I don't mean to offend. It's probably going to happen anyway.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Buying used

Rumors abound that the new XBOX to be released soon will have some variety of enforcement against used games.  Some sort of software theoretically will be able to tell when a game is bought used, and prevent that game from being used on any other console.

This is nothing new.  The game industry heavily frowns on the used game market.  One off activation keys and constant internet connectivity have been involved for some time.  The idea is that the publisher doesn't get anything from any subsequent sale of the game, and therefore it is immoral for a consumer to buy used.

This idea doesn't make sense to me.  It seems to me that there is a necessary treatment of video games as inherently different than any other item that can be bought.  Used bookstores are commonplace, and few people would call them immoral.  The publisher doesn't gain anything by that sale, but at point of sale, they no longer have anything to say about what is done with it, so long as the intellectual property rights are respected.  Libraries by this line of reasoning are equally reprehensible.

Ebooks seem to be following the same trend, as does software in general.  They are trying to make it such that each individual has no choice but to purchase the item at full price.  I don't get what makes electronic media different than other media.  A CD is transferrable, an MP3 album isn't.  I've heard it said that you are paying for the right to use it, and the other people haven't, but isn't that what a purchase is? Why should a computerized tool, like Microsoft Office, be treated any differently than a meatspace tool, like a drill?

All I can think of to explain the difference is that it's far easier for the publishers to control what happens with their product after point of sale, and that the publishers have the same sort of problem with the real-world versions, but can't make the same restrictions stick.

There is argument to buying used in anything being if not immoral at least not particularly fair.  Developers, publishers, manufacturers, and designers are dependent on direct sales of their product.  If half their market purchases secondhand, that cuts their revenue in half.  I don't think that this necessarily constitutes a breach of their rights.  I would say that as a consumer, should you want to continue seeing the same products developed, it would behoove you to buy direct, as that is subsidizing further development.  I don't see this as a moral imperative.

I suppose my biggest problem with this is the double standard.  Some items are seen as perfectly acceptable to buy used, while others have a moral stigma.  The electronic media groups seem less to be making a point about putting your money where your mouth is and more whining that their revenue streams are not as robust as they could be.

So, in summary: Games companies, (and other electronic media) stop whining about your product being treated as a commodity beyond your immediate control.  Gamers (and consumers in general) stop expecting to get new releases and updates/upgrades if you don't contribute to the companies that make them.


  1. Where Microsoft is concerned, that wouldn't surprise me at al.
    If the games are a good product, they will sell well enough at full boat price for a return on investment. 50 or 60 bucks for a video game that's pretty much like the last one released, with slightly better graphics is a steep price IMHO.
    I used to be an avid player of first person shooters. When it got to the point where I could beat the campaign in a single Saturday afternoon, I quit buying them.
    Some I bought at retail, many I waited for the new to wear off.
    It's supply and demand. The games are a product, sold new or used. Now that I think about it, my chinese manufactured drill is more entertaining than some of them.

  2. "There is argument to buying used in anything being if not immoral at least not particularly fair."
    Disagree. (as clearly you do as well) Look at the used car market. Not only do car makers tout the residual value as a positive on initial purchase, most makers certify and resell their own product. Buying a less expensive used product can build brand loyalty, and is a great entry point from the corporate standpoint. This argument also would kill the stock market, the whole point of which is to buy low and resell high. In the "moral" world we'd buy a piece of a corporation and hold on to it forever, dividends or not.
    The software issue is different now simply because so many programs require constant internet connection, thus easy verification of "ownership." This can only be company policy, never State or Federal policy. Imagine the backlash to a law prohibiting selling used! There goes the yard sale. It cannot be law, so it is enforced by the maker of the software. Don't like it? Don't complain, just don't buy their products.

  3. Husband and I buy a large majority of our games used. The budget wouldn't be there to do it otherwise.

    I will say that I don't think the new system will have a specific restriction on used games, not unless they can get all the other console manufactuors to sign onto the same scheme. Otherwise all they'll do is kill their customer base.

    I do think that game people ought to do is 1: lower the price of new games to no more than $30 and put only basic content on the disc 2: require internet access and an online account to get the "rest" of the game for say an additional $15 or so. That way people can still sell the disks when they get tired of the game and the companies can still make something off the used game market. Now whether or not any of them have that much common sense....even if they impliment the plan they'll probly price it way out of reason.

  4. I do think that games manufacturers are unintentionally bolstering the used game market by the particularly high prices. I too buy a lot of used games because I can't afford to pay full price very often. If games cost less right off the bat, I would buy many more new.
    I don't think there's any legal issue in this at all. It's a purely consumer question.


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