Monday, 4 March 2013

(Feature) Why A Block On Pre-Owned Games Is OK

This feature is my own opinion. While you may disagree with much of what I say in the first part of it, please hold on until I at least explain my views in the second part before making any snap judgments. Thank you and enjoy!

The case of whether or not pre-owned games should be blocked or not is one that is discussed a lot. There is no doubt that both sides of the argument have very valid points, and although while the me of a while back would disagree with any kind of ban, over the past few months my opinion has certainly developed and changed and as a result I have begun supporting the opposite side.

The opinion of not having any kind of block is one held by many gamers. It's an understandable one too. It seems ludicrous to want to restrict someone's ownership of a product in such a seemingly pointless way, all for the sake of, what? Money?

If you ask anyone opposed to this blocking system why they feel this way they will probably rattle off some of the following examples.

First of all, you have the consumers right to do as they wish with their product. Well, I say 'right' but in reality it is more of an imagined privilege. The truth is that this so called 'right' doesn't actually exist. Even if a ban was imposed; if gamers found a way around it they probably still wouldn't be breaking the law. The bottom line is that there is no defining rule here. If publishers or console developers include some way of making the playing of pre-owned games impossible, that is fine. No laws broken there. This instantly negates the fact it is a gamers 'right' to use the product how they wish. In fact, that is like saying you have a right to hack an Xbox 360 console because 'you own it and paid for it'. Well no, you don't. You see you don't actually own the product. You own the console. Not the product. All those terms and conditions you had to agree to when you started using it, they let you know that you are not the boss. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are. You don't mess with their product.

It's the same with games. If a publisher wants to limit the use of second hand games released themselves, then they can.
Although, as I said above; if someone found a way around this system and managed to sell their games on and they could still be played, then, so long as no piracy or alteration (hacking, modding etc.) laws were in breach, that would be legal. How so? Well it's like this: if a publisher or a console developer like Microsoft or Sony includes some in console or game device that stops games being played on other peoples consoles, then that is OK, but it isn't really talked about. It's sort of like; this thing exists and you can't play that game on another console and that is the way it is. If you find a completely legal way around that, then that is OK too because all you are, technically, doing is going to extra lengths to sell your game on. Now, on the other hand, if the next Playstation came with a terms and conditions form that forbid the selling or re-using of games on that system then you would be in breach of those.

The thing is, though, they probably won't. Because not allowing games to be re-used is not the type of thing that will have T&C's written up about it. All it would be is a discreet feature that corrects behaviour but doesn't necessarily control it completely.

Let's recover from this digression though. The bottom line is that gamers tend to think they have a right to do as they wish with their purchased game, but they don't. That said, it still angers people when they are confronted with the possibility of having their options limited in the form of not being able to sell their own games.

The second thing that can be used against blocks is how much it will damage highstreet shops. A third of Gamestop's profits are from pre-owned games and I imagine the figures for England's Game shops are similar. Without used games, these well known highstreet chains would suffer like mad; maybe even to the point where closing down would be the only option.

I really sympathise with this point. It is a great shame that so many video game stores are dying out these days and I only want better things to happen for them, not worse. That said, I can still see why this entire point is, also, invalid.

I think the fact of the matter is that developers and publishers and the likes of Microsoft and Sony shouldn't have to, and don't need to, tiptoe around highstreet brands. Call me cruel but it isn't really their problem if the likes of Gamestop and Game rely so much on pre-owned games. You can buy all the games, consoles and accessories on Amazon if you want. And why wouldn't you? Is there really any need or point to make sure you don't damage the profits of a type of highstreet store that is no doubt on the way out anyway? I'm sorry, but that is just the way I, and I think a lot of business mined people, see it.

The third point that is very often made, and the one I get the most, is the issue of cost. New games, especially those in the form of triple-A titles, are expensive. They're not cheap. New games in the US cost $60 each and in the UK, or more specifically England, we pay around £40.

Used games are an awesome way of purchasing games, albeit a little while after their release, for cheaper. Games these days are not all that expensive new, though. A month after release and you might be able to pick them up with £10 knocked off and even further down the line you can probably get them for half price. However with this new generation of consoles fast approaching, and the question 'Will games receive yet another price hike?' still not answered, the prospect of having to pay the full, seemingly exorbitant prices, with no inch given in the form of pre-owned games seems daunting.

I have no defence of this point, as it is a very real and very valid one. My only thing to say here is that the price of games, if anything, should be lowered either from the release or at a faster rate. So either bring down the price of games no matter what, or release them full price but bring them down in cost faster than usual. Also, it seems an attractive proposition, to me at least, that games should have their price regulated by how popular they are.

With those often recited points made and noted, I want to now take the time, in this second part if you will, to explain why I think, if anything, a block on pre-owned games would be OK.

First of all let me ask you a question. Do you like video games? Do you like to play video games? Yes? I think so, otherwise why would you be here. So that is settled. You answered, or at least I'm assuming you did, 'yes'.

So I take it you would be sad if video games died? Again, for the sake of conversation, let's say you answered 'yes'.

Now that is a great point as to why used games might, and possibly should, be blocked. The biggest argument that devs and publishers have is that they make no money from the sale of used games. Except maybe a few pounds/dollars here and there for online pass codes.

If pre-owned games weren't there, people would have to buy new instead, thus all the money then goes to the studio(s) behind the game itself.

This might sound like greed, right? Sure, that is easy to get. After all, all of this is about money isn't it? The first thing Activision is thinking when they prompt development of another Call of Duty is about how many bucks they can make off of it.

But if I'm honest, this is less greed and more that the funds to actually make more games are needed. Not every company is EA or Activision. A lot of developers are small time and low budget. Because of this their games a lower budget and less known. This can often mean less pre-orders and day of release buys. Not as much money is then made. People who were somewhat interested in the game but didn't purchase it will no doubt wait for it to come down in price and either by it cheap new or, most likely, pre-owned. Pre-owned sales don't contribute any money to the studio who made the game. The game doesn't make much and no sequel or future games are planned for release. If anything, the developers might even go bankrupt.

What's more; with the mobile app and game market booming like it is, video games are suffering. Proper consoles mainly attract hardcore gamers these days and there aren't as many serious players as there are casual ones.

The games industry is suffering terribly n this area and, to be frank, most developers and publishers need all the money and help they can get. If you love games and don't want them to die, buying your games new instead of used is the best possible thing you could do.

And that is it; the main point as to why blocking pre-owned games is no bad thing. It basically just helps in ensuring that more games in the future can be made.

It is very easy to brush this issue aside, say it isn't true and deny it. But that is just plain stupid and, if anything, ignorant. Think what you like about the guy and his views, but he got one thing right because as he, Cliffy B, recently said: "The games industry is in turmoil" and he is very right.

Sure blocking pre-owned games might seem like a cheap blow; but it is a necessary step in preserving and increasing the life and longevity of video games and the awesome developers behind them. Just look at THQ, the guys behind Darksiders, Saints Row and Red Faction; they're bankrupt and basically dead. It's becoming harder and harder to integrate into the this area of work and even harder to maintain any standing position in it.

In truth, if DLC was scrapped and included on the disc, then a block wouldn't seem anywhere near as bad. Keep games the same price but give the extra content without more needing to be paid and in return pre-owned games are abolished. That, to me, is a good deal. Everyone is, ultimately, a winner.

So there you have it. That is my view and those are the facts. Don't shoot me down just yet; consider what I have said and remember that this is just my own opinion. Discuss in the comments what your own thoughts on the matter are. This is an issue that affects everyone related to gaming and the industry and needs to be talked about!

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