The used games fight flared up again today, thanks to Penny Arcade. They came out rather sternly against GameStop and the used game aftermarket. Gabe noted on Twitter that he was getting "Thank you messages from developers and fuck you messages from gamers." So he asked for some concise opinions and later posted them on their site.
Now, I talked about this back when Project $10 first made the news, and I don't think my opinions have changed much. I still think it's a shame that GameStop's aftermarket defines our hobby as disposable when other media hobbies have no comparable trade-in system. I know I'm stereotyping, but I tend to imagine the bulk of the Penny Arcade audience - IE, the gamers who sent Gabe the big middle finger - as mouth-breathing bit-torrenting dudebros who have set themselves up as the white hat-wearing victims in the retail equation, therefore screw the devs, screw the pubs, screw anybody who expects them to pay actual money for anything. That's not necessarily a knock on PA, just sort of the internet in general.
But I did like that Gabe posted anonymous thoughts, and now I'd like to make fun of some of them.
"While I try my best to buy video games when they come out, and pay the full $60, sometimes I miss one and end up getting it later, for cheaper, used. It's not so much the "buy new" aspect of this conversation that others me, but instead the characterization of someone who buys games used as some sort of delinquent. Sometime I need to save money in order to play the games I want, but that doesn't make me any less a good person. Just thrifty. And they're not loosing any money when the choice for me is buy it used or don't buy it at all."
And no, I guess the publisher is not losing any money. But they're certainly not making any money either. Somehow, however, I doubt the pure dichotomy of "buy it used or don't buy it at all." Is this game never going to get a price markdown in non-used form? I did not get 2008's Prince of Persia at $60. Just saw it at Target for $20. I guess it's too much to ask gamers to wait a year-and-a-half for a new copy to go down in price, rather than pick it up at GameStop on the back of some dope who sold his copy to them for $10 store credit.
One thing I think probably needs to be delineated here is what kind of used games are we talking about. To me, there's a huge difference between buying an old game used because it's simply not available anywhere, and buying a used copy of a big AAA release that just came out last month. Because that's part of our disposable culture issue... gamers only want the latest game, and GameStop taps into that by encouraging fast trade-ins and selling nearly-new releases at $5 or $10 less than a new copy. Maybe a game should be at least two years old before anybody is allowed to sell it used.
I would agree that buying new games and supporting the people that make them is THE WAY TO GO, but I've found that when you're gaming on a budget some times you just need to listen to your wallet and do what's best for YOU the consumer/gamer. It's really no different than the people who have to buy a used car because they can't afford to buy a new one =)
Except that the used car doesn't work exactly the same as a new one, does it? The mileage is high, the parts are worn. It is lacking features that come stock on a new model. Assuming the disk isn't scratched to hell, a used game gets you 100% of what you get with a new game. Just that the publisher doesn't get a cut of the sale.
The following quote makes a similar point:
Personally I would love to be able to support every developer who makes the games I enjoy. I understand that they are doing this for a living and I want to help them keep doing what they love.... BUT... As an adult with a family, my budget for buying games is limited. I have other responsibilities and they NEED to come first. If my only chance to enjoy a game is by buying it used... then that's the way it HAS to be.
Then don't be surprised when "the way it HAS to be" also includes developers shutting down.
Again, games fucking go on sale. GameStop is not the world's only source for cheap games. I'm just staggered by the blind eye turned to where the profits go in this paradigm. Because these folks don't want to spend a ton of money, it just does not seem to bother them that they're not actually paying the game makers for the game product.
I'd love to audit the guys complaining about their budgets. Do they still have a $150 cable bill? Smartphone bill? Do they eat out a lot? Gym membership? Netflix? Did they go see Scott Pilgrim three times? Yes, "listen to your wallet" and make smart choices, but why go all blissful about participating in a system like this? If you can't afford something, you can't afford something. Don't pretend you're some kind of valiant culture warrior by flipping games for peanuts and saving $10 on new releases... and then ginning up righteous indignation when the publishers start holding back features on a ransom.
Like I said before, I know the publishers are out to screw us. But I'd rather they didn't have escaping sales in the used market as their excuse for bending us over. We created that problem. We could make it go away.
I say we shutdown the entire used game market and issue a $40 maximum price on games. Set $40 as top-of-the-line PS3 game, then let everything else trickle down from there. $30 Wii game. $20 DS game. Lower initial prices will generate lower sale prices. The marketplace, perhaps unfortunately, has shown that the $50-$60 range is acceptable... but I wonder how things would change if brand new games simply cost less and the only aftermarket was your local yard sale.
Maybe I'm a mad dreamer, but it seems easy to imagine people buying more new games. The publishers stay rich, the developers stay solvent, GameStop remains open, more people buy more games because, dammit, they're just not that expensive anymore.