Sony, Microsoft, and Used Games: The Dilemma of the Free Market

The Dilemma of the Free Market

Purchasing a copy of a video game that has already been used has become second nature to gamers.

A lot of us think nothing of inserting a disc into a console that has noticeably already been played, tested or otherwise owned by somebody else.

Gamestop has built an empire on this concept and maintains a near-monopoly in the area of retail stores.

The company relies so much on this idea that when news came out regarding Sony’s patenting of technology to restrict the use of previously played discs on their upcoming console, shares of Gamestop’s stock plummeted. This isn’t going to be another “FAWK GAMESTOP!” article but rather a look at what the industry needs to do to curb rising costs and bring more money into the people that actually make the games.

When the concept of a cartridge and instruction manual contained in a box was made common by the Nintendo Entertainment System, the $49.99 you were spending on a new copy of a game would be distributed to all parties involved with developing and publishing the game. What little advertising the gaming industry had was typically regulated to magazine placement and the occasional Saturday morning cartoon commercial. “Gaming” itself was very much a hobby, not thought of as a business platform in the vein of movies and music.

Nearly 20 years later, the standard cost of a new game is $10 more. Your “instruction manual” will now likely consist of a button layout and a health & safety warning. Anything else, no matter the genre, will largely get explained to you in some kind of tutorial while playing. This is a long way from the days of being able to admire extra artwork and perhaps even development notes; if you’re looking for that sort of extra content, you will have to usually invest more money into a limited or collector’s edition of the game if available.

I am no expert on economics and inflation; five minutes into a discussion of the stock market makes me want to pour kerosene on my head and light a match. Common sense, however, tells me that in the grand scheme of the world’s economy, $10 more for video games is not that bad considering we don’t need them to live. Food, on the other hand, has risen drastically in two decades and until we get that revolution that keeps getting pitched, we’ll have to wait for $.99 dozens of eggs.

I bring up the cost of a game because the biggest difference now is the idea of where that money goes. Before Gamestop came to prominence in the days of Electronics Boutique, Babbage’s and many other names they formerly used, buying a secondhand copy of a game was something you could do at a thrift store or yard sale. There was no eBay or Amazon marketplace. On top of that, selling a million copies of a game would be considered a landmark achievement for a company. Right now, Resident Evil 6 shipped 4.5 million copies at launch and that wasn’t enough for Capcom to keep their earnings expectations.

Why did this happen? Aside from Metacritic trolls, a lot of people probably decided they were better off buying the game used or waiting for the price to come down. Sure enough, RE6 can now be found for $39.99 new. The Archives and Anthology releases, which we at NSFW Gamer profiled at length here, contained a shitload of extra content that all came in the form of vouchers for digital downloads.

This is where we learn how to properly fix things.

NSFW Gamer

As it stands right now, the only way to properly enjoy older games is to have a working console and access to used copies. Sony has gotten better with their digital offerings of Playstation 2 titles since the PS3 stopped using backwards compatibility, and thanks to the original Playstation still being built into the hardware, any and all PS One games will work. There is a vast collection of games available in the Playstation Store as well.

Nintendo has the backwards compatibility idea down, but they dropped the ball big time with the concept of the Virtual Console on the Wii. There are hundreds if not thousands of classic titles that should have been released to the store and would otherwise fetch the same hundreds if not thousands of dollars as collector’s items. We’ll have to wait and see what they pull off with the 3DS and Wii U.

Microsoft made little more than two dozen original Xbox titles available to digitally purchase on the Xbox 360, the last titles being nearly four years ago. Backwards compatibility is spotty at best.

None of the three console companies seems to have figured out the digital distribution model, and this is one area that PC gamers have had a serious advantage for years. Thanks to Steam, thousands of games are available to purchase and download at low costs. Rather than paying a giant retailer, the money you spend on Steam goes directly to the companies responsible for their creation, and in some cases, these “companies” employ anywhere from one to five people.

What needs to happen is simply a platform along the lines of Steam for consoles. This will never work across all three at once with such different philosophies among Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony. That’s fine. I’m already making one hell of a personal concession in suggesting an all-digital platform, as I detest the idea of not having a physical copy of a game in my hands. With that being said, I would much rather have my “copy” as simple stored data if it means by ten bucks went straight to the guys who gave me a few hours of entertainment.

As it stands right now, Sony is already heading in this direction. If they increase their catalog of previously released games on other Playstations, along with same-day releases of retail games on the PSN, I wouldn’t have a problem with them blocking used discs on their next system. Microsoft and Nintendo would be fine allowing it on theirs because, clearly, they have some catching up to do in the world of selling games online. All of us consistently look for ways to save money and get introduced to new games. This can all be made possible if companies work together to eliminated the clutter and get us cheap access to everything they have.

– Anystrom0

Image Sources
Banned Preowned:

Be Sociable, Share!
Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.