I’ve heard a lot of rumblings lately on the subject of purchasing used games over new games and vice versa, mostly due to THQ going out of its way to say that any gamer who buys games used is cheating. I’ve heard both sides, but I want to weigh in on this subject because, hey, I’ve got a lot to say being both a customer and an individual who wants to someday work in the development aspect of gaming. So, are used games bad? Let’s Think Deep.
Part 1: Where I Admit I’m Biased
I should preface everything I say with complete honesty: I buy the majority of my games used, typically from either Other Chris or from a place in Eugene called CD/Game Exchange, possibly the absolute best store for games, movies, and CDs. Fable II, my most recently finished game, was bought from Other Chris for $15. I’m currently replaying Gears of War, a game I found for $5 at CD/Game Exchange. I swear by used games. Does this mean that I cheat?
Here are my two options: I can either find these games, games I’d probably never play unless someone bought them for me as a really rude gift, for a cheap enough price that I change my mind ($15 is my sweet spot), or I can just not play these games altogether. Are developers losing my money? No, they probably never had my money to begin with, purely because a lot of games I buy used fall into one of two categories: Genres I’d never normally play and games that are too old to find new.
Even more truth about me: It’s next to impossible for game companies to convince me to buy a game via commercial hype. I don’t watch previews of games, developer diaries, or endless gameplay montages. Games I buy Day One are always games I already knew I was going to buy Day One when they were announced, such as Super Mario Galaxy 2, Metroid Prime 3, and now The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Do you see a pattern? Yeah, I pretty much only buy Nintendo games brand new. Because I know I’m getting my money’s worth. And no, they didn’t pay me to say that, otherwise I’d be able to afford more games and bills and whatnot.
Notice another trend about those three games I mentioned? They don’t lean heavily on the multiplayer element. If I were into Modern Warfare’s multiplayer, I know that I’d have to buy the newest game Day One because then I’d have the best multiplayer experience since the multiplayer options would be stacked full of players. I’ve tried playing Gears of War online these days, and because I bought it like three years late, I can hardly find a full match with like-skilled players, i.e. only the most devoted of players are still playing/rofl-raping me whenever I go online. I don’t care about multiplayer, so anything that becomes a selling point there is frustrating to me.
Part 2: Where I Admit What Makes Sense
Before I keep going on about things I don’t like regarding the opposite of my opinion, I’m going to stop and look at what I understand and agree with. When developers spend years at a time working on a game, sinking millions of dollars into the budget but really trying to make the best game possible, I understand that they should get a cut of the final sales. I mean, jeez, this is their livelihood! This is how they support their families! When I purchase a game used, zero percent of what I just spent gets back to the developer. That’s too bad, because in many cases they really deserve to get some money for their game.
Here’s my addendum to this: It’s your job to create games, not my job to support you. I’m struggling to get any significant work to build a writing resume, so I don’t have much if any expendable income just lying around for me to spend on games. My gaming budget is getting hammered, so I don’t have the option of purchasing everything I even think I might want to play new. Beyond just this, a lot of the games I buy used are games that HAVE ALREADY SOLD MILLIONS OF COPIES. I’ve seen Cliff Bleszinski’s Twitter pictures, he’s not living in want. I’m not forcing him to get a second job because I bought Gears used.
The problem here doesn’t seem to be the developers or the gamers, but rather the system the industry works off of. If used games really are a problem because you as a developer are not seeing a return on them, something should be passed to regulate the market and give you a cut. Heck, even a buck from a $15 used game would be better than nothing, right? I don’t know legal matters, so I’m not the one to pass this, but someone out there does, and they should be working on that, shouldn’t they?
Part 3: Where I Continue To Rant
Back to reasons why I don’t like purchasing new from anyone other than Nintendo: Downloadable content. I hate downloadable content. If I didn’t have the money to buy a $60 game in the first place, what makes you think I have the money to buy two or three extra bits of content for $15 each? I loved Mass Effect 2, but I’ve yet to buy either the mission where you get Katsumi or the recent addition with the Overlord AI whatever. I loved the game, but when stuff like this is added, I realize that maybe I don’t like the game as much as I think I do. I don’t feel compelled whatsoever to continue the story unless there’s a 3 at the end of the title. Bonus missions are worthless to me, end of story, hence why I prefer Nintendo’s “Ship the game and done with it” model of game development. It felt good knowing that Brawl was a one-time $50 purchase, a purchase that included everything the game would ever have in it, also know as: The Game Was Complete.
How this relates to used versus new games is the habit of many good games to re-release said game a year after its original release in a special edition package that includes most of the bonus content, if not all of it. Resident Evil 5 is a prime example of this. I thankfully bought this game from Other Chris for $15 close to a year after it came out and proceeded to hate it to death. I realized that it had a ton of bonus content that I wasn’t willing to shill out for, but then the Gold Edition came out with all content included. Now, if I’d have bought the game Day One, I’d have spent $60, then another $10 per piece of bonus content, adding up to close to $100 within the year. If I had done that, I’d have been a fool since the Gold Edition would have saved me tons of cash. Can I send my copy of RE5 to Capcom with a receipt and get my money back toward the purchase of the Gold Edition? No, they’d tell me to screw off. So what are my options?
Well, according to the developers, I can just buy the game again and cut my losses and silly me for spending the money in the first place. I suppose they’d be okay with me selling the game to a friend, but only if the friend then destroyed the game so that it could never be played again. Developers are being extremely unreasonable in these regards, so why would I listen to such talk? The used game market gets your product out there, so how is that a bad thing? If I buy the first game in your series used and love it, what if that sends me to purchase the next installment right when it comes out?
The bottom line here is that if developers want in on the used game market…why don’t they just get in on the used game market? Tired of losing money for every used game sold? Sell the used games yourselves. Duh. Game companies are getting huge, so streamlining a trade service would be in your best interest. Give credit for an old title traded in toward a new title, then sell the used copies you have to customers that want a cheaper game but don’t mind the dip in quality. Say you sold a game for $60. That customer likes the game but wants the sequel, so they trade it to you for $20 toward the new title. The game they traded in is now sold for $30 to someone else. You just sold the same game for $70. How is that not a good idea?
I keep hearing that gaming will go all digital download, and to that I can’t be repulsed fast enough. If everything becomes digital, it’ll probably end my gaming hobby. I’ll learn that I just don’t care that much if I have to mess with downloading everything onto a hard drive, especially when I hear horror stories of just how difficult it can be to get all your downloaded content back should that hard drive crash, and when system failure rates are so stupidly high these days, yeah, that’s a concern that’s ever present for me. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one, either. If I leave gaming, likeminded gamers leave, too. I’m not an anomaly.
Overall, I’d love to see developers earning more. Devs earning more is good for the industry all around. But calling out gamers for buying used games? Oh piss off. I don’t buy from Game Stop, so you can’t say I’m just supporting a scummy company instead. I support a local business with ever dollar I spend. I support my friend’s VERY healthy new-game-purchasing habit. THQ’s doesn’t speak for everyone, but developers, be careful when you start drawing lines in the sand. You’re not going to like how many people you see standing on your side.
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