to the store not call tech support.

  6. Stropp says:

    How about books then?

    A book has business model much closer to the business model used for games. Yet books have a thriving, and legal, second hand market, and while I haven’t looked into it I don’t hear book publishers complaining about second hand book stores. There are even these things called libraries where readers can check out books for free. Hell, I’m even allowed to lend or give a book to a friend when I’ve finished reading it.

    By your arguments Syncaine, even loaning my Lord of the Rings DVD set to a friend should be forbidden because Peter Jackson isn’t getting a cut.

    The thing about second hand book stores is that these enable readers to find and buy books that are out of print. How does one find a game that is no longer published without a second hand market? If we make a second hand game market illegal, does that mean great old games will disappear forever? Could you imagine that happening with classic literature or music?

    I think the basic premise of your argument is also flawed. That buying used games is wrong because the developer isn’t gaining anything from the sale. The fact is, they have made revenue (hopefully) from the first sale. The fact that a game, or book, or boat is being sold a second time is immaterial. The original producer is not losing anything.

    Unless a separate copy is being made and sold, loaned, or given away, selling a second hand game is not theft. Even selling a copy isn’t seen legally as theft. That is copyright infringement and has a different legal classification.

  7. xXJayeDuBXx says:

    I am going to chalk this topic up to you just trying to ruffle some feathers and that this is really just sarcasm. I can’t believe anyone in their right mind would confuse buying used with piracy,that’s loony.

  8. Phedre says:

    In my early days as gamer I played on a Commodore 64. I loved the thing! It got me utterly hooked on gaming. But I have never bought a single piece of software for it. All illegal pirated stuff. There was no GameStop or something like that in Europe at the time. In fact I don’t know anybody that has ever bought a game for the Commodore 64. But already back then I always wondered who made those great games, and why they did do so much stuff for free.

    Nowadays I will buy all games I play. I am almost as fanatic as SynCaine about how second hand games is robbery. But I would probably have never been a gamer if I wouldn’t have started off on stolen goods. So I can’t get high and mighty on anybody. Maybe it is a realization of money? I don’t know. I just buy by games, and haze friends that would buy second hand or illegal stuff. But I have no real right of speech.

  9. Raff says:

    I completely agree with you SynCaine. I’ve not bought an in-print game used for many years and I rarely use physical retail at all nowadays. It’s great to see digital taking off at the moment in both its uptake and its increasingly competetive and pricing.

    Once you have a certain level of awareness of how the industry works and how difficult it can be for genuine creativity and quality to be produced and sustained, once you’ve seen so many great games flop of terrible games flourish, buying used is just out of the question.

    However I do think it’s a mistake to make comparisons betwen buying used and piracy. That angle isn’t going to convert people from parasites to voters. You’ll just get the inane posts you see above, missing the point and clouding the real issues.

  10. TariqOne says:

    Ah. But what if I buy a BLIZZARD game used?

  11. sid67 says:

    It’s amazing the lengths people will go to rationalize bad behavior that they don’t want to stop doing.

    Is it because they don’t want to accept what they do is wrong or is it because they simply want to convince others that they aren’t a bad guy?

    The defense of Napster by the “common man” is one of my favorites. I, like everyone else, loved Napster and was sad to see it go. But I also wasn’t so dense and obtuse to think that I wasn’t stealing from the music industry. I knew very well I didn’t have a right to free music. I just didn’t care.

    I have a lot more respect for the pirates that say, “Yep. I steal movies/music/games and I just don’t give a rat’s ass if you care about it. Catch me if you can and I think we both know you probably won’t.”

    But simply trying to rationalize illegal behavior as being secretly OK is both ludicrous and an insult to my intelligence and yours.

    In my mind, it’s a bit like the pot smoker talking about all the benefits of pot and how it’s not all bad and so on. You may well be right, but tell that to the Judge after you get busted for possession.

    • SynCaine says:

      Double crazy are the people who will write a blog/forum/whatever post about a game they bought (used), and in that post talk about how great the game is and how they wish more devs would do stuff like this rather than pumping out the same old rehash. That, more than anything else, is what drives me nuts about all of this.

      Don’t pose as a ‘fan’ of gaming and then stab it in the back when it really counts. That’s what makes you a parasite, legally or not.

