[Update: Sony confirms the PS4 will not use mandatory used game DRM, internet registration or fees]
So we've come to the point where people are taking sides during the uproar over consumer policies and the employment of certain intended market practices that could stamp out consumer rights in ways only George Orwell could have imagined. Well, while a lot of people are up in arms on restrictions for trading, swapping and selling games, on the side of fee implementations for used games is the Cynical Brit, YouTube star TotalBiscuit.
As the near 30 minute video above notes, there's a lot of information passed off as a way to sway opinion, much of which is inaccurate or incorrect. Unlike Microsoft, though, I'll actually try to explain why the info is inaccurate instead of leaving you hanging like a snotty booger from a kid's nose during a cold winter's day.
So first up, everyone's biggest thing about used game sales is that publishers should get a cut from the second, third, fourth, etc., sale of a used game title. Biscuit and other people within the industry argue that other media industries such as movies and music have multiple revenue outlets, where-as gaming only has first-hand new sales to contribute to revenue and thus, in their view, first sale doctrine should not apply to video games.
Time to open this lie up like a nun's robe in a film called Confession by Russ Meyers. Now take into account that many games released these days are also available digitally from the publisher or distributor. It is an outright lie to say that video games don't have alternative channels of distribution when Microsoft offers an on-demand digital store, Sony offers content through both the PlayStation Store and PlayStation Plus, and Nintendo even allows you to get past and present games from their eShop channel. New retail games are not the be all, end all of total game sales as some of these people would lead you to believe, and if publishers were so concerned with used game sales, there's nothing stopping anyone right now from discounting the games on any of the respective console's digital stores.
TotalBiscuit also points out that by eliminating used games it will bring down the price of digital games. However, this also has to be one of the most poorly researched and ill-conceived concepts that both TotalBiscuit and Ben Kuchera from Penny Arcade could come up with. Both point to Steam sales, Good Old Games and GreenManGaming.com as viable potentialities for Microsoft's own endgame market scheme. However, both keep missing vital points in this argument: Microsoft already has TWO digital stores.
When was the last time Microsoft had a publicized digital sale for their PC games? For as much as anyone is concerned, Games For Windows Live is nothing more than a glorified piece of DRM and you couldn't find one gamer out there who uses it as a viable digital marketplace. And while leading up to the reveal of the Xbox One, Microsoft had a number of deals on Xbox Live Arcade games, but has anyone actually paid attention to the prices for their on-demand marketplace for Xbox 360 games? Hey check out that fat juicy price for the digital copy of Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2. How cheap does that look?
If Microsoft's prices aren't competitive right now in the digital marketplace, where is this false, factually unsupported hope coming from that prices will drop? What would force them to compete? Comparing Microsoft's sales potentiality to the privately owned Valve -- ran by a very consumer friendly Gabe Newell who constantly finds ways to give back to the community -- is like comparing the charity work of the Kardashians to the civil rights movements of Mahatma Ghandi.
I still can't believe people are so naïve as to the way these businesses work, but...let's move on before the very mention of Kardashian brings all our IQ down to the level of the Pro-Corporate White Knights. Now, TotalBiscuit makes it known that he's a PC gamer and that he's had some experience working in the game retail market. I find it odd that he can tout that the reason PC games right now still carry $60 price tags is because of some overbearing pressure from the console counterparts and the fact that publishers have to stay amicable with retailers. According to Biscuit's logic, digital prices have to match their retail prices or publishers will face some massive chastisement from their retail overlords. That's complete and utter hogwash...sort of.
I'm not going to say retailers don't play a part in pricing at all (that's another story for another time), but ignore the $60 price tags for multiplatform or retail games like Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 or BioShock: Infinite on Steam [Note: These prices are relevant for discussion at the time of the publishing of this article] and instead look at a game that's not coming to home consoles...a PC exclusive, mind you. Let's take a look at Total War: Rome II. How much is that available for on Steam right now?
