Used games. Everyone hates them. Or that's at least how it seems these days. Developers and publishers alike contend that their ability to compete is being irreparably damaged by the existence of the used games market and that their hard work is all for naught. I disagree. In my opinion, this is pretty close to the most disingenuous argument I've heard this generation.
When your primary concern is the quality of the games produced and not the number of units sold, the result is Minecraft, Fez, Braid, Gran Turismo, Shenmue, every game produced by thatgamecompany, classics like the original Deus Ex, and so many others. In contrast, focusing mostly on sales results in massively successful blockbusters, until the studios that made them are forced to permanently close up shop. Why? Not enough units sold on Sequel X: The Saga Continues Again or some such nonsense.
Developers and publishers alike argue that they don't make any money from resold games. That's not entirely true. In fact, the opposite may even be true, though this isn't exactly quantifiable. That's not going to stop me from making an excellent argument, though.
Spending money on an unknown is scary. People continue to buy Halo, Call of Duty, and FIFA because they're known quantities, and publishers and developers alike have a reasonable expectation of a reasonable return on their investment in those franchises. There's a sort of mutual understanding between producers and consumers. That trust does not exist with a new franchise. This means that when New Game 1 doesn't sell like Wii Sports, an entire studio could be shut down to cover for losses, real or imagined.
On the other hand, when the expectations are lowered and the focus is shifted towards the quality of the game and not selling four hundred trillion copies on day one, success becomes attainable. The above-mentioned games are examples of that, as are Forza Motorsport, BioShock, DiRT, Portal, nearly everything Miyamoto touches, Dead Space, Dishonored, and Metro 2033. While sales numbers for used games are hard to come by, it is equally difficult to quantify interest (and potentially new game sales) generated in a franchise that can be directly connected to said used game sales.Too many potentially great franchises have been cut off prematurely, and far too many top-tier studios have been forced to close up shop, some due to just a few underperforming titles.
Downloadable content has been used to combat this to varying degrees of success. What's more, according to a survey conducted by Gameasure, consumers who purchase used games are twice as likely to spend money on DLC. New games are often shipped with one-time-use codes that allow access to perks you'd otherwise have to pay for, which, in turn, provide a sure source of revenue from used-game buyers. But if some of the rumors about the next generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft are to be believed, it may be impossible to play used games altogether.
I can scarcely think of a more boneheaded move than eliminating the entire used game market. Unless maybe someone decided to invent a console made entirely out of cheese. Would that come with crackers? Would I have to purchase a wafer for use with my secondhand pretzels? On second thought, that might actually work. Console manufacturers could offer a range of cheese-based products made of Gouda, Asiago, and something for the lactose intolerant. "Red ring" would be a prized protective case for your console of choice instead of a rage-inducing malfunction. Maybe then all who view video games as a colossal waste of time would see them as something more cultured, something to be enjoyed with wine and baguettes in the park on a Sunday afternoon.
No, you're right; no one would do something so silly. Outside of excluding an entire group of potential customers, of course.
Having faith in your product, releasing it, refining it; these are things someone with a vested interest in their art does. Businessmen (shareholders) make decisions based purely on profit margin. Some cooperation between the two is necessary, of course; no one is making games for charity. Even so, there has to exist a more profitable way of going about entertaining the masses without demonizing used games and bargain-hunting consumers or running profitable franchises into the ground for no good reason.
Digital-only releases, downloadable content, subscriptions, microtransactions, and the like are all perfectly viable ways of generating profit. Trying to eliminate a market that every other sector of the entertainment industry has to compete with is as viable a strategy as building a WheyStation 4. In other words, it isn't viable at all.
Date: January 21, 2013
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*