      • Mala says:

        Either you’re trolling or you take this shit way too seriously. It is people playing video games, get over it.

        I haven’t even bought a used game in probably 10 years (mostly because I just don’t play console games and the PC used game market is effectively non existent), and I actually buy every game I want to play (no pirating!), and I still think you are just WAY over thinking this.

        People are going to game stop, seeing a used copy for 10 bucks cheaper than a new one, and picking it up. Meanwhile, you are calling them “backstabbers.” For all your rhetoric about people voting with their dollars, you can’t accept that some people are perfectly happy voting for used game sales. Thats the reality of what we are talking about here.

        Get some perspective man.

  12. adam says:

    “What is often overlooked however is this: if the option to steal did not exist AT ALL, would the parasites still stay away?”

    I would absolutely stay away, personally. I’ve pirated games before, but generally speaking I’ve only done it because they didn’t have demos and I wanted to try the game out before I bought it. Invariably I buy the game if I like it, or I play it, find myself bored, and don’t buy it. I ain’t dropping $50-$60 on a game on word of mouth alone, sorry.

    These days, outside of AAA games that I’ve been greatly anticipating (once or twice a year usually), if it’s a PC game I usually wait for it to go on sale on Steam before I buy it, or for console I’ll wait for Gamestop to stock it used (meaning I’ll happily wait 8+ months in either case). Otherwise I won’t buy it. Does that mean I don’t get a vote? Uh, that IS my vote. Does that mean I don’t get a say? That IS my say. I would–and do–buy a lot more games if the prices were/are lower. I don’t vocally complain about games all over the internet. If I don’t like a game, I don’t play it.

    If game companies that make decent (not top-tier) games start making it tougher to buy their games used (excluding content for second-hand users, etc), then I won’t buy their games. Period. I don’t care that much. I’m a fan (not a parasite) of gaming but I have a lot of other stuff going on. I can deal with it.

    If you want people to pay full price and not buy used, then make games people aren’t willing to skip or wait to play. There’s your answer, O Holy Market.

  13. Sean Boocock says:

    I guess we’re discussing semantics now since the vocabulary you use keeps changing.

    However, to start, you seem to think that buying a game new at Gamestop is directly paying the developer. I’m not sure if you meant that literally but in any case it’s a false characterization. Of a $60 dollar game purchase at retail, the publisher – not the developer – might see $30 dollars of that sale. In the vast majority of cases, the developer will never see a single cent of the revenue from their game. Only when the revenue from sales of the game makes the publisher “whole” (ie when the sales have repaid the investment the publisher made in the development of the game by putting up the development costs as an advance) does the developer stand some chance to receive a small percentage of future sales as royalty.

    As for purchasers of used games being “parasites”, well, I guess they are but only to a less symbiotic degree than those who purchased the game new. You seem to have reduced the interaction between developers and their audience to (a poor characterization of) economics and seen through that lens, the onus is on the publisher/developer to price their games appropriate to the market demand. Games are a business – arguably the largest in the entertainment industry – and to think that self-identifying gamers should treat it differently than any other is ridiculous. Unless you want to make a general argument against free market economics – and hey, my personal politics leans left enough to entertain it – your argument is essentially one against being a rational consumer.

    As a personal note, I do go out of my way to support the publishers/developers of games I enjoy. I bought Torchlight day one from Runic Game’s official site (not Steam even though it’s a more convenient version) because I wanted to give them the maximum cut of my sale. I buy far fewer game than a lot of my fellow gamers, but I usually spring for the special editions when I do. I also have a vested material interest in the future of the games industry, as a graduate student in CS program geared towards game development. As you say at the end of your post, this discussion will be largely moot in five years anyway, and will be the more efficient for it.

    • SynCaine says:

      The ‘thieves’ part is opinion, as I’m aware that legally you can walk into GameStop and buy a used game. That does not change the fact that in my mind, people who do so ‘rob’ the developers and, in the end, hurt the gaming industry (the parasite part).

      Factor in the hypocrisy of bloggers or forum posts going on and on about how great a game is and what a great job the devs did, when they bought the game used (or pirated it), and yea, it’s something that’s going to draw some rage.

      I’m also aware of how the money breaks down when you pay $50 for a new game, but that does not change the fact that spending $50 for a new game is, by whatever factor, a better reward for the devs than buying their game used. Rewarding quality can only lead to better games overall.

      The economy/consumer part is the core issue (other than the hypocrisy aspect), and that is being ‘solved’ slowly, but until it is fully solved, educated fans still have the options before them. If they elect to forgo a vote to save five or ten bucks at GameSpot, leech away.

      • Brindle says:

        a major problem (vicious circle) is that the ‘honest’ buyers have to pay a premium since so many sales are lost to piracy. The paying guy gets screwed as much as the developer by pirates.

      • adam says:

        You just don’t get it. Buying used is not “robbing” anyone. Let’s break this down, simply. There are only two groups of people who buy used games: those who wouldn’t buy them otherwise, and those who would buy them anyway but are willing to wait for a cheaper, used copy. This covers everyone, does it not?

        In the case of the former group, no one is being robbed of sales because those sales would not have happened anyway. In FACT, the developer is only helped by increased exposure to their product that they otherwise WOULD NOT HAVE HAD with this particular segment.

        In the case of the latter group, you have to consider two things. First, that the used games market is taken into consideration when a game is being developed. Publishers and developers EXPECT a certain amount of their games to be purchased second-hand, and they plan their budgets and products accordingly. Does this mean that if there were no used game market, games would be better? Not hardly. More likely, it would mean games of roughly the same quality and a richer publishing industry. It might mean slightly lower prices for consumers. But to conclude that the used game market means lower quality games, as you have? Logically invalid inference, sorry.

        The second thing you have to consider is shelf life. MOST products lose their value the longer they’re on the market. Cars, movies, TVs, etc. Games fall into this product category, for several obvious reasons. Meaning that if publishers want to avoid having their games sold second-hand, they’re welcome to competitively price their games as a function of time, instead of stubbornly sitting on a price-point.

        Not only that, but if your consumer is willing to wait around for the prices of your games to come down (as they naturally will, either by your own set price or by the used game market), then they’re essentially “buying” their discount by waiting. There is value in having something new, and having it unused. Some people are willing to forgo this value for a lower price. That’s the way market economics work. You can’t arbitrarily decide there should be rules about that in the specific case of the games industry, like the games industry is somehow exempt from the market forces that shape every other industry.

        If publishers want to keep people from buying their games used, then they are welcome to employ solutions like first-hand-only content. And they’re also welcome to the decreased exposure and loss of sales that will inevitably result.

        Basically, buying used games does in no way necessarily lower the quality of games, nor does it necessarily cause the publisher/developer to miss out on a sale. Your claims of “theft” and “parasitism” are irrational and unfounded.

  14. Matt says:

    I remember when I used to view the world in black and white. Those were simpler (ignorant) times. Ah, to be a kid again.

  15. Tobold says:

    Hell freezes over and I completely agree with what syncaine said.

    • Bhagpuss says:

      That makes twice this week, too.

      On the substantive proposition of this thread, it’s barking mad. You can only even have this argument by completely breaking the language. Humpty dumpty must be so proud.

      I also refute the idea that because some of us play games we are necessarily “gamers” or even “gaming fans”. I wouldn’t claim to be a game either just because I buy and play games, any more than I’d claim to be a toaster fan because I have bought a lot of toasters over the years and use one every day of my life.

      As for the argument that I should support developers because otherwise we won’t get any good games, that cuts no ice at all. I don’t actually care if they ever make any more games. If they do, and they’re any good, then there’s a good chance I’ll buy and play them. If the market dries up and they don’t make games any more, so be it. I have a million other things to do instead.

      I can’t believe I’m even commenting on this nonsense!

      • SynCaine says:

        I think the fact that you disagree scientifically proves that I’m right. It’s the “What would Bhag do” theory, and it has yet to fail me :)

  16. Zensun says:

    “If your method of acquiring a game does not include paying the developers, you are a parasite rather than a fan of gaming.”

    Well, you didn’t respond to my post on your previous thread where I compare passing on a good game to passing on a good book, so I’m not sure where you stand there – probably you think people shouldn’t pass on books, too.

    In any event, well done – you’ve one ‘parasite’ fewer sub’d to your blog.

