Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
 
Is buying a used game as bad as piracy?

Tycho from Penny Arcade kicked off a heavy debate with the statement that "I honestly can't figure out how buying a used game was any better than piracy." His argument is that buying an original game gives money to the creators of that game, enabling them to produce more games in the future. Buying the game second hand or pirating it both don't make money for the game developers, thus don't contribute anything to the development of the next game. Therefore for the game developer it doesn't make a difference whether you buy games second-hand or pirate them, they lose out anyway. Thus THQ saying that people who buy their games second-hand are not their customers, so he doesn't care if these second-hand buyers are upset they can't use the online features, with the online code already being used up.

Well, lets start with some legal smalltalk (IANAL): There are laws against software piracy in most countries, although the details differ. There are no laws against buying used games. In fact, in Germany the customers have a legal *right* to sell games used, any attempts by companies to make their games only run for the first owner are illegal in Germany. With one exception: Online services. Which is exactly why having single-use codes for online services included in a game is all the latest rage with game companies. Second-hand buyers either get a crippled game, or in the case of EA they have to buy DLC from EA to get the same stuff as the original buyer. Thus from a legal point of view "buying used games is piracy" is obviously nonsense.

But Tycho has an obvious point when he considers second-hand buyers not to be "customers" of the game company. It is easy to see why the game company would consider second-hand buyers to be less deserving of lets say customer support. Or online services, which *do* cost the game company money. If you never gave your money to the game company, why should the game company give you online services for free? Thus I would say that the tactic to restrict online services to original buyers is a legit one. What I wouldn't like to see is if second-hand buyers can't even play offline. I think that calling second-hand buyers "as bad as pirates" is exaggerating it, but I don't think a game company should be required to give them the same services as original buyers, because second-hand buyers really aren't customers of the game company.
Comments:
but shouldn't the customer service or the online service be tied to the game and not to the buyer?

the company got the money for one game, in which way does it matter who uses that game and services(if it is always only one person at the same time)?

case A:

person 1 buys game uses it and its services for 5 years.

case B:

person 1 buys game uses it and its services for 2 years. then sells it to person 2, which uses it and its services for 3 years.

where is the difference?
 
Player A buys the game and the right to use it for an unlimited time (as long as the company provides the service).

Player B buys that right from player A along with the game.

The company has already been payed by player A and player B even payed for it.
Therefore he has a right to access the service, and the company has no right to ask for payment a 2nd time. Also well demonstrated by Chris' example.
 
I think it was something of a dunderheaded statement from PA. When talking about game piracy (or movie or music piracy), it is not always possible to look to direct analogies in order media. The digital duplication distinction (whew!) breaks most simple comparisons. However in this case we have a direct parallel. Reselling a used game on a CD where the seller relinquishes her technical capability to play the game in return for the buyer gaining a technical capability is exactly like buying a used book. Does Tycho think that patronizing a used bookstore is harder to do after meeting an author? What about holding a library card. Sure, the library had to purchase a copy originally (as did the original reseller in the used bookstore example), but subsequent transactions don't involve money flowing from a consumer to the developer. Does breaking that link make this a repugnant transaction?

Discussing actual software piracy, wherein I duplicate a copy of software and give it to someone else while retaining the technical capacity to use it myself, can be discussed at length. Arguments (tendentious or not) can be leveled at propositions on either side. But reselling used software? I hate to be crude but you have got to be fucking kidding me. Software resale is part of a healthy economy. Just like home resale and car resale. In fact, the price you get for a car or a home depends crucially on the ability of you to resell the car. Cars with higher resale values have stronger demand and can attract higher prices. I doubt you could convince Toyota to sabotage their cars in order to force customers to buy new rather than used. Likewise part of the real value of the home comes from its durability. Properly cared for, homes can last (depending on construction and weather) hundreds of years. Smart buyers of new homes look for features which will allow the home to be appealing to buyers in 15-20 years: sensible construction, good foundation, proper lot drainage, good wiring. Just like Toyota, if you asked a home builder whether or not they would prefer to make homes which lasted 5 years in the hopes that customers would be forced to buy new, he would look at you like you were from Mars.

Other companies forbid resale, namely ticket vendors, Airline companies and other "service providers". But we can see those prohibitions are not exactly perfect. Ticket resale exists in the real world (with some "sanctioned" resale) despite laws against scalping. Airline ticket resale is much less common because federal law and ID checks are used to prevent or limit resale. And services aren't even close to durable goods! Once you go to a concert or take a flight, that service is consumed, and only you can consume it. Substitutes exist, but are usually of very poor quality (bootleg concerts, driving to Alaska, etc.). So person specific services are the nirvana of "no resale" and yet people still chafe under the restriction.

The basic lesson is that there is no free lunch. Eliminating resale value reduces demand for durable goods, causing the producer to lose money on first sales. Now we can think fo some famous counter-examples, but most of those are exceptions proving the rule. Windows is famous for planned obsolescence, as is EA w/ Madden 20XX. Those companies can do that because they are monopolies. Short of piracy, you can't get Windows from anyone else except Microsoft and you can't get Madden from anyone else besides EA. You can get other operating systems, but if you have to run a specific software, your ability to substitute is pretty weak.

It is a shame that PA has staked out such a silly proposition and has advanced it as the "adult" take on things.
 
It is funny how the arguments for buying a game used are often the same people give for pirating.

In any case, shame on you for taking the statement out of context:

"I am purchasing games in order to reward their creators, and to ensure that more of these ingenious contraptions are produced, I honestly can't figure out how buying a used game was any better than piracy."

If your goal in purchasing a game is to support the producer of the game: buying it used really is no better than piracy because it does not support the creators. I don't see what's controversial there.
 
The game companies are cutting off their nose to spite their face.

Let's say I buy a game second hand and get a "crippled" game.

My feelings toward that company aren't going to be very good as they have set themselves up the bad guy. I am going to be far less likely to buy from them.


Also I wonder what Tycho thinks or renting a game? Personally the quality of console games is so poor (average) that buying a game is a pretty rare occurrence for me. I usually rent them, play them for a day or two, and take them back.

Once you take his argument to any other medium you can see how it falls apart whether it is cars, DVD's, furniture, etc..
 
If all used game sales were between consumers so that 80-100% of the money went back into the pockets of the seller who bought it new, who can then fund the purchase of other new games, then that would lead to a healthy games market.

However, most used games go through a middleman like Gamestop, which eats a majority of the proceeds, leaving the seller with less money to buy new games.
 
It reminds me of whenever a young upstart starts shouting "we have to do something about this!" and the old timers just shrug.

When you consider authors are not against second hand books but love the second hand book market and lament the end of secondhand bookstores, I don't see how it is any different.

More people purchasing even second hand means more customers who will want your next product or other products you've made, more buzz about the product, maybe even related projects. Most authors are wise enough to realize this, as are most companies.

Just because we use software does not mean this is a "new" issue, and "old line" companies have been dealing with it for decades.

With online content, companies have found a way to capitalize on second hand sales, without banning them (which many have found works against them in the end).
 
No, next question.
 
I was going to mention that you posted the comment completely out of context but jardal beat me too it.

PA has a point, in the interest of supporting the developer, buying a game, or any software, used does nothing for them.

Software is different than the other products mentioned in the comments(cars, houses, etc) because it does not "wear out" in the traditional sense.

A side note to the Toyota example, if you don't think there are huge amounts of testing to find parts that last a moderate amount of time (3 to 5 years) and not much longer, than I think you should look at some statistics that show average vehicle life-cycle.
 
Sorry but that's just stupid.

Yeah and it should be against the law to buy any used car. And those that still do that should not be allowed to buy spare original parts.

Seriously....
 
"..but I don't think a game company should be required to give them the same services as original buyers.."

or alternatively just design online subscription based games like WoW and other MMOs where you don't really pay for the game anymore but for actual playtime.
 
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The comments about context are bizarre. If your goal is to support a developer then why not just cut them a check? If you restrict yourself to purchase and play of a game in order to reward a developer then tautologically only first sales allow you to confer that reward. But it does not follow that all or even most of game transactions should be to "reward the developer". I suspect most of them are "because I want to play this game".
 
"Intellectual property" like games and movies cannot be equated to merchandise like cars and toasters.

All things you purchase have an 'amortization time" A car? 10 years or more, a toaster? 5 years. When you pay for the item, you own the item, and it's amortized lifespan is transferred to you. you are free to sell the remaining value in the item when you tire of it.

Intellectual property is different. With Digital data, it's lifespan is nigh infinite, but it's 'amortization time' is short, 2 hours for a movie, generally 20 hours for a game.

As such, there are 2 kinds of purchasers. The first type just wants to use the product once. For them, the product is massively overpriced. 20 bucks for a movie you'll watch only once? That's criminal. 50 bucks for a game you'll play for 20 hours and never open again? Same thing. The second type wants to use the product over and over, but there are few of these. For example... I purchased the movie "Iron Man", I've watched it at least 10 times so far, I love this film. But there are VERY FEW movies that are cost effective for me to buy like that.

Solution? Rentals. The movie (or game) company gets MUCH less money per use than direct sales, but the price per use is closer to the actual 'value' to the user.

For example... I rarely buy movies. There just too overpriced to buy and watch once. I rent them through Netflix. My monthly fee pays a licensing fee to the movie's producers so they get their money, but not the insane rate for an outright purchase. I figure, on average, I pay less than 5 dollars per movie viewing through Netflix.

The same applies to games. Game producers license the product to a rental agency (Like Gamefly) and they rent the same game over and over.

This is entirely different from selling 'used' games. Selling games is a direct result of games being priced too high, but it IS piracy unless you were specifically given the right to transfer the use of the product.

The rental product is different from the direct purchase product, the game (or movie) company is selling the right to redistribute for the rental product, and the rights for only a single user to use the product (Or non commercial use, like your friend watches it with you) on the direct purchase product.

The rental model is the model for the future. Otherwise, game producers are going to price themselves out of business trying to stop piracy.
 
Mark Twain called, he's complaining about his argument being pirated.
 
