Anyone who is an avid gamer will testify that gaming teaches one many things. It teaches persistence, reasoning skills, even hand-eye coordination, among many other important abilities. One of the hardest things to learn as a gamer though, is that gaming can be excruciatingly expensive. Games for home consoles can run upwards of sixty dollars, not including optional paid downloadable content; and games for handhelds will cost a cool forty.
Luckily, there is currently a booming used game market. Stores like GameStop have been pioneers for getting games into the hands of as many people as possible for an affordable price. People bring in games they no longer want, get paid for them in either cash or store credit, and GameStop sells them for a fraction of the initial price to another eager gamer. In my opinion, it is great system that benefits everyone involved. The buyer of the game gets paid for it, the store sells it at a discounted rate, benefitting them and the buyer, and the company the game actually came from gets exposure and pride that someone was interested in their product. It seems like a win-win-win-win, right?
Wrong. Within the past several months, there has been a very public feud between the “Big Three” gaming corporations (Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo) and “The People.” The Big Three have been massively attacking the used game industry. Not with conventional methods such as refusing to stock them, but through a much more devious approach: making the sale of used games impossible.
How exactly is that plan being implemented? Through two crafty ways. The first and most common way is through the issuance of user passes. User passes work by generating a one-time code to the buyer of the game, allowing only them access to it. If another, different user attempts to access the game without the original, unique user pass code, they will not be granted access to the game. Since the program generates the code with the system of the console the game is initially played on, even if a different user has the passcode from the first buyer, if they don’t also have their console, the game will not work. This abolishes any way for the game itself to be sold secondhand. The person who purchases the game must keep it even if they don’t want to, unless they choose to sell it, along with their beloved console, to a friend or as a bundle on a site like Craigslist or Ebay.
The other way the Big Three are attacking is through eliminating hard copy gaming software altogether. There have been prototypes of next generation of consoles presented by the companies, none of which includes an optical disk drive. What that would mean is that consumers would have to purchase the game solely online, which means the games could not be sold or traded at all. Not only does this eliminate used gaming completely, it also alienates an entire group of people that may not have access to internet in rural or underdeveloped areas, and thus, could not purchase or use a console at all. A perfect example of this is the new PlayStation Vita, whose sales have been less than astounding. A lack of buyable hard copies is probably an enormous factor in it’s lack of profits.
I think that it would be a huge mistake on the part of the entire gaming industry if they chose to follow through on their digital-only plans. Sure, they would make more upfront profits, but they would probably end up losing more than that in the weeks following the initial release of the game. The stores that sell their games would lose the money that came from used game sales, and would probably end up not being able to stay profitable enough to stay open. Then who do the companies turn to?
I just don’t see a reason for the Big Three to be so combative. The cereal companies don’t complain when generic “Fruit Spins” are sold on the same shelf as name brand “Fruit Loops”, and video games are much less of a necessity than food. The relationship between the big companies, the retailers, and the buyers is one of perfect mutualism. To tamper with it would be devastating to everyone involved after a while. The old saying goes “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” and the gaming-go-round certainly isn’t broken. I think that if the Big Three put their greed aside and looked at the big picture, they would see the merits of the argument that I, as well as most of the gaming community, present to them, and would change their minds and their plans. That would be the most desirable outcome of this situation. To echo the voice of the greater gaming community, “can’t we all just get along?”
Mallory Fox is the Editor-In-Chief of the Cougar Clause. She is a senior and this is her third semester on staff.