Sound Off Vol. 3: Preowned PC Games

September 26, 2005

This particular feature actually started out as a news post on the front page of Snackbar Games, but I later decided that I didn’t want a single news item taking up the entire front-page real estate for most of our readers.

Recently, Evil Avatar posted a [url=]link[/url] to an [url=]interview[/url] on Computer and Video Games with Mark Rein from Epic Games. The interview got on the topic of why Mark thinks pre-owned games from stores like EB and GameStop are hurting our industry. At first glance, I agreed with Mark and felt like he had a valid point. It wasn’t until my ride back to work today that I realized Mark had apparently lost his mind.

The reasons Mark cites include the fact that EB and GameStop typically try to sell used copies of games over new copies. While this is true sometimes, ultimately the consumers will make up their own minds before purchasing either copy. Retail stores do have a much higher profit margin on the used copy versus the new copy, but last time I checked, the consumers are not interested in the stores’ profits as much as they are in their own bottom lines. I also realize the developer and publisher make money on the new copy of the game, and while that does matter in the grand scheme of things, consumers, again, are probably not that concerned.

Mark went on to say that EB and GameStop should share the revenue from these pre-owned games in some sort of neato marketing partnership. He actually alluded to an official refurbished game policy. Right. The fact is that the games utilize server resources and sometimes even tech support. They cause activation and registration problems which might otherwise not occur. The interview states: “It costs us money. Those customers think they paid for it, and they’re entitled to support. The reality is, we didn’t get paid. They didn’t pay us.” Well, the reality is that you [i]DID[/i] in fact get paid, Mark. You got paid the first time the game was sold. This isn’t an issue of people pirating copies of your game and reselling them. This is a case of one customer transferring possession of a game to another customer. There are no additional copies being produced. You are simply being asked to support a product you originally manufactured and sold. Should we send you a check anytime we give a game to a friend for good? Would $20 do it?

An Evil Avatar member brought up an analogy that paralleled this to Ford getting paid when someone resells their car. Why should the manufacturer be compensated multiple times on the same product without doing any additional work? Are they somehow entitled to retain permanent ownership?

While many people loathe what Valve has done with Steam, it really solves the issue of reselling games because Valve charges $10 for the new owner to re-register the game. They came up with a way to get a piece of the pie on resale copies.

To be fair, Mark went on to talk about wanting game prices down around the prices of DVD movies, which I would love but we all know won’t ever happen. Mark Rein and Epic are looking toward the future and hoping for huge growth in the industry, but I think the idea of publishers and developers getting to double-dip on profits is the wrong way to stimulate that growth.