I think the issue depends on the relative value of a used game to the (re)seller and the purchaser. Many games have little value to their owner after their first play-through, so they are willing to dump it at Gamestop for a fraction of its cost. But without various penalties from the publisher, the game still has a high value to a new consumer. Gamestop's business depends on capitalizing on these differences in perceived value and inefficiencies in the used game market.

If someone is paying $60 for a game because they know they can sell it for $40 used, then the publisher could be making $40 more from each copy than they could without resale. I think people's real objection is to the constant resale at high markups from intermediaries like Gamestop.
 
@Liene

That's not true. You aren't "given" the right to resell a game. You have it and it is secured by law. Occasionally technical restrictions are imposed or games are defined by the manufacturers as services in order to avoid the first sale doctrine, but the seller doesn't grant a right.

As for your argument about depreciation, are you seriously advancing the notion that depreciation doesn't exist for games? Could you sell a brand new copy of Doom III for 50 dollars today? Obviously the digital data doesn't deteriorate with use (though the delivery mechanism may), but the desire for the data deteriorates. And the car/toaster/etc. examples are instructive of my point. None of those objects confer 100% of their original value upon resale, but few of them have 0% of their original value. And the price you are willing to pay for a durable good depends greatly on the ability to resell it. So a toaster might be purchased at walmart for 15 dollars but a kitchen-aid mixer might be puchased for 300 dollars because you know you can sell it or give it to family when you are done using it. And there are feedback effects. Companies that price new goods too high find that the new durable goods compete with the used goods to a certain degree.

And your solution DEPENDS on the first sale doctrine. Why do you think that DVD rentals at netflix are easy and instant watch is a pain in the ass? Because the first sale doctrine is settled law for physical media but not settled for streaming/digital. Without the right of netflix to buy and rent out those DVDs, you couldn't enjoy the service.
 
Used books. Libraries. Used CD/DVD stores.

What is the difference between these things, which book/music companies seem to have little problem with (or at least gave up complaining about) and used games? I can't really think of any legitimate argument they should be treated differently (except for online services, where I can see Tobold's point).

Other than online services,nothing I can think of. Honestly I don't know why gamers don't just subscribe to Gamefly. Most games are fun for a few weeks at best. 80% of them are shovelware. Why buy when you can rent? Partially because used games reduce your downside risk of buying a stinker, and they help people buy NEW games by letting them sell their old stock.

I think if you kill used game sales, you might see more new games sales, but less than you would think, because renting/gamefly is really the best option for the cost conscious gamer. Used markets support the new market by providing buyers with residual value, letting them take risks on products they're not sure they like.
 
@Protonk

Whether or not your goal is to support the developers, they need to make a living too. If you like the games they put out you support them by purchasing the game, they keep their jobs and presumably keep making games you like.

If you don't like their games you don't buy them, and if enough people feel the same way, they lose their job or stop making the game.

The 3rd vector here is where there is contention. If you like the game and want to play it, but for whatever reason don't want to spend the money, the entire system is short circuited. This can come from pirating the game OR from buying it used. I know very few developers out there who will be able to keep their doors open because so many fans loved their games enough to buy used copies.
 
The comments about context are bizarre. If your goal is to support a developer then why not just cut them a check?

Because this way the developers don't know what it actually is that you liked. If many people did it, they would conclude that game X should get no addon, because nobody liked it.

In fact, many people might have liked it, but donated money instead of buying it several times.
 
Then there was CCP's take on this for the online stuff. Stuff 2 months of time in the box (which is essentially a collectors item/marketing tool), but make the client itself (and all the updates) down-loadable for free all the time and only charge for the service.

No need for lock codes and installation codes or things like that.
 
On this whole silly debate:

It is the problem that is always there when discussing piracy:

1) Some people argue from a very unemotional PoV: Piracy gives people access to games without paying money to the devopers; so does buying used games. So it is the same. From this PoV they are correct.

2) Other people argue from a moral PoV that usually considers copying digital good eual to stealing for some reason. For them buying a used game is, of course, perfectly ok.

Now, let's turn it upside down: Moral considerations apart, piracy is no worse than selling used games. Since the latter is ok, the former is, too.
 
I emailed the following to Tycho this morning after reading his article:

First, I should preface this with the fact that I never buy used games. Perhaps this may change in the future. I have 2 kids now and as you are aware, kids are expensive. And in this economy my wife and I are cutting corners where we can.

Anywho, I think I can relate to your slang-slinging thug. He is a consumer. He's not pirating games. He's buying them. And last I checked, there's no THQ store to go buy games from. I've worked in retail, albeit almost 2 decades ago, but regardless, I understand how it works. The publishers are not fronting the retailers the merchandise. They are selling the games to the retailers who then resell them to us, the consumers. If the used game market is such a horrible epedemic, then perhaps companies should rethink letting these brick and mortar shops hawk their new wares. Of course that's pretty drastic, but going after people that buy the games (used or new) is going to alienate your customers. And it's not the customers fault that there are two copies of a game sitting on a shelf and one is cheaper than the other.

Unfotunately for the developers, they are producing an entertainment medium. When we get down to it, video games are not much different than books, music, and movies. Some games have great replaybility but others, you'll finish and never look at again. And these things have value. What THQ (and EA too for that matter) is doing is removing content for people that don't buy the game new. This would be like book publishers requiring libraries and used book stores to remove chapters from their books. Or if movie studios sold movie rental services movies that were missing parts of the theatrical version to encourage consumers to buy instead of rent. Of course my cynicism is so rampant, I think book publishers and movie studios would do these things, if they thought they could get away with it.

The other problem I see is that while the price of video games have gone up, the amount of content has gone down. It's acceptable now for a developer to release a game that has less than 10 hours of content for $60. But unlike most mediums where you can estimate how long that will be just by looking at the package -- movies publish their length, most books you can open it up and see how many pages are in it, etc -- unless you are savvy enough to read a review, you have no idea how long a game will be. Forgive my cynicism, but I passed on Starcraft 2 when I heard reports people were finishing the campaign after playing 16 hours straight from the midnight release. I was going to pick it up on the way home from work because I love Blizzard games but the short campaign got me thinking. Blizzard-Activision made Starcraft 2 and then broke it into 3 pieces and now they are selling these as 3 full-priced short games. And you can't even resell these because these are PC games. And we consumers have allowed this to become an acceptable practice. No, Fuck you Blizzard-Activision, I'll wait till the Starcraft 2 Battle chest drops for $50 and get all 3 for the price they should have been from the get go.
 
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What's up with all those triple and quadruple posts? Is there something broken with the commenting system?
 
@jason
where have they said that the other two parts of starcraft 2 will be full-priced games?
 
@Dirk

How does game resale endanger game developers but book resale not endanger authors? Like I said in my first post, there are some cases where digital duplication renders analogies to older norms impossible. This isn't one of those cases.
 
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@Tobold

No, it's just that the internet broke, because of all the comment fire that's spreading to other blogs.
 
I could say it, but it's already been said elsewhere. I'll quote it.

from http://techdirt.com/articles/20100824/11142810761.shtml
"If there's a healthy secondary market for products, it reduces the risk for the buyers in the primary market. That is, if they buy the product and don't like it, they know they'll be able to resell it and recoup some of their losses. That makes it effectively cheaper for them to buy the primary product, increasing the number of sales. On top of that, the secondary market also helps in markets like video games in acting as a good way to segment the market, and get new buyers into a game or series of games. I'm sure many of the folks who are now buyers in the primary market, at one time purchased an earlier game in a series used. How is it that so many video gaming execs have so much trouble recognizing these basic concepts?"

more detail: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20050728/0216218.shtml

TLDR VERSION: Secondary markets allow wider population participation and increase the value of the primary market. Everyone wins.
 
@Protonk

I don't honestly think it is different. But I am one of those crazy people who think that people should be rewarded for their work, especially if I want to see more work from them.

If friends recommend a book or a game, and reviewers I trust concur, I will buy the game or book new.

I have, more times than I can count, purchased a book after I read it(after borrowing from a library or friend) because I liked the book so much that I wanted the author to get something for their effort.

I know its a crazy philosophy and there probably aren't many people who share my ideas.
 
I don't usually buy a game the day it comes out as they cost $100 or more, but wait until the game store has them on special for $25 or so 6-12 months after.
I don't know what the store has paid the developer to get the game but I don't belive it was $100.
The game store just wants to clear stocks of older games and may sell it at a price below cost to do that.
Now if i bought the game below cost did I cheat the game company out of their profits and would I be treated as a pirate?
 
@Anthony

http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/2010/08/23/starcraft-2-heart-of-the-swarm-update/

The StarCraft 2 series is going to be markets as such, a series. Each game will have an equal amount of solo content. Each game will be a sequel and not an expansion.

Let's be realistic though... other than role playing games most games are beaten with in 20 hours. I remember growing up I would rent a game Friday night and have it beat by Saturday night.

These games with a 10-20 hour single player also offer multiplayer at no monthly fee. Why is it so horrible to offer a 10-20 hour offline campaign with unlimited multiplayer for $60 but it's okay to charge $60 + a monthly fee for a MMO game with no single player and online only?

If you don't like online play that's fine, but don't make it out like these games are only offering a small amount of gameplay for a large amount of money because you don't like a feature of the game. I don't complain about a MMO's price because I don't like the fact that I can't play it offline.
 
@Dirk

I am not going to bash you for your decision on this but, for me, it is a silly viewpoint.

Those people are being rewarded by the paychecks they receive for completing their work. This isn't some starving artist hoping to sell a painting to buy food. These are people with a steady gig. These are companies.

They don't get my dollars because I feel they charge too much. It is time vs money and I have almost never felt that the amount of gameplay time available was worth the full purchase price.

Someone earlier mentioned Starcraft 2 and I wholeheartedly agree with them that a 16 hour single player campaign is not worth $60.

I rent or buy secondhand. People like me have been doing this for over 20 years now and have not slowed progress much, if at all.

If publishers/developers want to earn my hard earned money then they need to adjust their price or the amount of content.
 
As for the piracy I agree with Penny Arcade and I like with games like BioWare are doing. Sure you can sell the game back, but then someone has to buy the DLC if they want all the features.

