Used Games: The gloves are off

Some things are better left unsaid.

For example, most gaming consumers know that the industry doesn't care about them. The disconnect between the industry and the consumer has never been more evident than it's been during this console generation, as I've mentioned more than a few times before. We've known that the industry treats used game purchasers as second-class citizens—or worse—and this well-publicized "war on used games" has devolved into taking basic gameplay modes away from those looking to not pay $60 apiece for games that may or may not be worth their asking prices.

Cory Ledesma, who has been working on THQ's WWE games for years now, finally took the gloves off and said what has assuredly been on the minds of many publishers and developers since this war on used games really began in earnest—he doesn't care about used game purchasers.

Let's look at his quote, pulled from a Computerandvideogames.com article:

"I don't think we really care whether used game buyers are upset because new game buyers get everything. So if used game buyers are upset they don't get the online feature set I don't really have much sympathy for them. That's a little blunt but we hope it doesn't disappoint people. We hope people understand that when the game's bought used we get cheated. I don't think anyone wants that so in order for us to make strong, high-quality WWE games we need loyal fans that are interested in purchasing the game. We want to award those fans with additional content."

Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 Screenshot

Let's break down this piece of honesty—and attempted backtracking—from Mr. Ledesma here.

Ledesma has chosen to, with this quote, be the mouthpiece of THQ—if not the industry—and say "they" don't care about used game buyers. We know that; in fact, they don't care about consumers, period. It's business. The "don't care" part has been magnified during this console generation because, for the first time in many years, the industry is not thriving and a scapegoat has to be sought. It's easy to pinpoint used games as a problem, considering that publishers and developers don't make ANY MORE money from sales of their games. Note the capitalized words here: ANY MORE. The fact is that the publisher and developer already made their money from the game when it was bought by the retailer that originally sold the game as new. Want to cite online server fees? Those were factored into the original sale; there aren't any extra people playing the game online… just different people.

After backtracking a bit by claiming that he doesn't want to disappoint people, Ledesma really lets the cat out of the bag and uses the "C" word: Cheated.

When the game's bought used, we get cheated, he says. Oh… so he doesn’t care about used game buyers, except when they buy the game used. Then he—and the industry—gets cheated. If you don't care about used game buyers, then why should they care about you when they're trying to buy a game as cheaply as possible? Sure, it's all about the bottom line for the industry, but the consumer's bottom line doesn't count for anything? Since when? Consumers have other fiscal responsibilities than gaming… that includes people who work within the industry, too. Especially when it comes to Q4 and new games swell into retailers like a software tsunami, paying $60 for each game means that you are forced to limit what you can buy. I have a sinking suspicion that not too many consumers have $200 per month to drop on new releases. Then you're either forced to play pick-and-choose or to try and buy the game you want as cheaply as possible. If cheap means that retailers are putting certain games on sale, great… but with the profit margin on new games being so thin for retailers, that rarely happens. The other options are either renting—which THQ's Online Pass program doesn't account for—or buying used, which can be significantly cheaper than $60 in certain instances.

The last part of Ledesma's quote is priceless, because he equates the Online Pass with being an "award" for "loyal fans". Not really. Considering that the online component of a game used to be an expectation and not a right—as it has apparently become—this isn't an "award" or an incentive for new purchasers. It's legalized extortion. Holding online play for ransom, especially when Xbox 360 users are already paying a fee for the ability to play online, is another stop along the industry's slippery slope of descent. Incentives are adding things to the game… like extra levels, extra characters or weapons, and other things designed to make the game more enjoyable. Locking features is punitive.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2011 Screenshot

The industry has lost sight of one major part of the used game formula. There are many consumers that trade their games in towards new games, and this happens a lot. That $60 price tag is a little more attractive if you trade games in for store credit towards new games, or if you sell games to friends or online for cash. For all of the outcry against GameStop, trading sites like Goozex and auction sites like eBay are just as involved in this issue that the Online Pass program is trying to put down. The industry, quite frankly, refuses to admit that games cost too much to sell in large and consistent quantities given the current economic climate. By holding online play for ransom, publishers are forcing trade-in and resale values down and this is counter-productive to game trades or resales in the first place: Game consumers need that buffer to be able to keep up with the latest games.