    • SynCaine says:

      Well the nice thing about the blog is you can leech for free :)

      Books, like cars/dvds/whatever don’t line up 1 for 1 with gaming (when was the last time a book had a 100m budget?), but yea, if you can’t afford something, you can’t afford it, no matter how good it is or how badly you want it (or make it happen so you can afford it).

  17. Michael, St E says:

    The second hand market provides a decrease in the net cost to the first hand purchaser of their game purchases – it can only exist when there are first hand users who wish to release value from their 1st-gen asset. The second hand purchase subsidises the buying habits of the 1H owners. Given the 1st hand owners are clearly somewhat cost-sensitive, if the second hand market was entirely eliminated, this would remove this subsidy from those 1H purchasers. What happens if the net cost of an item to a population of cost-sensitive consumers is increased?

    I believe that, normally, demand is constrained.

    Now, some portion of the formerly-2H users would convert to being 1H purchasers but, as this is another cost-sensitive population, it seems likely the conversion would be less than total.

    So, I think it’s entirely possible that eliminating the 2H market would have a negative impact on the volume of 1H games sold. The devil is in the details. Would such an entirely hypothetical decrease in sales be balanced by a more substantial decrease in maintenance costs over the lifetime of the game as it changes hands?

    I think it’s likely that this is why the publishers are trialling “degrading” the utility of 2H copies to monitor the impact of altering the equilibrium of the 2H market, rather than implementing a 2H kill-switch. They would need to be confident of the impact, since if/when they choose to crash the second hand market, it’s a difficult change to back out.

  18. Adam says:

    Well just so I’m clear.

    You and most of the comments pro and con are shockingly ignorant of the law and their rights.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_sale

    I agree with you on many matters about mmo gaming but you are out of your depth when it comes to this much larger social and legal matter.

    I think its grossly wrong to give away a basic right that we have as members of a free society. The case law is unclear so far which way it will go.

    Sadly you are all too willing to give away this basic right (that you don’t even understand) based on some imagined improvement to the videogame industry?

    So on top of the crime of being woefully ignorant we can add you being laughably provincial (ie your small corner of nothing trumps the rest of the worlds needs and rights).

    So people exercising their basic right of buying and selling something they own are being called a thief by a woefully ignorant and provincial lickspittle….

    shrug.

    • Xyloxan says:

      I think that you are missing the point. It’s not whether selling used games is legal or not. Of course it is legal (at least in the US) and SynCaine never said to the contrary. My understanding of his opinion is that selling (again, legally) used games doesn’t help the game developers and, in the long run, doesn’t help the gamers. I agree. Maybe I am also being woefully ignorant and laughably provincial.

      • Michael, St E says:

        “My understanding of his opinion is that selling (again, legally) used games doesn’t help the game developers and, in the long run, doesn’t help the gamers. I agree. Maybe I am also being woefully ignorant and laughably provincial.”

        Or forgetting that the availability of a secondary market supports (some portion of) primary sales. :)

        • Xyloxan says:

          To some extent, yes. But, I would argue that the primary market would be significantly bigger without a secondary market.

        • Michael, St E says:

          “But, I would argue that the primary market would be significantly bigger without a secondary market.”

          It’s certainly possible, but we can’t be confident of that without a detailed model of the behaviour and demographics of 2H purchasers, and the subset of 1H owners whose reselling behaviour caps flow-through to the 2H market.

          If (say) 75% of the 2H market do not convert to 1H ownership, and purchases by the 1H former-2H-feeders drop by 50% (for them, net game cost just ~doubled, after all), then it’s very dependent on the market sizes (1H-lifetime v 1H-reseller v 2H-purchaser-reseller-pool) what the outcome of the change would be.

          It would be interesting to model the working-through of the change on juvenile buying habits. If the cash-scarce young demographic were no longer habituated to the relatively high rate of game-acquisition that the 2H market can afford them in its current state, this may change their future buying habits as adults with higher disposable income. They might just buy much fewer games when they grow up than they otherwise could/would. Insufficient data.

          The rhetoric coming from the gaming companies suggests they have evidence propelling them towards the closing-off of 2H sales, but the fact that none of them have taken this move – not a mechanically-difficult step for them, surely – suggests they’re proceeding very cautiously and the issue isn’t as clear-cut as they might wish it was.