The car analogies are stupid btw. When you buy a used car you typically don't take a factory warranty with you. You can purchase a new one from the car maker though or most dealerships.
 
IANAL, but have had to deal with selecting license agreements for some of my software products.

I do not know whether games count as physical devices or as software. Nor whether it matters whether it is a physical cartridge, physical DVD or digital download.

At least in the US regarding software:

you do not buy software. From the Window 7 agreement "The software is licensed, not sold. This agreement only gives you some rights to use the features included in the software edition you licensed. Microsoft reserves all other rights." It explictly states you may not "rent, lease or lend the software"

http://about.intuit.com/piracy/ has
"It's important to understand that software is not owned by an end-user, but rather licensed to the end-user by the copyright owner through an End-User License Agreement, often referred to as the EULA. The EULA contains the terms and conditions for using the software. Software publishers maintain ownership of the software they create, and control the right to duplicate and distribute their products."

This is not just $100 programs - spend a few million dollars on an Oracle database or a hundreds million on a SAP and I believe you would not a have a right to sell.

Clearly, the idea of a library or letting a friend borrow are illegal.

In the US for a software product, I would think that in almost all cases, selling a used product would be against the agreement.

At least regarding software, all the people assuming that software is governed by the laws that govern physical devices are just wrong. Not only is it only licensed, software manufactures' bugs are not held to the same reliability, fitness and liability that physical products are. How many billions are stolen due to the security bugs in Windows? Or when there are tens of thousands of documented bugs in Windows or Office or WoW or any large software product. If this were a physical product, I suspect the number of lawsuits would be different.

The fringes are the law are with hardware software combos: example, you spend a half-million dollars on a voicemail server (back in the day, I was there.) There was $20,000 of software inside, licensed. So you could sell the box used (physical laws) but the buyer could not use the product as they did not have a license to the software.

What people think are logical or fair is not really relevant to what the software laws are. Unfortunately, this is even seeping over into the world of books. Where things like textbooks are licensed with DRM and so can not be sold or leased and may expire. ( And DMCA is pretty draconian IMHO)
 
My response: http://bit.ly/ce6Mcs

It was rather large.
 
(possible duplicate; blogger bug)

IANAL, but have had to deal with selecting license agreements for some of my software products.

I do not know whether games count as physical devices or as software. Nor whether it matters whether it is a physical cartridge, physical DVD or digital download.

At least in the US regarding software:

you do not buy software. From the Window 7 agreement "The software is licensed, not sold. This agreement only gives you some rights to use the features included in the software edition you licensed. Microsoft reserves all other rights." It explictly states you may not "rent, lease or lend the software"

http://about.intuit.com/piracy/ has
"It's important to understand that software is not owned by an end-user, but rather licensed to the end-user by the copyright owner through an End-User License Agreement, often referred to as the EULA. The EULA contains the terms and conditions for using the software. Software publishers maintain ownership of the software they create, and control the right to duplicate and distribute their products."

This is not just $100 programs - spend a few million dollars on an Oracle database or a hundreds million on a SAP and I believe you would not a have a right to sell.
 
Clearly, the idea of a library or letting a friend borrow are illegal.


In the US for a software product, I would think that in almost all cases, selling a used product would be against the agreement.

At least regarding software, all the people assuming that software is governed by the laws that govern physical devices are just wrong. Not only is it only licensed, software manufactures' bugs are not held to the same reliability, fitness and liability that physical products are. How many billions are stolen due to the security bugs in Windows? Or when there are tens of thousands of documented bugs in Windows or Office or WoW or any large software product. If this were a physical product, I suspect the number of lawsuits would be different.

The fringes are the law are with hardware software combos: example, you spend a half-million dollars on a voicemail server (back in the day, I was there.) There was $20,000 of software inside, licensed. So you could sell the box used (physical laws) but the buyer could not use the product as they did not have a license to the software.

What people think are logical or fair is not really relevant to what the software laws are. Unfortunately, this is even seeping over into the world of books. Where things like textbooks are licensed with DRM and so can not be sold or leased and may expire. ( And DMCA is pretty draconian IMHO)

"Software resale is part of a healthy economy. " - In the US, software release almost always violates the license agreement and may be criminal, regardless of the number of people who like or understand it.
 
@ConAir: 16 hours of gameplay for $60 =$3.75 per hour.

1 and half hour movie in the theater for $12 = $8 per hour.

1 and half movie on DVD on sale for $19.99 = $13.33 per hour.
for $5 from the bargain bin=$3.33

A 3 minute song for $0.99 = $19.80 per hour.

And Tobold has already discussed the value of World of Warcraft and MMOs in general. Just pointing things out.
 
The person selling the used game is, by definition, someone who is willing and able to spend money buying new games. By buying the used game, you are transferring money to him, and it is reasonable to assume that some of that money will go towards future new game purchases.

Trickle down effect! If it was good enough for Reaganomics it's good enough for the games industry!
 
@epiny

I'm obvious much older than you. (I was born the year after Pong came out) I was around before there was an internet and LAN play and multiplayer play. When I was growing up, a game lasted more than 20 hours and you couldn't beat a game over the weekend.

And are you denying that I'm correct? Are you denying that single-player content has been reduced? You said when you were growing up games lasted 20 hours. Well the latest offering from Blizzard's single player campaign offers 25% of that. What's really sad is the content has been reduced, yet the budgets for these games rival blockbuster movies. And we are supposed to feel sympathy for the poor starving developers?

@Tobold - sorry, when I was trying to post I got error messages and didn't see my comments. When I saw the multiple posts, I deleted them.
 
It's kind of an asshole thing to just come out and say but the devs in this case have a good point.

You can argue 'till you're blue in the face about the morality of it but the facts are that the developers don't get any money from the secondhand market. Therefore used game buyers simply have no voice that matters, and the devs are incentivized to experiment with how their games will respond to being resold. This sort of an approach is one of the main reasons so much content is being pushed into zero-day DLCs.

I honestly believe that fairly soon (within the next ten years) all software you buy will be tied to some sort of individual account. These types of services are typically received very well by people who buy games (and other software) new already and the original devs have no reason to listen to the complaints of secondhand consumers.
 
PC software is going that way, just look at Steam. But we aren't talking about PC software.

We're talking about console games. If we're going to treat console games like software then let's just ditch the console altogether. My PC is a helluva better system than my 360.
 
@Jason

You are less than 10 years older than me, not a big difference in the gaming world considering that I had an Atari before I could talk.

You are 100% wrong though. You are trying to tell me that SC2 campaign is only 5 hours long? Don't lie.

Most games for the NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, and Playstation COULD be beat in a weekend. Most. Turn based strategy games and role playing games couldn't. That's the very reason I stopped playing action adventure games, they were to short for the amount of money.

It pisses me off that you somehow think that your opinion is some how more valid than mine because you are older. (or atleast you come off that way) The video game industry didn't flourish until the early 80's and rentals didn't become popular until the late 80's/early 90's.
 
@Pangoria Fallstar

Let me break it down how I see it

16 hours of gameplay for $60 =$3.75 per hour.

4 months of Gamefly rental $60= $.02 per hour with potentially unlimited playtime as I can constantly get new/different games

4 months of WoW for $60=$.02 per hour as I can once again have unlimited playtime. There is no "beating" an MMO.

MMO's are a different breed to me anyway. No console game is worth $60, to me, unless it has waaay more than 20 hours of gameplay.

Online multiplayer does not count for me as I see that mostly fluff.

Renting is always better than buying either new or secondhand, but if I loved a game or had to buy it I would look for the cheapest option.

In the case of Starcraft 2 I will just wait until it is in a battle chest or something. After being in the Beta for months it didn't make me want to rush out and buy it. I can wait.
 
@epiny I apologize for giving you the impression that I think my opinion is more important than yours. I merely pointed out that games were longer than 20 hours in my time.

And I also apologize about a typo. sorry. I already established that Starcraft 2 is 16 hours and 16 hours is 20% shorter than 20 hours. I left out the word shorter in my statement which grossly messed up the math. Hell my math was wrong to begin with. I said 25% to begin with. Again, I apologize.
 
I suspect Penny Arcade is being deliberately controversial to boost flagging hit counts.
 
Its amazing the pervasive agreement that all posters today seem to have which is not obeying the terms of a click-thru agreement is illegal, even if that particular action is a right by the laws of the land you live in.

As others have said the obvious similarity is books. Yet if books had been invented in the latter half of last century would we today be signing our names to the front cover to agree that we did not own the book merely the right to read it? That we where buying it for personal use and not for reading aloud to our children? I certainly have read statements by people in the book industry that indicated they where less then pleased by the existence of the public library.

I don’t think that in the last 30 years of writing and buying software I have brought second hand software. I certainly don’t think it’s immoral or illegal. I certainly have sold second software, Think of the countless computers I have sold wiped clean except the O/S I brought with it.
 
Stabs, if you want to go completely cynic on the motives of Tycho, then you should point out that the next PAX is early September, and it is the games industry that is financing it.
 
The games market is changing. Some developers/publishers will rise to the challenge, others will fail. We'll see new technical and commercial approaches used to maximise revenue.

If you've got a good product and a viable business model, you can relax.
 
@Pangoria

You forgot this one:
A decade ago, games were about
$50 Game @ 20 hours = $2.50/hour

vs

Now
$60 Game @ 16 hours = $3.75/hour

So over the course of a decade, the cost per hour has gone up 50%.
 
EULA's are legally dubious at best, since we can only agree to them after we've opened the box and can't return it to the store (they would think you pirated it). There is no bargaining power there. They could insert a clause demanding your first born child if they felt like it. Most people wouldn't even see it. The licensing clause has no bearing whatsoever on the way we buy software, or even, really, the way they sell software. Debating the terms of the EULA is pedantic.

The games industry is a multi-billion dollar industry having a snit fit about something every single other durable good industry has to deal with--- consumers who don't use up all the value of the items they bought, and so they sell them to others. If they want in on used game profits, they should just buy Gamestop.
 
Jason, young one:

Saying that a game "takes 16 hours to complete today" just because someone claims to have completed Starcraft II in 16 hours or that a game "took 20 hours to complete a decade ago" strikes me as a bit... weird.

