(Update: Erik has done an updated piece in favor of used games sticking around a bit longer)
Why, Erik?! Whhhhhy?!
It should be easy to cross the lines and stand on the opposite side of the battlefield but it's not. As many of you know, Erik Kain is the man we usually look to for support and some sense of solace during troubling times of consumer mistreatment in the video game industry; sticking up for gamers during the Mass Effect 3 fiasco, the Diablo III fallout and a lot of other scenarios not worth naming here. However, today...sadly...Erik was persuaded by the dark side.
If you're not sure what all the fuss is about regarding used games, you can read up on it in our consumer policy and concerns guide for the Xbox One.
TotalBiscuit's influence has reached out a lot farther than I thought it would and I warned readers in that piece about this very thing happening. He caters to a large swath of the video-dependent gaming audience and he has quite the following on YouTube and Reddit; no laughing matter, I might add.
Despite the achievements, TotalBiscuit's opinion supports that used games should be done away with and that the Xbox One (and presumably Sony's PS4) embracing fees for used games is a good thing. Publishers get their money, gamers get their games. Ben Kuchera from Penny Arcade also believes the same thing, and now, Erik Kain has joined in on the fray.
I'm not going to repeat a lot of what's already been said, but here's the part that kind of stings the most...
The end of used games won’t be a peaceful or happy transition and for a while at least, I suspect consumers very well might suffer the most. But the end-game is a world without powerful third-parties like GameStop strong-arming the rest of the industry into brick-and-mortar prices when we should be paying much less and game companies should be earning much more on the dollar.
Now, I already did a report on how DLC makes just as much money as used game sales and I already pointed out how 70% of GameStop's used sales are actually reinvested by gamers back toward new games (something I can attest to as anecdotal evidence).
The reality is that these guys aren't out there to do the devil's work for AAA publishers, purposefully misleading their audiences, they just haven't been informed about the numbers: The factual data from various studies and reports showcasing a continued decline in used game revenue year over year that also coincides with the drop in overall revenue from software sales in the retail sector. DLC and digital sales have also caught up to and – if they continue their upward swing in consumption – will surpass the totality of retail used game software sales heading into 2014.
Now, Kain, Kuchera and Biscuit all hinge their arguments on the “strong arming” of GameStop forcing price fixing onto the publishers, when in reality that isn't true at all. As I pointed out in my rebuttal to TotalBiscuit's piece, what's the excuse for the high prices on Origin, Games for Windows Live or Impulse for digital PC exclusives? How does retail prices in a different market affect publishers who don't even release their games as physical discs? You can see that with the price variances going as cheap as a $1 all the way up to $60 for PC titles...there is no ceiling and they can set the prices wherever they want.
There's this unsupported belief that digital console prices will drop because it will boost “competitive” pricing on the platforms, except EVERYONE misses a vital point in this argument: There is no competition for digital game distribution on console.
Before raging out or putting on fanboy glasses, think for second: What other channel distributes digital Xbox 360 games other than Microsoft through their Live Marketplace? Prices are high now and there's no reason they would shrink if they no longer had to compete with retail chains. You can't get Xbox 360 games from any other digital outlet and you won't be able to get Xbox One games from any other outlet. The same applies for Sony and the PS3 and PS4.
The argument of competitive pricing only works if there is actual competition like there is on PC. Valve's Steam is not contained within an isolated market vacuum, they have to compete with GOG, DotEmu, GMG, Impulse, Desura and Origin. Who is the digital distribution competition for Microsoft or Sony? If you have an Xbox console you won't have a choice but to buy directly from Microsoft and if you have a PlayStation console you won't have a choice but to buy directly from Sony.
Common sense tells us that if the walled-garden is controlled by any singular force there's no reason to let the leash hang loose. In other words you can expect prices to rise, not fall under a digital cartel operated by Sony and Microsoft alone.
John Riccietiello may have been a shrewd businessman but he was spot-on when he warned Sony and Microsoft about the long-term effects of exactly what I mention above. It's essentially the platform manufacturers strong-arming DRM onto consumers with zero benefit to the end-user.
Now, removing the purport of “reduced game prices”, the argument about the industry being better off without used games becomes silly when looking at the economic impact on mom and pop outlets that buy and sell used games, as well as the common practice of game sharing amongst gamers. Putting hard working individuals out of a job so people already working for a company that makes $3.50 billion a year aiming to raise profit margins holds no good end for consumers. Unless of course, everyone who buys, sells and trades used games are already making $3.50 billion a year?
My final point is one that I recently mentioned; a point that was articulated quite well by Boogie2988 also known as Francis the Nerd Rager. In his simple controvert against used game fees (while ironically trashing GameStop) he succinctly mentions that wiping out the used game sector will completely decimate the low-income gamer from the industry. That's not to mention the people without internet, who unfortunately won't be able to comment and support articles like this for obvious reasons. But why is this good for anyone other than the billionaires trying to strong-arm the industry?
I know the people who rack in pay checks that can afford to speak on behalf of used games going the way of vaporware haven't had to live through the times some of us could call "harsh", "hectic" or a "financial hell" that would allow them to give much thought about people who can't afford to buy every game new. But it sure does look sad when people are willing to give up their gosh-darn freaking legal right based on the first sale doctrine, which was put in place to protect you, me and every diehard, button-mashing, finger-swelling, screen-yelling, multiplayer-playing gamer out there to keep scenarios that Microsoft is trying to introduce and implement from going into effect. That's not to mention that we're also giving up the moments of game-sharing, lending, borrowing or experiencing trades with friends just so some billion dollar corporations can add a few extra zeroes to the end of their fiscal reports.
As Michael Pachter points out, the used game industry isn't the problem, the problem is publisher decision-making.