I've said this time and time again, and yet nobody listens. This is why software sales have been consistently off on a year-on-year comparison. This is why publishers are struggling to find answers and are quick to blame used games. The industry demands that consumers to foot a constantly increasing bill for entertainment and consumers have been indirectly telling the industry that they no longer have the money, by way of decreasing revenues. Rather than accept any kind of responsibility or acknowledge that there's a problem, Cory Ledesma has taken the gloves off and spoken his mind.

In response, I will assume the role of the consumer base. Here's our response to Mr. Ledesma and the rest of the industry:

"I don't think that we, as gaming consumers, really care whether the industry is upset because we're just trying to afford to buy games without having to take out a second mortgage on our homes or work a third job. So if the industry is upset that they're not getting any more money from us, then we really don't have much sympathy for them. That's a little blunt, but we hope that it doesn't disappoint anyone in the industry. We hope the industry understands that game prices need to come down and that we need better incentives in order for us to continue spending our money on a consistent basis on your products. We want to reward companies that recognize and acknowledge the issue of high prices with our loyalty."

I think that's about right.


Subscribe
Notify of
guest
38 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Anonymous
Anonymous
9 years ago

Yay for bumpage! Obviously this still hasn’t been resolved though so I don’t feel bad for bumping. What has to be said (and was said only once or twice throughout this whole argument) is that yes, the sale of a used game goes to gamestop or amazon or whoever isn’t the developer. However it DOES all come down to supply and demand in a ton of ways that have a lot of impact on the developer. It’s how much supply and demand of the used games there are…think of it. Why do we have used games? It’s because people used… Read more »

wide eyes
wide eyes
9 years ago

im not an older gamer and ive only just started chasing online posts about dlc and used games and stuff and its really opened my eyes to these crappy practices. i really enjoy gaming and happily pay £40 a year to microsoft to play online and in the past if i enjoyed a game i might pay for extra content, remember the first gears of war? i think it was 4 maps for 800 points and i got it as soon the content came out, was i cheated? i dont feel like it so guess not. gears one was a… Read more »

crackajack
crackajack
9 years ago

[quote=IsNull]she’s done and no longer has to expend time or effort for you to “experience” her product. She can spend her time sitting on the beach, hopefully raking in the dough. [/quote] Following your way of thinking no one would have to pay anything except for the disc itself after the first ever buyer payed? But the service the programmer is delivering to you while spending his time on a beach is the same service everyone gets. That’s the whole point of services. You get it and your neighbor, your dad, your aunt and Joe in Kansas and Jane in… Read more »

Daniel Weissenberger
Daniel Weissenberger
9 years ago

There are currently ~150 games on my shelf. About 100 of them are Xbox 360 games. Here are the games that I purchased at full original release MSRP: Dead Rising 2 Way of the Samurai 3 Earth Defense Force 2017 Crash Time & Autobahn Polizei Deadly Premonition (4 copies – and a 40$ copy of Red Seeds Profile is on the way) The first two of those games were purchased because of a love for the series that grew after buying used copies of the earlier games. Three are games whose cheap price and bold premises convinced me to give… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
9 years ago

The whole used games discussion is way off the mark. The argument is that they are cheated out of their money? Are they absolutely crazy? What would the world be like if everybody that ever sold something has the right to a cut whenever that gets sold to the next person, and the next. If i’m a potato-farmer and I sell my potatos to the fry factory and they sell their fries to mac donald’s, does mac donald’s owe me money? Those are my fries, you know. Does that give me the right to go up to people eating fries… Read more »

IsNull
IsNull
10 years ago

I agree that there’s a crisis, but it’s not a used games crisis. It’s a crisis of vision on Ledesma’s part. He’s childishly blaming customers because of his own failure to properly monetize his product. He’s got what we call seller’s remorse, and he’s project-ing or scapegoat-ing or some other cognitively dysfunctional -ing onto his customers. Having learned this valuable lesson about the market place, he is now free to move forward and try any pricing model that suits him. He’s even free to try WOW’s monthly subscription model, but I’ll suggest, with a condescending grin, that his product ain’t… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 years ago

I really don’t see how anyone has the right to complain about this on either side of the issue, provided everyone knows what they’re getting/giving. A new game is like a new car, 0 mileage and you have the right to be pissed if anything in it doesn’t work, because there’s an implicit promise that it does. A used game is like a used car, could have a thousand miles on it or a hundred thousand. The AC may or may not work. Same with the radio, the cd player, etc. But the price will reflect these facts, or it… Read more »

IsNull
IsNull
10 years ago

[quote=crackajack] Games should be considered services like a hair cut. You can’t resell a hair cut, so everyone pays for his own.[/quote] I disagree about the hair cut bit. A barber can’t give you a hair cut unless she is physically present and performing the service. She can’t wrap her labor up in a box or reproduce it or ship it through the mail because the service is the labor. Once a software developer has completed her work, though, she’s done and no longer has to expend time or effort for you to “experience” her product. She can spend her… Read more »

YouDigress
YouDigress
10 years ago

[quote=SomeGameDev] So let’s all only buy used games until those greedy fat cats learn to quit nickel and diming us, right?! [/quote] Here’s an article on PC game piracy that somehow resonates with this debate: http://insomnia.ac/commentary/pc_game_piracy/ (Yes, I know it’s from insomnia but this was a guest writer and the writer makes some very salient points on piracy which I recommend looking over even if your discussion lies completely with used game sales.) More specifically (parentheses are my changes): [quote=Jon R.] We’re supposed to have sympathy for them too, even though by their own arguments they deserve to die off.… Read more »

Crofto
Crofto
10 years ago

“the person who copied that post from Penny Arcade deserves a good shakin’—they should go read what the *founders* of PA think about this issue” I’m not getting involved in this debate although I fully understand both sides if the argument. I just wanted to highlight this purely because it’s obvious to anyone that the guys at PA have been a mouthpiece for publishers for a good while now, heck, it’s almost embarrassing to see some of the games/ideas they support these days. Of course two guys who get to “hang out” with Bungie are going to fully say they… Read more »

randomrob
randomrob
10 years ago

are you implying that a company like EA deserves loyalty because they sell something? That business model died over 40 years ago. Companies are viewed by how ethically they work and treat their employees and customers on a day to day basis, just like everyone else. I don’t need to love them because they do what they’re supposed to. They don’t own the market. You own the market, and so do I. EA exists because of us, not the other way around. There is a game industry because there is a DEMAND for one. We create demand, and we can… Read more »

SomeGameDev
SomeGameDev
10 years ago

Yes, my post was a grand example of hyperbole and generalizing, but it’s all I can do to counter this silliness from the pro-used games folk. Is there absolutely no empathy or respect left for the developer and the games they create? There is so much venom in this debate for the people who are the very reason we are even here in the first place. Some of the venom spitters are right here on this page (the person who copied that post from Penny Arcade deserves a good shakin’—they should go read what the *founders* of PA think about… Read more »

Peter Skerritt
Peter Skerritt
10 years ago

Are you really going to generalize there? Really? I’ll concede that buying used 100% of the time would be problematic for the industry. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen at all, but I think that your argument here is derailed by a false generalization. Many consumers buy new and used both. Consumers trade in or sell games that they either don’t play or don’t like in order to defray the asking cost of a game that, in today’s economic conditions, is considered high. You win in the industry because your new games are still being bought by a reselling retailer… Read more »

SomeGameDev
SomeGameDev
10 years ago

Ya, let’s stick it to those suit wearing stiffs who develop games! I only buy used games and I always do it from my local Mom and Pop places–like Gamestop and Ebay and Amazon.