What we have here is a game that will run you the same price that it would have been had it been a hardcopy release on consoles. Except, this PC exclusive won't come with a package, a booklet, a case or a hard disc for the $60 price tag it currently carries on Steam.
Now I'm not decrying the $60 price tag but I am making it plainly obvious that this wasn't the first and it certainly won't be the last PC exclusive with a $60 price tag despite exclusive PC games having zero competition from used game sales. Saying that killing the used game retail market will bring down digital prices is the same as saying that changing the linens from pearl white to winter white ivory with My Little Pony patterns for the KKK would make them a little less racist.
Moving on...saying that you can't buy used games on iPad or iOS powered devices is silly. Many of these games are free-to-download with in-app purchases or microtransactions to fuel revenue. What's more is that the highest these games cost, brand new, are usually $4.99 on the iPad. The average price of mobile games for these devices is $0.99. Heck, simply put: the most expensive mobile games are still cheaper than some of the cheapest used games. So trying to use that for comparison purposes is a rhetorical fallacy, especially considering that the reason this is such a huge debate is because a lot of gamers only buy used games because they can't afford them brand new. That issue doesn't exist with mobile games.
TotalBiscuit and Ben Kuchera have also been padding the strawman with claims of “profit margins” for the used games market. Let's get one thing completely and totally clear: DLC makes just as much money as used game sales. DLC is already offsetting the fictional and already debunked notion of the cannibalization that used game sales have on new game sales. What's more is that new game retail sales total $7.1 billion while used game sales are only at $1.59 billion and that's just in the U.S. alone, not counting digital revenue, direct sales or DLC. The links also provide the clear numerical picture of retail in decline, so that also works against "used games killing the market" propaganda. I'm not going to waste anymore time on that because it's explained in the links.
Last but not least is the argument that games are cheaper now than ever before and that “Inflation should have games costing $100!!!”. This is a horrible way to look at it. Cost of living has gone up but wages for a lot of people have not. Try living somewhere in America that isn't the ghetto and your entire paycheck is just to keep a roof over your head. But that's a worthless tangent. The main point is that not all games are made equal. Should FTL and GTA V carry the same price tag?
It's like people have completely forgotten when it used to cost publishers like Sega $1 million to produce a single Sonic game over the course of several years with a full team of people, and then sell the game for $50. This also ignores when Sega spent $100 million on Shenmue back in the late 1990s and didn't make back a fraction of it. Game development prices fluctuate, and this is explained in the Top Misconceptions about the Gaming Industry.
Also, we now have things like iPi Soft so you can cut out motion-capture studios. We have UDK and Unity so you no longer have to license expensive engines to make good looking games like Renegade X, and doing so with only one guy on a grilled-cheese and basement-dwelling budget. That's just to name a few of the cost-effective tools, so that anyone with a bit of drive and diligence can make a game on a much smaller budget than in the past and do so without an actual design team.
Yes, games are cheaper to buy now than they've ever been...but the costs are also offset given that it's cheaper to make games now than ever before. The reason development costs are soaring has a lot to do with publisher mismanagement. Heck that's the main reason why we have Kickstarter right now.
Publisher mismanagement should not be an expense that's passed onto and made as a burden to the entire used games market just so these people can make up for the bad mistakes they've made. A few examples include THQ and Udraw or Codemasters dumping money into the FPS market to chase Call of Duty type sales, Square slipping up with 3.4 million sales of Tomb Raider...and Capcom being Capcom.
Making consumers pay more so people at the top of the chain can have more leeway to mismanage is no excuse to support the restriction and death of the used game retail market.
All that said, this is TB's take on it and hopefully it doesn't influence people on the opposite side of the fence to toss up their hands and step into the herd. Convincing or influencing gamer opinion towards giving up their rights of ownership, pricing advantages and the first sale doctrine kind of falls under that slippery-slope trope.
Hopefully we don't see this thing come to pass anytime soon because there is literally no benefit for the end-user for having these market restrictions in place.
Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.
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