It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, but rather than concoct a lengthy Welcome Back post, I figure I’ll just dive right in and start posting again.

TotalBiscuit, perennial StarCraft II commentator, has some thoughts on why used game sales might be a bad thing for the industry, and his argument has merit that I hadn’t considered. You should watch the video and hear his points for yourself, but the basic gist is this:

  • Used game sales only benefit the used game peddler (i.e., GameStop), not the developer or publisher that really deserves the money
  • Unlike a lot of other industries where used sales are common (DVDs, music CDs), game makers not don’t have much alternative sources of revenue than new sales. DVD movies have box office sales, rental revenue via Blockbuster, Amazon and iTunes, and even television syndication rights. Music artists have concerts, radio licensing and other royalties.
  • While books are more similar in their lack of alternative revenue streams, games require patches, customer service, and other live game costs associated. That money has to come from somewhere.
  • We already have a distribution system sans used games on the PC with Steam, as well as on Android and iOS.
  • On the aforementioned PC and mobile platforms, we generally see lower prices and deeper discounts. Is this because even that deeply discounted sale price is going largely to the developer/publisher?
  • Digital distribution is the future, which will ultimately kill off used game sales for good. It’s just a matter of time.

His final point, which he concedes he doesn’t have a good answer to, to ask why Microsoft feels the need to cause themselves pain and force the point right now, when digital distribution will eventually be the norm. Given that console cycles happen so infrequently (and some suggest that this generation might be the last!), and that midstream changes away from used game sales would be difficult, I would guess that Microsoft and Sony are both under significant pressure from large publishers, who with rising development costs are probably looking for any means necessary to raise the needed cash.

So I find myself perhaps a convert – maybe used games are a bad thing!


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