Thursday, October 9, 2008

Second Hand Games are How Bad?

Reading an interview with EA Europe’s senior VP and general manager for publishing, one Dr Jens Intat, I was visited by a bubbling sense of frustration upon his proclamation that Second hand game sales are a critical situation for the entire games industry.

It’s difficult to discuss issues like this in a serious industry context. Second hand game sales are comparable to piracy issues in that none of the profits from a second hand game go to a publisher.

On one hand, it’s silly to argue that this doesn’t impact a product’s bottom line; Dr. Intat would be remiss in his job to take any other stance on the issue.

On the other hand, it’s kinda difficult to listen to a company talk about critical anything in the same year that they pay one billion dollars to acquire yet another development studio.
Virtually every sales product has a business model that accounts for second hand sales. According to Intat though, this doesn’t apply to video games. Apparently when you go into video game store “X” and pick up that DVD-ROM what you are actually purchasing is the right to play a particular game. And when a second hand game goes onto the shelves, unlike other second hand merchandise, the game doesn’t suffer any form of degradation.

Umm… No.

Firstly, The person who is selling the right to play games on an xbox or playstation or DS or whatever / is the manufacturer of that particular console. What EA is selling me is a disc that causes said device to function in a particular way, usually causing it to put cool looking pictures on my television screen that respond to buttons I push on a game controller and these discs do get beat up and scratched and damaged and they become out dated and don’t always work when a new console generation comes around.

Never mind the pre-owned quality hit, it’s the cutting edge is that the second hand games buyer is denied. When you buy second hand, someone else has already played the title and moved on. And there is considerable value lost to that.

So enough of this “the games industry is special” bull.

The fact that companies like EA always paint this issue in terms of black and whites does not help anything either.

Listening to Intat one would presume that every dollar that goes to second hand game sales translates into a dollar lost by the game’s publisher. It doesn’t work out that way. Over the years I have put thousands of dollars into the video gaming industry, a lot of that has been invested into second hand games. A great deal of these games would never have been purchased at the company decided price and it is rare that there is a competitively priced first hand product of the same calibre. Whenever I picked up these second hand games, it was that or no game at all.
Because of this I have been able to increase my knowledge of different game types, different studios, even different aspects of gaming culture, it has resulted in me putting more value on more aspects of gaming, buying more systems, more games (both first and second hand) with more money. Without second hand games I would not have been able to experience this type of growth and the end result would have been just another casual gamer with a bank telling job. And the game’s industry would be out several tens of thousands of dollars.

The conclusion I’ve arrived at is that the second hand game “situation” has lowered the financial barriers to becoming an active participant in the gaming world.
So, EA et al., lay off. If you want to eliminate the second hand game you need to be more creative in coming up with solutions that remove the financial blocks that second hand games directly address.

I have only one thing to say when it comes to this issue.

Shut up.

Seriously, you make billions so you lose millions? Cry me a river. Second hand games are just one way that gaming culture has worked to expand itself in blatant defiance of callous of business interest. You’d think people like Mr. general manager of publishing would be happy about it.

No comments: