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GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 69: The War on Used Games, Topic Suggestions We Ignored

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Used games, gender uncertainty, ignoring player feedback, invigorating cutscenes, Transformers shopping advice, Kirk vs. Picard—All that and much, much, MUCH more on the surprisingly wholesome 69th episode of the GameCritics.com Podcast. Featuring Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, Mike Bracken, Richard "Thumb Integrity Means Nothing to Me" Naik, and Tim Spaeth.

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The discussion about used

The discussion about used games began well, but then it went south quickly for me (I thought the piece Brad wrote was much more balanced).
First : buying new doesn't mean buying at 60$ necessarily. If 10$ is significant, surely you can wait a few weeks, the price will have lowered and you'll be able to buy it cheaper and people making the game will be paid a little more. There's a bazillion games a year anyway, and you probably have a huge backlog, so you don't have to buy everything day one if you can't afford it. That doesn't mean used is the only option. There's already a progressive pricing, over time !

Second, quoting Activision record profits to insinuate that devs wanting to get money are greedy is just wrong. Haven't you heard of all the studios closing ? Making games costs a lot of money, and can be a risky investment, so large sales on some games don't necessarily mean all is well. You follow up with saying they should make games they can afford. The problem here is there's apparently no space anymore for medium sized budget games. Gamers are not buying these sufficiently to make it a viable venue. Either you go all in (upwards of 40 millions), or you go indie (which could mean up to 3 millions, that's indie...).

With the limited numbers of gamers and the high production value they expect, I can't see a lot of other way to do it (and before any iOS market comparison, just a few devs are earning a decent living on it). Supply and demand.

The last thing was Brad saying devs should put out content that is not taking away from the game itself : but duh isn't that exactly what they're trying to do with day one DLC ? The Amalur game and the online pass is just that, and still they're getting trashed for it. They "reward" with content (and btw Chi, it's aimed to reward those already excited, not to convince people who were going to bargain bin it), and gamers always feel like they're owed the reward anyway.
It seems they just can't catch a break.

You sort of misinterpreted

You sort of misinterpreted my Activision comment. I didn't say Devs were greedy (because I don't believe that to be the case most of the time) -- I'm saying Activision is greedy. Maybe that didn't come through clearly, but that's what I was getting at.

If used games are so hurting the industry, and studios are closing, why is a company like Activision reporting record profits? If the financial situation in the gaming industry is so dire that studios can't stay open and it's all fiscal doom and gloom, shouldn't Activision be suffering too? Why aren't they passing some of those record profits down to the developers? Because they want that money for themselves. It's easier to blame the consumer and expect him to keep the developers afloat while Activision rakes in record profits, right?

Granted, not every publisher posted record profits last year. I read the industry was down as a whole in 2011 (still generating billions of dollars in revenue, though), but to read these stories about used games would lead one to believe that this entire industry is teetering on the brink of financial ruin. That's simply not the case, and even if it were, there are far bigger reasons than used game sales.

I find the whole thing hilarious and infuriating. It's funny to watch an industry single out the consumer as the cause of all its woes instead of looking inward and trying to figure out why the consumer isn't happy with the current state of affairs and fix it. It's infuriating to sit there and be compared to a pirate because I deigned to legally purchase something secondhand.

It really comes down to this -- no industry should ever think "how can I punish my customers for not doing what I want them to do?" -- and that's exactly what online passes and banning used games and all this other nonsense ultimately boils down to. That's not the way to build goodwill, and I'm shocked the gaming industry is so clueless that they don't see this.

Xbox 720

Hey guys, another great podcast.
Frankly this talk about the next Xbox 720 is very concerning. I feel so strongly about it that I'm prepared to abandon the next Xbox console and go with whatever console that still allows used games to played. Even if that means picking up the next bloody Nintendo console! Even if it this rumour does not come to fruition the fact that it is being touted is a worry. I wouldn't be surprised if this rumour has been leaked as a "feeler."

And if one console does it, don't be surprised if they all do it, in which case I'll stick to my retro consoles thankyou very much, or get myself a good gaming PC. As Mike states, modern games are far too expensive. I simply can not afford to buy games brand new all the time. In this economical environment I'm not sure many people can. Hell doesn't does this go against basic principles of consumerism and capatalism?

