In the current episode of our podcast, we discuss the rumor that the next Xbox will ban used games and further discuss the used vs. new debate. I feel like I didn’t present a good argument on the show, mainly because I just wasn’t prepared to discuss the topic, and that I really should explore the used vs. new debate in a column. So, here we go.
In the current episode of the A Jumps B Shoots podcast, guest Brad Gallaway from gamecritics.com makes the excellent point that many gamers don’t seem to understand that actual work goes into developing a game, and that developers are real, talented people that need money to put food on their tables; Santa doesn’t make these games magically appear in December. For the most part, I agree with him. A lot of time, money and energy is spent making games and the developers and publishers deserve to make money on them. Furthermore, making a profit is not a “bad” or “evil” thing – that’s the point of running a business. However, and Gallaway echoes this sentiment, developers need to put out games that are complete. Here’s what I mean by “complete”: Little to no bugs and no content that’s locked into the disc that requires the gamer to spend money in order to access it. More importantly, developers should create games that are worth spending $60 on. Of course, whether a game is worth the new price tag is subjective, but any gamer that has taste knows that a huge portion of games that are released every year are not “Day One” purchases.
I want to make it clear that I’m not saying everyone should only buy new games. I am very much pro-used games, and I think that consumers should have the choice between buying new or used. Gamers need to be more selective in what games they purchase new, and what games they would rather wait to purchase when the used value drops. Of course, the value of new games drops rather quickly after a game has been launched, so waiting for the new price to become more reasonable would be even better.
I’ve always felt that in order for the game industry, and especially the video game retail industry, to stay afloat, the used market has to be thriving as well. I’ll agree that the used market is a concern for the industry, but it’s not as bad as they’re making it out to be. The industry needs to realize that used games were originally new games, and that people that trade in games normally spend that money on purchasing a brand new title that they’ve been looking forward to playing.
The actions the game industry has taken to stifle used game sales have been ludicrous. Online passes, registration codes, “Day One DLC” and requiring gamers to create separate accounts just enjoy doing something that’s supposed to be “entertainment” is not helping anything. Jim Sterling recently responded to a Volition, Inc. developer’s statements that a console that “banned” used games “would be a fantastic change for their business” and that the industry could implement programs that would allow gamers to “lend” games to their friends via a system similar to Amazon’s “Lending Library” since they wouldn’t be able to share games with their friends the old fashioned way. Sterling notes that, “If this industry dies, it won’t be due to piracy, nor will it be to used games. Just ask the businesses that started to fail, pissed off their customers trying to fix themselves, and then died overnight. Oh wait, you can’t, because they’re dead. THAT’s what will kill this industry, if it falls. Not GameStop, and certainly not you or I.” And he concludes by saying, “It’s when I hear these ‘solutions’ to combating used games by making life tougher for every consumer, that I start to worry about this industry’s doom.” Well said, Mr. Sterling.
Gaming is a major part of my life, and it’s my favorite hobby. I honestly want to see the industry thrive, but currently the industry is faltering. It’s true that the gaming industry is making more money than they have in the past, but their sales have been dwindling over the past few years. Only major, AAA titles seem to be keeping the industry from completely crashing, and that’s not a good thing. I don’t think the industry will ever collapse, but it will continue to go through rough times. It’s their own fault, really. They’ve “programmed” gamers to wait for “complete” editions of games to be released that are cheaper and feature all of the DLC, to think that $60 is a “reasonable” price for a new game and that new games that are less than that are “budget” titles that aren’t worth purchasing and that requiring gamers to sign up for an account to play a game is necessary and actually benefits the gamer.
If the industry is honestly concerned about used game sales effecting their bottom line than the answer is simple: lower the fucking price of new games and stop spending so much damn money on creating games. There is absolutely no need to spend $200 million in order to produce a game, even if the game winds up being outstanding. Yes, gorgeous graphics “sell” but so does stellar gameplay. I mean, one of the highest grossing games in the past few years is fucking Angry Birds. Big-budget HD visuals, 3D, particle effects, cinematic lighting, high-powered physics engines and motion blur technology don’t automatically make a game great or guarantee massive sales. Seriously, just cut the bullshit and everyone wins.
As an apology for my cynical rant, here’s a picture of Christina Hendricks: