Gamers, Developers Respond To PA On Used Games

Gabe and Tycho over at Penny Arcade have gotten a lot of responses to their post yesterday about the used game market.

Here were portions of responses they got, along with my responses to their responses:

What other customers expect a used product be be identical to a new product? Buying a used car comes with increased wear (and thus decreased function)

I actually don't object to initiatives like "Project Ten Dollar" that use DLC bundled only with new purchases to initiate a relationship with used game buyers. It's voluntary. They're not entitled to that income, but if the end user wants the content they can get it-- like any DLC. This, I think, is the appropriate way to approach a difficult problem.

However, the issue of product degradation is bogus.

First of all, the degradation in the quality of a used product like a car comes from the natural wear and tear that comes from use (hence "used") and not something intentionally and arbitrarily inflicted on the product by its manufacturer-- unless you're a big believer in planned obsolescence conspiracies.

Secondly, used video games do suffer from the same degradation: usually scratches on the disc. The difference is that a used car with normal wear and tear is still fit for purpose, while any disc that has scratches that affect its function at all is no longer fit for purpose and as such has no value whatsoever. That is merely the nature of the product. Aside from media damage, the quality and functionality of a game need not decline over time-- although its value will certainly erode as a result of suffering in comparison to newer titles, or because the systems it was designed for are no longer in active service. It is reasonable for these factors to be considered in used game prices.

I worked at a Gamestop for three years in Dixon, CA, and I can no longer support saving $10 on used games after seeing all of the profit Gamestop turns by hurting the very developers that fuel their business. Every used game purchase means another chance to sell Game Informer, which is just a rag to hype GS pre-orders, which just happens to come with a card that entices you to buy more used games and trade in your new games for less than a third of what you paid for them, which in turn will be sold to someone else for 200% markup.

Developers are not entitled to any portion of the used market. No manufacturer of any consumer good is. If publishers have a problem with retailers who voluntarily engage in this practice, they should change their business relationship with these retailers, or encourage competition from a retailer that would take a different policy.

If the margin on used games is as large as claimed, certainly there is room in the market for a retailer who would agree to voluntarily split that margin with publishers and developers. There might even be enough room to pay a percentage to developers and publishers AND still give sellers of used games more for their used games, and sell used games at a lower price.

If there was a retailer that would give you more value for your used title than GameStop, would sell you a used title cheaper than GameStop, and you knew that a portion of the used market was going to help developers, who would ever deal with GameStop ever again in their lives? How is there not room for those changes in a transaction that has 200% margin built into it?