Sorry for the rant.
Gareth

If used games are so

"If used games are so hurting the industry, and studios are closing, why is a company like Activision reporting record profits?"

Thanks to their strong online component, Call of Duty and WoW aren't "victims" of used sales, so it follows their "logic" that Activision is doing well.

But, yes editors can certainly be greedy, and customers shouldn't have to compensate so that devs get their fair share.

For online passes and all, I'm always genuinely surprised to see the strong reactions. It doesn't ban used games outright, you can still buy them, with less features. It IS a disguised way to increase the price, in a sort of "if you want everything you have to pay a premium". In a way, it provides the sort of range of price Richard was talking about : "you pay what you want based on the features you want". It's still better than what most PC games offer (try buying a used PC game!), though admittedly they're cheaper.

I'm all for goodwill and inciting the consumer, but I'm not convinced that's going to work so well. The Witcher 2 or World of Goo still get pirated (even indie bundles!).

Some thoughts

Some thoughts:

The analogies with other goods can be misleading, especially the one about buying a car and having the right to resell it. Games are highly desirable luxury goods, and can be bought, consumed completely in 8 hours, and sold on in pristine condition while they still retain their value.

It seems to me that this is a war, not on consumers, but on the retail stores. To be fair, the stores have taken it to a whole new level, where they are actively digging into publishers' profits.

For example, when Red Dead Redemption came out, you could buy it new for 45 euros. My local games store immediately had an offer where they would buy your used copy for 35 euros within 14 days. The result of that was that they were able to undercut the publisher almost immediately, and attack their profits on the game even at the most critical time - the first couple of weeks. They were setting themselves up in direct competition with the publisher.

The stores in my town now have a small 'new' section and a large 'used' section. If you want to buy anything new outside of the top 15 or so best sellers, you don't have much chance.

I was down town this morning, and by the looks of it, 'new' games don't seem to be depreciating at a normal rate - Space Marine, for example, is still full price so - I know this is anecdotal and baseless - it seems they are now keeping new games at an artificially high level so that you'll go for used.

As such, I have some sympathy for publishers and don't have a huge issue with a publisher trying to protect their property with DLC or online passes, as long as the price of that new game goes down over time in the normal course of events.

But it's not surprising to see them fight back against the stores.

That's only one small aspect of the whole thing though - the most important counterpoint to that being the trade in used games facilitating further purchases - and it's be interesting to know what maths the publishers have done here and whether they've taken that into account.

upselo wrote:Thanks to

upselo wrote:

Thanks to their strong online component, Call of Duty and WoW aren't "victims" of used sales, so it follows their "logic" that Activision is doing well.

True -- although the latest CoD wasn't even factored into their record profits. That money is icing on the cake of an already huge year.

Quote:

For online passes and all, I'm always genuinely surprised to see the strong reactions. It doesn't ban used games outright, you can still buy them, with less features. It IS a disguised way to increase the price, in a sort of "if you want everything you have to pay a premium". In a way, it provides the sort of range of price Richard was talking about : "you pay what you want based on the features you want". It's still better than what most PC games offer (try buying a used PC game!), though admittedly they're cheaper.

The online pass thing is weird to me -- I find they don't bother me quite as much (at least so far), because they tend to focus on multiplayer game components and I don't really ever play multiplayer. Granted, the locking of Catwoman behind an online pass in Arkham City seemed sort of egregious, but I don't feel like I missed out on anything by not playing those missions.

That being said, I worry about how online passes will grow and mutate over time. It's human nature to keep pushing boundaries -- and there's a very cynical side of me that wonders when we get to the point where we're paying for endings and whatnot. That's the extreme, of course, but there are concerns there.

I think it's interesting that the idea of going all digital would eliminate used sales. I saw this article where a court has ruled it's legal for a company like Redigi to allow people to sell used MP3s. If that holds up and catches on, we could see places allowing for people to resell their used PC games and whatnot.

http://bit.ly/zO9VyN

Quote:

I'm all for goodwill and inciting the consumer, but I'm not convinced that's going to work so well. The Witcher 2 or World of Goo still get pirated (even indie bundles!).

That's the thing for me -- go after the pirates. I'm not a pirate for buying a used game. Basically, the industry seems to be saying that "we can't do anything to recoup the money lost to piracy, so we're going to stick to the people who actually pay for the games they play instead." It's just a horrible move from a PR standpoint.

At any rate, the whole topic is fascinating. Thanks for the comment and the response.

Hi guys and thank you so

Hi guys and thank you so much for following my suggestion !

I didn't know that Weapon of Choice was changed due to Tim's feedback, and I think that pretty much answers the question!

Great show, guys.

Personally, I don't buy used games anymore. The savings are usually in the $2-5 range, which to me isn't enough to justify not giving the publisher/developer money, considering how expensive games are to make. With the industry as a whole being down in 2011, and studios closing left and right, it's clear to me who I'd rather see get my cash. I don't think used games should be banned, but it's not something I want to support.

Eric Bowman

Eric Bowman wrote:

Personally, I don't buy used games anymore. The savings are usually in the $2-5 range, which to me isn't enough to justify not giving the publisher/developer money, considering how expensive games are to make. With the industry as a whole being down in 2011, and studios closing left and right, it's clear to me who I'd rather see get my cash. I don't think used games should be banned, but it's not something I want to support.

Hey Eric

Whilst I admire that point of view, I have to say that I think, yes its a shame studios are closing down, but is it not about time the industry started to work within its means? Stop striving to make games big blockbuster AAA releases, lower the budgets, increase creativity and in turn take more risks, and lower the price of games. Theres a reason why xbox live games and the such are becoming more popular. Besides I buy my used games on Ebay and Amazon, and I find the saving is alot higher than you mention, with the added bonus that the most of the proceeds are mostly going to fellow gamers. The only game I have brought new in the last 2 years was the latest deus ex game, and that was just because the original had such a special place in my heart. In order to get me to buy more games the price needs to go down. I just cannot afford to buy new games, ideally though I would.

I never sell my games but I

I never sell my games but I sometimes buy used games. Some of these arguments against used games are ridiculous. As much as despise Gamestop for always sticking the PC section dark smelly part of their store (among other things). However, I am convinced they are correct when they claim that many games are traded in buy to new games. I am also convinced that it will be a massive disruption of retail sales if they block used sales and by extension rentals. I predict that far fewer games will be bought if this happens while there is still physical media and the need for retail. I read a recent article where there were claims that one of the reason for the downturn of PC gaming in the late 90s early 2000s was due to increased DRM and a simultaneous crackdown on selling used PC games.

Folks might go back buying games like they use to one, maybe 2 games a year at the very most for the vast majority games who are in their teens and 20s. I am in my 50s and I remember in the mid-80s obsessing about whether to spend $45 for pc version zork i and I had a good job at the time.

Wow... your board game stories are sad.

I think some of you guys might want to start peeking into the world of board gaming again. Brad, I know you probably have memories of the state of board gaming from back in the MtG days, which wasn't so hot for gaming outside of that genre.

But the rest of you guys. Monopoly? Ouch. You're missing out :)

It's hard to really describe all of the cool stuff that's been brewing in the board gaming sphere in the past five years or so, but a good start would be to watch some of the videos these guys make:

http://www.shutupshow.com/episodes

There are other venues like boardgamegeek and thedicetower, but I think Shut Up & Sit Down will give you a more entertaining if somewhat less encyclopedic outlook.

Have fun

As a consumer with a budget,

As a consumer with a budget, the number one factor that keeps me from pirating games is online support.

Here's my best example. I bought Demon's Souls - used - as my first Playstation 3 game. It was half a year out from the game's release, and I still only saved ~ $10. Felt a bit bad once I realized how good the game was. But not very.

So how do they profit from that sale? Well, for one, I never considered piracy because that would drive my console offline and deny me the very rich multiplayer that I found in Demon's Souls. A couple years later, I pre-ordered Dark Souls A YEAR IN ADVANCE for a premium price because of how much I liked that first game.

So that's my argument. If they knock used games offline, guess what? A used game then equals a pirated game. There's no value difference in the experience.

Just go digital and this debate ends. But then, we have to fight over account sharing rather than used games.

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