Some games take ages to complete. Some games you're done with in about three minutes. I can't find the metrics, but I am pretty sure that it took me significantly longer to complete SCII, probably twice as long (call me sucky if you will – us bad players always get better value for money!). And then there's the multiplayer element: as I write this, about 55,000 SCII matches are being played. That's more than 100,000 players battling in excess of your 16 hours, and it's not even prime time yet.

Canabalt is a game for iPhone that I spent a significant amount of time playing, although I shudder at the thought that it would be as much as 16 hours! That came can't even be beat. Does that mean it has infinite playtime?

Adventure, a great game that game out in 1979 for the Atari 2400, certainly didn't take very long to complete. It was way better than Pong though, even though I spent much more time playing Pong. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back took more time to play, but not really that long. Tetris, on the other hand, swallowed man-centuries from the world economy. RoboSport, a completely awesome and sadly much ignored Maxis game that came out in 1991 also swallowed many, many hours. Which is more than what can be said for Spore...

Oh, I'm digressing. My point, if I can salvage it, is that games today, if anything, generally ship with way more content than games 30 years ago (in fact, I'd argue that the real problem is that many games are much longer than they ideally should be). But more importantly that the amount of content in a game is completely secondary to how much fun it is to play. If I'm willing to spend 100 hours with Dragon Quest VIII, then that's of course a pretty sure sign that it's a good game, but a game that I'm done with in three hours can definitely be worth the same price tag (for me).

Just like books, yes? Some books are more expensive than others. Do you call a great book "not worth it" because it was more expensive than another good book?

Man, I'm tired today and write poorly. Sorry.

Anyway, hats off to you for not buying games that you think are too expensive. That's your prerogative as a consumer. But please do take off those rose-tinted nostalgia glasses relating to games of yore.

Oh, and $50 in 1999 = $63.78 in 2009 adjusted along with the US consumer price index.

As for the topic (!), I'm completely with Dirk. I've also gone out and bought books that I liked after reading them.

And yes, although software sellers always tell you that you don't actually "own" the software. And don't get any illusions about this being limited to PC software. This is a quote from the inside of the LEGO Harry Potter manual (yes, it's in capital letters): "RESALE AND RENTAL ARE PROHIBITED UNLESS EXPRESSLY AUTHORISED BY SCEE".

In fact, consoles are even more proprietary and restricted than your average PC. Here, the console manufacturer sells a license to the game's publisher to publish the game for the console in question, and charges handsomely for it. Note that quote: I'm not to seek permission from TT Games or WB Games or Lego to resell the game: this is a right that can (but won't) be granted by Sony.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Tobold mentioned at the outset that Germany has a law in place overriding these types of terms, expressly giving Germans (or people in Germany, perhaps) a right to resell used games. I don't know anything about this German law, but that's of course very possible to do for any legislator and it would render software licensing restrictions meaningless. But the fact that you can do it doesn't mean that it's a great idea. Also, it appears to me that many of the GameStops of this world actually resell used games as new. A liberal returns policy means that you can get away with selling a game at full price several times. It's a clever business model, but it certainly doesn't help the game developers much.

At the end of the day, this probably drives retail prices for new games up too. If a significant number of people pay §60 for a new game only because they will sell it for $40 after a couple of weeks, then it appears to me that these people aren't really prepared to pay $60 for the game. If the whole system crumbled, perhaps games would start costing what people are prepared to pay for actually them. At least this is what the behemoths will have us believe. It's not a coincidence that download from XBLA or PSN are settling around the magic $15 price point: they want to show us how great it is to buy direct; how much cheaper it gets for everyone if we stop cheating them.

In principle, I think PA and the people defending them, and the publishers etc have a good point: you're not the publishers' primary concern if you're not paying *them* for their games and you shouldn't be surprised if they don't cater to your desires.

Wow, that's the most unstructured post I ever wrote. And I've written some really bad ones in the past! Sorry.

Oh well, off to find RoboSport!
 
@Jason
Rampage for the NES cost $80 when we bought it. Duck Tails was over $60 and we kept Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the grocery store because we couldn't find it at Toys R Us, which was around $70.

As Oscar said though, even if games were the same price with inflation they costed more.

@Oscar
Agree 100%
StarCraft 2 has an achievement to beat the game on Normal in under 8 hours of mission time. It's actually pretty hard to do. You have to know every mission and you will replay some of them, thus resulting in many more hours of actual play time.

Most games come with a single player story, some sort of challenge mode, and an online mode. Just because you do not like all the features offered in these games does not mean they aren’t available.
 
@Oscar

In closing, you say we who do not buy the game are not the publisher's concern. Actually, we who do not buy the game, should be the publisher's concern. After all, why didn't we buy their game? Or why did we wait for it to hit the used/sale bin?

@Epiny
I started to point that when games were first coming out they were priced outrageously but then all software was at the time, because it was a niche market. And then we saw the trend where all games were at the same price-point. And now that price point is moving upward as the length of games move downward.

Irregardless, I maintain that removing content from a used game is akin to a library/used bookstore ripping some chapters out of a book. The publishers are punishing the gamer rather than punishing the companies that put them in this position.