So let’s all only buy used games until those greedy fat cats learn to quit nickel and diming us, right?!

Wait…what? Where’d all the developers go? Oh well, at least we have a Gamestop on every corner!

It’s sad to see so many gamers shun the people who’ve given them their hobby in favor of the vultures. Congrats!

crackajack
crackajack
10 years ago

[quote=Sparky Clarkson]the hit-driven AAA gaming industry really does need as many core players as possible to buy the hot new game when it comes out and costs $60.[/quote] But they would have to adjust the pricing if we all together say we can’t afford it at that price. That’s not the case. They set the pricing were they make the most money. Simple law. Price goes down very fast if sales numbers say that it doesn’t work. And if this happens often, they don’t make the money they beforehand invested, the investments would have to go down but prices would… Read more »

Lurked
Lurked
10 years ago

[quote=Sparky Clarkson]The churning of used games by core gamers pushes up money that sustains the hit machine the major publishers love so much. This, of course, is the reason that the industry never tries to attack used game sales by making an argument from continued value. The DLC extension phenomenon comes close, but it still relies on selling the player new things, not having the player appreciate old things. If players treated good games like good books, as objects to be treasured and pulled out over and over again to be experienced repeatedly, that would certainly depress used game sales.[/quote]… Read more »

Sparky Clarkson
Sparky Clarkson
10 years ago

Several commenters point out that there’s no “need” to buy the latest, greatest game right on release day. That’s certainly true, for gamers themselves. However, the hit-driven AAA gaming industry really does need as many core players as possible to buy the hot new game when it comes out and costs $60. Of course, if that’s absolutely impossible then they’d prefer for a gamer to wait 6 months and still pay something, but the media cycle for most games seems to end within a week of release, suggesting that this alternative doesn’t really interest the industry. The churning of used… Read more »

crackajack
crackajack
10 years ago

[quote=Chi Kong Lui]I’m saying if the current model doesn’t work, you don’t complain forces outside of your control.[/quote] But that’s what they currently, or for some years now, do?! They change the sales model. “Convert” the disc-product to a subscription how Steam calls it, what it actually always was. They gave you the license to play their IP, but this license was bound on the disc, now they change that “faux pas” to DRM. In my ears they don’t complain, they explain. They can get it again in their controls, so they do it. Music industry failed in that partly… Read more »

Nobody Important
Nobody Important
10 years ago

I don’t think the video game industry is actively waging war on the used games industry. The simple fact is that developers and publishers are offering more to the people who are willing to pay more. If you buy a game used why should you get the same amount of content as someone who spent more money to buy the game new? This is like saying Blu-ray discs, despite their vastly superior quality, should be the same price as standard format DVDs. You pay more, you get more. It’s quite simple. Personally I have always been an avid used game… Read more »

Chi Kong Lui
Chi Kong Lui
10 years ago

[quote=crackajack][quote=Chi Kong Lui] Cut down your budget a la Wii Sports.
[/quote]
Interesting project, convert Gears of war, Anno, Armed Assault gamers into simple games lovers.
You really think that would increase the net income of the whole industry or just reduce the costs and exclude an enormous amount of money from the equation?[/quote] I’m saying if the current model doesn’t work, you don’t complain forces outside of your control. You change the model like Nintendo did. Perhaps all the pomp and circumstance is unnecessary to making a great game.

crackajack
crackajack
10 years ago

[quote=Chi Kong Lui] Cut down your budget a la Wii Sports.
[/quote]
Interesting project, convert Gears of war, Anno, Armed Assault gamers into simple games lovers.
You really think that would increase the net income of the whole industry or just reduce the costs and exclude an enormous amount of money from the equation?

randomrob
randomrob
10 years ago

(lol) It’s frustrating for me- I like to support companies I like, but the 60$ pricetag is getting a little old. I resell most of my games on Amazon. I don’t go to Gamestop for anything. I think they practice the lowest common denominator of salesmanship I’ve encountered, and I chose not to endorse their business with my money. As for me “cheating” the system by reselling a game I bought for full price, that’s horsesh*t (and I would add, an out of order sentiment for a country defined by free enterprise). The publisher made their sale FROM ME, and… Read more »

Chi Kong Lui
Chi Kong Lui
10 years ago

[quote=randomrob]The obvious solution is that you make all games downloadable, and do away with software hard-manufacturing altogether, and put alot of people out of work pressing discs. I would ask, seriously, what are discs and cases and the shelves they sit on at this point but a nostalgic notional nod to to books and bookcases of years past? Haven’t we outgrown them? [/quote] There’s an even more obvious solution. Cut down your budget a la Wii Sports.

randomrob
randomrob
10 years ago

I think entertainments are luxuries, not services. One can live without a copy of God of War 3. I see 2 competing needs here. The industry needs higher prices to continue going the way it HAS because they lack the ability to change their structure (top down managment with too many people doing not very much), and gamers want lower prices because they don’t have as much cash as they did last year for entertainment, at the same time that their standards have gotten alot higher. They don’t want to play Galaxian anymore. The obvious solution is that you make… Read more »

crackajack
crackajack
10 years ago

[quote=Chi Kong Lui]I think there’s a big difference between lending out legally obtained physical copies of games versus the mass distribution and continual redistribution of illegally obtained digital copies. There’s also accountability with libraries.[/quote] I don’t know, for the publisher it doesn’t make much difference: A customer who enjoys the work but does only pay IF he buys it afterwards. And the if is quite big when i look at the success of Trent Reznors test balloons where customers were invited to pay as much as they want or the World of Goo tests with the same goal. Sure, they… Read more »

Chi Kong Lui
Chi Kong Lui
10 years ago

[quote=crackajack]
[quote]Can you imagine what would happen if libraries started to lend out games?[/quote]
so basically what piratebay does?
That is what happens: the publishers don’t know if their game sucked or just nobody wanted to pay for their fun.[/quote] I think there’s a big difference between lending out legally obtained physical copies of games versus the mass distribution and continual redistribution of illegally obtained digital copies. There’s also accountability with libraries.

crackajack
crackajack
10 years ago

[quote=Chi Kong Lui]…saying borrowing/lending games is also bad for the industry.[/quote] I guess it is, or at least it makes the calculation harder. It’s basically the same as sharing a cinema experience with all your friends with a screener you made. It’s in our hands to say whether we buy only for our own fun (=steam) or we really want to share “our” games, so account binding is something we don’t accept. We control if the publisher has to accept a game played by various people or not. DLC and the success of Steam signals to me that the average… Read more »

Dale Weir
Dale Weir
10 years ago

There are libraries in parts of the country already lending games. It’s not widespread yet, but it has been in practice for over a year I think. I think libraries would get a pass since they are not-for-profit/municipal entities.

Chi Kong Lui
Chi Kong Lui
10 years ago

What I find interesting about the used game debate is that it’s one step shy of saying borrowing/lending games is also bad for the industry. Can you imagine what would happen if libraries started to lend out games? Would there be an outcry from the industry to deny public libraries from lending out games similar to books and movies.

crackajack
crackajack
10 years ago

[quote=aesquire]Would somebody explain why games–unlike books, movies, cars, and furniture–deserve exemption from the first sale doctrine? Why do game developers and publishers deserve such protection over filmmakers, manufacturers, engineers, and millwrights? Are these developers creating morally edifying work? Are they making a product that elevates the human soul? Hell, are they even making something that most people could confidently call art?[/quote] A book doesn’t have mp server costs. This is, so far, the only area were we see recently the publishers trying to charge you for (on consoles). Steam is a different thing. You not even can resell the SP,… Read more »