          Being a early-adopting-publisher of 2H-denial in the current market would be to put those opening games at a substantial competitive disadvantage. Unless a prestige game with no clear competitors, the habitual 1H-resellers market segment would be disincentivised, whilst the “orphaned” 2H users would have many alternative products to switch to. Te publisher would suffer most of the disadvantages of the policy changes, with fewer of the benefits.

        • SynCaine says:

          I see your point overall, but the numbers just don’t add up. Buying a popular game new means paying top price, and unless you sell it back to GameStop very quickly, you get almost nothing in return (and even quickly, you get a marginal amount).

          I just can’t see a large piece of the market walking into a store, looking at a 50-60 console game, and the deciding factor being the 5-15 they get if they trade it in a week later.

          I’m sure some people do the math, but my guess would be far fewer do it than the countless people who walk in, and without thought cut the devs out to save $5 by buying used.

          The reason this has not happened is NOT because the devs are worried about the second hand markets impact, but because of all the publisher deals with box stores, especially GameStop. Now that devs have options like Steam, we are seeing many of them jump at the chance to not only cut the middle man out, but also curtail the 2h market. It’s just a matter of time until everyone is on board.

        • Sean Boocock says:

          Your argument subverts itself Syncaine.

          “I’m sure some people do the math, but my guess would be far fewer do it than the countless people who walk in, and without thought cut the devs out to save $5 by buying used.”

          Those countless people who walk into Gamestop a week later to buy the $5 cheaper used version are buying USED versions. So one must ask, who is supplying those copies? I know at least anecdotally that a lot of people do purchase games new with the understanding that they will be able to recoup some of that investment later when they finish them.

          What would you advise a consumer to do when they purchase a game new on launch day, find it to only be an average experience, and complete it a week later, not especially attached to it. I see some utility in them selling it to others, the proceeds of which funding their future new game purchases and the sale providing others the opportunity to purchase a game at a price concomitant to their interest level.

          On another note your more general argument has the surprising, prima facie absurd corollary that gamers must maximize their monetary support of developers. Are gamers required to buy their games at launch? Are they being morally bankrupt waiting 6 months for a cutthroat steam sale? How much of their monthly budget should they be devoting to developers they “support”? Shouldn’t indies gets a better cut as they need the proceeds more?

        • SynCaine says:

          You missed my point. I’m not saying people don’t trade in used games, I know they do. My point was I doubt many of them decide to buy/not buy based on resale value. They buy a game because they want it, and they trade it in because they can. If the trade in option was not available, my guess is most would still buy, just like most would still buy the $5 more new version if that was the only choice.

          Your point was that devs are leery of killing the 2h market because it might have a negative impact on them, and my point is that’s absurd. If they could kill the 2h market today, they would have done it yesterday.

          And yes, my overall point was that if you enjoy gaming, you should support the people who bring you that enjoyment. I’m crazy like that.

        • Sean Boocock says:

          Well this argument – whether people purchase video games new with the expectation to resell them at a later day – is one that needs some empirical data for its resolution.

          My other point wasn’t that people shouldn’t support game developers monetarily but that your argument leads to conclusions that seem absurd. For you support consists only in retail (brick and mortar or otherwise) sales of games. You don’t countenance evangelizing a game or developer to friends as relevant support. If one’s vote of confidence in a game/developer is purely a function of a game’s purchase price and one only has finite resources to devote to games, how is one to distribute those resources? What I was bringing up is that your argument suggests we are obligated to maximize our contribution but you underspecified how that is to be done. You said things like instead of buying more used games, buy fewer full priced games. But why full priced? Why not wait for the price to be halved at Gamestop and buy more (or just devote less resources to games in general)? To be so low online that the credit card transaction fee plus Steam’s cut eats the entire cost? I think you would be forced to say these are lesser forms of support, and as a gamer one should lean towards the full price purchases of games, whatever and however many one can afford. That seems to have problematic implications and that was what I was trying to address.

  19. Supplanter says:

    Buying used games = more shovelware = your a scumbag who doesn’t like gaming just doesn’t add up. Shovelware comes from publishing companies who use profits from quality games to fund development of the shovelware. Developement companies get paid to make these games if they sell well or not. So when you buy a game from a publisher your not just supporting the people that made the game you like but also the 5 or so other games from the same publisher that you eloquently labeled shovelware. So buying new from publishers means more shovelware while buying secondhand means less. So buying new games = more shovelware= you are a scumbag. You totally should only buy second hand and sell all the games you don’t like if you want better quality games.

