Used Video Games

September 11th, 2010 by Potato

Penny Arcade drew attention to the fighting words of one game developer, who will explicitly not support used games from joining in multiplayer mode.

Controversy ensues.

Myself, I’m more than a little torn on the issue. On the one hand, I naturally rebel against a company trying to lock down content that I’m going to pay for (not that that’s a concern with this specific case of a wrestling game). Being able to own something and resell it has been a long-standing property right, whether it’s a car, air conditioner*, book, or video game. Who is this greedy corporation to arbitrarily decide to degrade the product/service you paid for, just because you sold it on to someone else? Indeed, if it wasn’t for Blizzard making StarCraft2 impossible to transfer to a new account, my SC2 woes would have been solved in a trivial way. Heck, even if you twist it so that instead of “buying” a game, you “license” or “lease” one, in the real world even licensees and leasees can often assign or sublet.

On the other hand, I do want to support the ability of people to come together to trade money for stuff in ways that work for them. And digital delivery is going to may require a different playbook than we’re familiar with from physical media.

Where I get caught up though, is when companies try to charge the same for less. If I can ordinarily share my games with friends when I’m done with them, or sell them used for $10, then this crippled version of the game should cost less up front because it is in fact an inferior product. Likewise with ebooks: there’s no reason in my mind for them to cost nearly as much as a paperback, and that’s from my point of view of receiving value, not even taking into account their lowered distribution/publishing costs side of things. So when these companies say that they don’t care about used buyers because they don’t (directly) see any of the money from the used transaction, I have to step up and say that they did get money from the used buyer, and they got it up front: the first buyer paid $50 for their own use of the game, and another $10 that they hope to get from the used buyer down the road.

* – incidentally, I’m still trying to sell my wall/slot air conditioner. If you’re London and want a used air conditioner for a wall slot (typically found in highrise apartments) send me an email!

4 Responses to “Used Video Games”

  1. Netbug Says:

    I don’t really understand the developers standpoint on this… I mean, yes, I’m a damn-dirty pirate, but even if I wasn’t, are they not supporting the product, not the person?

    I mean, if I buy a car, and I drive it 50,000km and the warranty is 100,000km and I sell it, is the new owner not still covered by the remainder of that warranty? Does the same thing not apply (within a reasonable product lifespan) for games?

    I don’t expect 3D Realms to support me with Duke Nukem 3D (aside from the fact that they don’t exist any more), but if I had a game made in say the last 18 months, I think full content should be available for WHOEVER owns the product at that time.

    It’s not a copy of the product, it’s the original. :/

  2. Potato Says:


  3. Potato Says:

    And the slippery slope argument: what’s next, they won’t support the game if you bought it on sale, or after it’s been remaindered to the bargain bin? Then they stop supporting retail copies because those damned stores take a chunk of the money and they never see it! So digital downloads direct from them only?

  4. wayfare Says:

    Are you not selling the window air conditioner too???