Cynic Gamer: Stop the nagging about pre-owned games!
After years of nagging on piracy, game companies are currently aiming their crosshairs at second hand game sales. “It’s bad and should be banned! It’s costing us money!” is what we’ve been hearing lately.
The latest testimony of such a crooked vision is Lionhead’s Fable 3 lead combat designer Mike West who even stated used game sales on X360 are more of a problem than PC piracy these days. Hello? Can someone please get this guy off whatever he’s been taking?
Second hand games are being seen as a “lost sale” by game publishers, much like piracy is. To be honest: I understand that statement more regarding a second hand sale than regarding a pirated copy. But even then, who cares? A consumer buys a game second hand because it’s cheaper so the argument could easily be turned around: make games cheaper so people won’t bother buying games second hand. And it’s not like this is impossible: just wait a few weeks after the release of a top title, and you can snatch it at discount with easily 30% or more off the original price. Second hand game sales in my opinion reduce piracy so if anything, publisher should be grateful it exists!
Another point that’s brought up is that retailers are making money on second hand sales. But what’s wrong with that? They provide a service towards consumers. They act as go-between and ask for a small fee for that service. What service does a publisher provide to a second hand game that would entitle them to get additional money? Are they doing anything for you?
One might say they release patches but that’s not really a valid argument seeing as patches are released to fix bugs that shouldn’t be present in the first place. I for sure wouldn’t call that a “service”, rather them having the possibility to fix stuff they did wrong in the first place because they wanted to meet their deadline. DLC isn’t exactly a service either as this content doesn’t come right out of the box and you have to pay for it anyway. They’re definitely not losing money on that.
Publishers tend to argue that their games aren’t a product but rather a “service”. Well, they’re wrong. Games are as much a product as music is. The moment it’s put on a CD or DVD, it becomes a product that can be bought and sold off again. A musician gets money for each time his music is played in a public place, but they don’t get money for CD’s that get sold second hand either. The same goes for writers by the way. Has anyone seen Stephen King complaining lately about people reading one of his books after they bought it in a second hand store?
And if it would indeed be a “service”, then you could also argue that publishers should take back any copy of a game that doesn’t effectively get sold by a retailer. It’s not as if that’s such an impossible idea, newspapers and magazines have been doing it for years. I doubt game publishers would want to go along with this line of thinking, though. Just imagine them having to constantly adjust their actual sales numbers to reflect those of retailers.
If you sell a product a consumer wants at the right price, the consumer will be happy to pay that price. There is no such thing as a “lost sale” that couldn’t be prevented by the seller. It’s the economic law of offer and demand. If you ask too much for your product, you won’t sell it. Point.
Game companies should stop making excuses and blame everyone and their dog for not making more money than they already are. And developers like Mike West should know better than to publicly out themselves against second hand game sales. If ever money is given back to publishers for second hand sales, you can bet it won’t go back to the actual developers who created the game in the first place.