JP
JP
10 years ago

All this finger-pointing in the comments serves no purpose. Maybe we should stop thinking about this subject in a philosophical way (i.e. in terms of what is morally right or wrong, fair or unfair) and just look at the simple mechanics at play. Sometime in the recent past, the industry entered a boom (in fact, it hasn’t been what you could call an “industry” for all that long). Availability of cheap, high-quality hardware and an interest for gaming made it highly profitable to make games, and we (the gamers) were blessed with more excellent games than we had the time… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 years ago

I don’t get this article at all.
A company says to ‘pay us (IE Buy the game new) to get this service’ and this is bad? Did I miss something here or am I too logical?

John B.
John B.
10 years ago

Anonymous (the second one)… I think the point is that games companies (or, to not risk lumping all games companies together, the publishers) have been happy to screw us gamers over for years. They are only willing to play on their own terms… they see it fair to charge £40- £45 for a new game (not sure what that is in dollars), but as soon as something threatens that, then they cry victim. As said above, most other media have a thriving second-hand market, any idiot can see that. But for some reason, despite (what I percieve, anyway) being the… Read more »

aesquire
aesquire
10 years ago

*re-posted from Penny Arcade forum* Would somebody explain why games–unlike books, movies, cars, and furniture–deserve exemption from the first sale doctrine? Why do game developers and publishers deserve such protection over filmmakers, manufacturers, engineers, and millwrights? Are these developers creating morally edifying work? Are they making a product that elevates the human soul? Hell, are they even making something that most people could confidently call art? No. They’re making games. Amusing distractions. The little thing people do between sleeping and living their life when there’s nothing better to do. Their product occupies the same niche as reality TV, graphic novels,… Read more »

John B.
John B.
10 years ago

I completely agree with this article- I havn’t read any of Cory Ledesma’s statement before, but this excellent piece of writing has highlighted some of the laughable stuff he has been saying. Long time reader of the website, I rarely bother commenting, but anonymous’ rant above made me feel compelled to give an opinion. [quote=Anonymous]I think that second-class citizens is awfully hyperbolic, which makes most of this hard to read.[/quote] Really, so how would you describe the contempt that the ‘suits’ in the gaming industry has for your average gamer? [quote=Anonymous]The sense of entitlement is what bothers me. You can’t… Read more »

carg0
carg0
10 years ago

i disagree with you on every point, Peter, which means this article is stupid. (see how my logic is undeniable?) seriously, though, i couldn’t agree with you more as i’ve been saying the the same thing verbatim for almost a decade now. i just wanted to also add that it’s disturbingly ironic how publishers have the nerve to pretend they’re not responsible for the very bane of their existence. it is only because of their consistent negligence in ignoring the consumer (demanding lower prices on software) that have allowed companies like Gamestop to become the empires they are today. it’s… Read more »

crackajack
crackajack
10 years ago

[quote]Game consumers need that buffer to be able to keep up with the latest games.[/quote] Had to laugh on that one. Consumers need a meal on the table and a roof over the head, education, something useful to do, time to recharge batteries and maybe a social system would be something Americans need. “Keep up with the latest games”… like it’s a human right to have entertainment. Entertainment is luxury. If you can’t afford it, bad luck. But as you were able to purchase at least the Box Arcade you at least had once 150$, which is, if you can… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 years ago

I think that second-class citizens is awfully hyperbolic, which makes most of this hard to read. You’re also lumping the industry into one giant, faceless thing. I work on an upcoming AAA title and our biggest concern, development-side, is that we’re going to disappoint our players because this is a sequel to popular IP. We want to put in everything we can that will make the game fun, interesting, somewhat innovative and still have a really solid gameplay and story foundation. We don’t set prices, we don’t say “Do these guns make this game worth $60”, we all are gamers… Read more »