Penny Arcade! – Words And Their Meanings

Today's Penny Arcade has started a bit of an online dialogue, focusing on the topic of buying games used vs. new.

Penny Arcade! - Words And Their Meanings.

A quote from the accompanying newspost:

The idea that THQ is somehow "disrespecting customers" with this kind of rhetoric misunderstands the situation as completely as it is possible to do so. In a literal way, when you purchase a game used, you are not a customer of theirs. If I am purchasing games in order to reward their creators, and to ensure that more of these ingenious contraptions are produced, I honestly can't figure out how buying a used game was any better than piracy. From the the perspective of a developer, they are almost certainly synonymous.

I can't tell you the number of times I've been involved in a discussion about used game sales with other game developers.   While yes, someone buying used does not give money to the creators of the game, much of the time, neither does buying a game new.  In the case of buying a game used, it's the retailer who is profiting off the work of the game developer.  In the case of buying a game new, it's the publisher that's profiting off the work of the game developer.  The publisher pays the developer for the content, and then sells it to the retailers.  The retailers pay them, and then sells it to the consumers.  I don't see how the publisher has a right to be upset if the consumer than sells it to someone else (and that someone else sells it to someone else yet again).  The only real difference between the publisher and the retailer is that they've got everyone convinced that they own the content.

From my perspective, if you are against used game sales, you have to similarly be against game rentals, and of course, many of the people who are against used game sales are.  On the one hand, my argument in favor of game rentals used to be "$50 is a lot of commitment to ask, people should be able to have a lower risk alternative to see if the game is for them."  Now, it's $60 (because raising the prices of something is a sure way to keep people from buying that thing used, right?), but in the game industry's favor, consumers largely have the option to try demos (assuming one exists, and they have an Internet connected system).

Personally, I can't wait until the day we see games in libraries, free for check out (ironically:  many game developers actually have game libraries that the devs can check games out from).  I check books out from the library all the time.  I check DVDs out from the library all the time too.  I'll check games out from the library as soon as the opportunity presents itself, and I won't feel bad about it at all, just as I don't feel bad for checking out books or movies/TV Shows.   I still buy some of these.  There's a difference between an "owner" and a "check out from the library" item though.   If you want consumers to fork over the cash, the solution isn't to tell them that it's wrong to buy used/rent/borrow/whatever.  The solution is to make a product that's worthy of their money.

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5 Responses to “Penny Arcade! – Words And Their Meanings”

  1. Ultraberg Says:

    A lot of libraries where I'm from have game borrowing (2-3$, just like DVDs). It's like going to the grocery store; you go for milk, you pick up other things. People go in for games, hopefully come back with a lot of books as well.

  2. steve Says:

    I didn't know any libraries ever charged anything for borrowing. Minus the late fees, of course. DVD check outs are free from my local library. I assume if/when they stock games, they also will be free.

  3. Bentley Says:

    Sometimes I've bought games new thinking I was helping the devs out. Now I feel dirty.

    I would like to hope that if a publisher benefits from game sales, then the devs benefit, in the form of new projects being greenlit, and hopefully larger development budgets.

    From your post, I'm feeling like that belief was probably naive, and that, and that the publishers probably just pocket as much as they can, and that the benefits passed on to the Devs are trival.

    Anyway, I've been able to buy games direct from the developers a lot recently, and there's no better feeling than that.

  4. steve Says:

    Bentley, you're theoretically on the money. Developers should (and sometimes even do!) receive benefits in the form of royalties, additional projects, even a leg up in negotiations for their future contracts. My contention isn't so much that we're never helping the developer by buying new, it's that as a developer, I don't believe that's our fight. We shouldn't be angry with the consumers for being rational consumers seeking the best deal. If we are unhappy with our compensation, we should be negotiating for better compensation with the people that pay us (publishers, if we aren't all cool and indie). I think that in general, developers lose more money due to decisions made by publishers than to decisions made by consumers.

  5. Gamercow Says:

    I usually try to buy used games from other people, instead of gamestop. I understand what Gabe is trying to say, but quite frankly, he's coming off as a rich douchebag to me. He gets games for free all the time, and what he doesn't get for free, he can buy with cash from his Scrooge McDuck sized vault. I can't, and won't, pay $60 for every game I buy.
    Also, he hasn't addressed the other issue of "What do we do with used games if we are done with them?" Most games have crappy replay value, really, and as much as I'd like to just give a game to someone(I have done this many times) I'd also like to get something back for it as well.