I guess we should ban thrift stores too because Pre-owned "fill in the blank" cheats "producers of new stuff" out of moolah!

Once again, I'll remind ya'll that we are talking about a BILLION dollar industry having a problem with something every other industry tolerates. It's hard for me to have any sympathy.
 
Games may be priced too high, I'm not arguing against that. Publishers certainly don't like that idea, and it's not very surprising that before lowering prices they will try other means of securing more direct purchases.

The publishers are doing this to increase sales, to convert more people into direct buyers. If that doesn't happen they'll leave this model without hesitation. So you can bet that even though the used game buyers are not the publishers' primary concern, they publishers do pay attention.

I am not privy to the games industry aggregate financial figures, but I don't think that the industry as a whole is any more profitable than other sectors. It may be disturbing to some, but all of this is about making more money. And incidentally, this is *exactly* what's been done in other industries for decades. Books are a great example of this: when you buy a book you get a choice between a "premium", hardback model that can be resold and traded freely or a much cheaper "budget" paperback version that actually *does* fall apart after the first or second read. Do you think that's a coincidence, that publishers are physically unable to make paperback books that don't fall apart? If so, think again. The "ripping pages out of books" idea you so seem to abhor is already a reality.

Examples don't end there. DVD's and CD's degrade surprisingly quickly. If you buy a new yacht for $200,000 (or $1 BILLION, for that matter), you will get a manufacturer's warranty that only you can rely on. Every manufacturer of goods that can be resold in every industry the world over is trying to convert buyers of used products into buyers of new products. The rhetoric may change, but you're not going to see this attitude change in the games industry or in any other industry any time soon.
 
I don't get the rage against second hand games. With the money you pay the original buyer he'll buy new games.

Second hand games are often the only way to get old games. I bought NOLF & Theme Hospital on a flea market. Where else could I even buy them?

And why does noone complain about my second hand book collection? My second hand DVDs?
 
@Oscar: The difference between the examples you listed and what the gaming companies are doing is the gaming companies are crippling the items from the get go, the other manufacturers are hoping the items will be crippled by use.
 
Jason,

No, I tried to demonstrate that the other companies are doing the *exact same thing*. The yacht manufacturer "cripples" the product by offering a valuable warranty that only applies to the first buyer. The book industry cripples its product by using glue that *will* fail very quickly. These are active choices by the manufacturers.
 
@Oscar

The problem with your examples is the paperback doesn't fall apart as soon as you open it and the new yacht (hopefully) will not require warranty work as soon as you put in the water. (And even if the Yacht and the Book did fall apart as soon as you used them, you could return them for full refunds - something else you can't do with games) For THQ's new game, multiplayer content will not work right out of the box. You will have to expend your time and effort to enable that feature, punishing you the "new game" buyer.

I didn't mention this before but may as well now. The other problem is the examples you provided about CDs & DVDs. This already applies to games. Why neuter content if the medium the game is printed on "degrades quickly"?

I suppose you are okay with first day DLC as well then? Let's charge $60 and put 3 DLC items up at release that cost $10 so game developers can con $90 out of their $60 game.

It's all just a giant cash grab by the game companies and rather than admit that, they point their fingers at pirates and used game buyers and go "it's not our fault, it's their's."
 
I didn't realise that your objection was against having to go online to activate the multiplayer mode. I thought the discussion concerned the punishing of the "used" buyers, not the inconveniencing of the "new" buyers.

Overall, yes. It's an immense cash grab. The game publishers are trying to make as much money off of you, their customers. Because of that, they are focusing on ways to make money. In this, the games publishers are no different from book publishers, yacht manufacturers etc. Or Amnesty International, for that matter.

If you believe differently, that the games industry is unique in this fashion, that the games publishers are the only profit-hungry organisations in the world, then... well, I don't agree.

If you're saying that this is counter-productive and that these new techniques will come back and bite them, then that is certainly a possibility. However, just like I don't think games publishers are uniquely greedy, nor do I believe they are uniquely stupid. If this hurts them, they'll stop. Some won't catch on fast enough and they'll suffer for it.

And to end: don't forget that all these publishers probably want to get away from the "death grip" of retail anyway. They're looking to move to digital distribution as much as possible already. Cheaper, better and, yes, no used sales.
 
@Oscar - If you read the original articles that started this mess, that's what THQ is planning to do or have already done (I'm not quite sure). They plan to make online multiplayer the equivalent of DLC. EA has said they plan to do this for EA Sports titles as well. And this is really a slippery slope that we've already begun falling down. Just look at first day DLC. The horizon is clear to me. The multiplayer code is free now for new game purchasers but in another year when the companies want to increase their bottomline, will it be included for free? Afterall, the precedence will have been set that some people will pay for multiplayer content. And then what's next after that? Will they start charging me for local multiplayer ie. Soon will we have to pay a fee to unlock each controller plugged directly into the console?

"Of course my cynicism is so rampant, I think book publishers and movie studios would do these things, if they thought they could get away with it" - That's from my original post. Yes I'm aware that everyone wants to make money. But we consumers have to evaluate if the value is there. We spend the money.
 
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