  20. Michael, St E says:

    Syncaine wrote: “I just can’t see a large piece of the market walking into a store, looking at a 50-60 console game, and the deciding factor being the 5-15 they get if they trade it in a week later.”

    After consulting my console-buddy (since the last thing I played on my PS3 was the BSG Bluray boxset my own buying patterns aren’t a useful datapoint) those numbers aren’t reflective of his experience with the PS3 UK second hand sales market. 50-70% return on the original cost of a “recent” game seemed reasonable to him.

    “I’m sure some people do the math, but my guess would be far fewer do it than the countless people who walk in, and without thought cut the devs out to save $5 by buying used.”

    I suggest that the process involved is something like:

    Arrive in store with completed recent release (old, busted) in hand
    Picks up fresh release (new, shiny!)
    Trades in previous game
    Walks out of door with fresh release for net half sticker price.

    I’d argue that for some segment of the market a 50% decrease in the net cost would make them likely to invest in new games much more frequently than they otherwise would. The resale of the previous game subsidises the current one.

    A well-publicised removal of 2H value from a new game might have the negative impact I proposed for early-adoptors, but I agree that the anticipation of future return on investment would have a lesser effect on purchasing pattern than the realisation of previous game value at the same time as the acquisition of a new game.

    “If they could kill the 2h market today, they would have done it yesterday.”

    Do you know why haven’t they? Any idea what’s stopping them?

    • SynCaine says:

      UK must be different then, b.c in the US GameStop typically offers you, at most, $20 for a new release (although I admit its been a console generation since I’ve even looked into that option). I also know they do deals where if you give them three games they want, you can get a new game for ‘free’, or one game to get X discount on a pre-order title (Pre-orders are always better deals for the store than in-store purchases). And that $20 is only for new, in-demand games (basically AAA titles released less than a month ago), anything else and much less or nothing.

      In turn of course, a newly released AAA used title will be discounted for $5 or so, which is where GameStop makes a killing. Even older or more obscure titles used are still sold for decent (20-40) totals, which is where GameStop is getting killed by Steam/D2D/etc.

      Now again, it would take a rather educated consumer (the minority) to do all that math and heavily factor in everything to make the buy-new sell-quick stuff work for them best. My guess is most people just do it because hey, its an option to get $5.

      As for why publishers have not killed the 2h market, most of it has to do with still needing GameStop and others to sell their games, and if they were to directly kill GameStop’s biggest source of income (2h sales), they would also hurt their 1h sales. As customers adjust to the availability to buy ‘direct’ (online), more and more publishers are freed from relying on GameStop and Co. Look at PC games and GameStop vs consoles.

  21. I would bet that people who do resell their games tend to sell the ones they are least satisfied with. If I buy a game and enjoy it enough that I may want to play it again in the future, or if it has online play which I still enjoy, I am probably less likely to resell that game. This leaves me reselling off only the games I enjoyed the least. Since by your own arguments any second hand sale is a lost new sale to that developer am I not reducing profits for developers who make a sub par product? Doesn’t this mean that second hand sales are actually improving overall game quality instead of being a detriment?

  22. nnn says:

    This “buying used games is stealing” is just a logical next step from the (somewhat weird) notion that copying is stealing. I don’t see how you could agree with one and not the other.

    From a developer’s perspective, (that’s the important one here, right?) proper stealing would actually be a good thing. Example: I walk into a local brick and mortar store and empty the shelves of Starcraft 2 boxes into my bag and walk away without paying. Blizzard was already paid for those boxes, so they lose nothing, but the store has customers coming in looking for SC2, but they have nothing to sell, so they need to order more from Blizzard. $$$! More boxes shipped and more cash for the developers, all thanks to me, the gaming fan who stole all the SC2-boxes from the store and threw them into a dumpster round the corner.

    Of course this kind of practice might be a bit problematic for the retail outlets in the longer run, but who cares about them? Digital distribution is the future anyways! (I’m not sure whether this last paragraph was about making it harder to resell used games or about my ‘better profits through real stealing’ scenario, but it seems to fit both.)

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