ARTICLE: Used Games, and Why They Aren’t The Devil


Ask Activision, EA, Ubisoft or any number of publishers around today, they will tell you used games are destroying their business model, that they cannot sustain themselves without a ten dollar cut, or more. These publishers who create amazing games like Tomb Raider, that have sold 3.4 million copies, and still arent breaking even. Even console manufacturers, Microsoft is getting the finger pointed here in particular, as they are jumping on board to fight this plague. How could those naughty, naughty used games do such a thing? Well, thats just it. Used games are not the problem and have a right to exist.


First, let’s get this ludicrous idea that used games is as damaging as piracy out of the way. There is one, fundamental difference between these two that ruins this argument. A pirated game is the result of a single copy being leaked on the internet and producing thousands. A used game on a shelf got there somehow (Hint: Key word is in the name, used games). Every single used game currently circulating represents a brand new sale at some point. The publisher received their dues when they received the money from that sale, and in a capitalist society that should be the end of it. At least in the USA, they even have a law to protect this act in the form of the first sale doctrine, which basically states that once sold to a customer for an agreed upon price, their involvement in the product and their say in what  one can do with it is over. After all, do you need to pay a fee to Ford when you buy a used car? the thought is ridiculous.

But these poor, poor publishers need to make money somehow, right? In this environment of AAA, multimillion dollar game development and 100 man teams who need to make money somehow, right? These poor games that cant break even on their huge, bloated costs, even with Downloadable content, marketing deals and advertisement campaigns that make sure you can’t turn the corner without hearing about it. Games like Dark Souls, who managed a meagre 2.4 million sales. Wait though, Dark Souls was successful and made money. Imagine that, a game made money while the used game market was in full effect?

Could that be because Dark Souls was budgeted, and created with less money than it would take to buy a third world country and targeted to a specific audience? No, couldn’t be that. Hitman Absolution, another Square game failed to meet expectations with 3.6 million sales, or Capcom’s disappointment in Resident Evil 6, which couldn’t even manage more than 5 million sales! Damn used games, damn them. Dare I say that many of these similar sob stories are less critically acclaimed than Dark Souls, and less successful since From Software actually made money on it. Money can be made, even with the used market out there. Could the blame somehow be on these publishers that need to insist that every game needs to appeal to everyone? Could these publishers somehow be asking too much from reality where they need a game to sell 6 or 7 million to break even? Nobody is being forced into these decadent, unsupportable business moves. There is really no excuse here.

Not everybody can be the quarterback, and not everybody can be Call of Duty, yet the mainstream tugs and pulls at the caboose of a train that has already left the station. These publishers have no choice but to charge so much and spend so much on these games. Well, we’ve already been over the exorbitant expectations of publishers, but a big boon for the used game is the fact it is usually cheaper than the new product. A popular retort is that video games are a luxury, that they aren’t needed for survival. This is true, putting the privileged attitude of such an argument aside, games are not a necessary part of life. However, who’s to say how much your game is worth? If I return to the store, unsatisfied with or having recently completed a game that I don’t wish to hold onto, but am interested in a new release on launch week when sales are at the most critical, yet i don’t have enough money. How can I solve this conundrum? why not trade it in? I recoup a bit of my previous investment, make a brand new one and the publisher makes a brand new sale I couldn’t have otherwise afforded, and would have had to pass on the new game until sales are no longer as big of a deal. Would we look at that, used games even have a benefit. Perhaps the game is a bit smaller, and doesn’t offer quite as much as other games at $60? Could that game be more attractive to a potential customer who isn’t looking to spend $60 in the first place? Silly, of course not. Used games are the devil, because they say so.


To the apologists, who shed a tear for the poor, billion dollar publishing houses like the stereotypical native shedding a tear over litter, take note that these publishers take advantage of the same capitalist system, yet cries foul when that same system allows some control to the customer, they are whining about having their cake and eating it too. Publishers love to say that you don’t own what you own, despite laws that contradict them, cry over not being able to break even on unrealistic sales expectations because they spent exorbitant amounts of money on development, and marketing, and still sell for $60, $15 DLC and online passes, and throw a tantrum when you try to make a little bit back on your investment. When you attack used games, you attack your own rights, and that’s pretty saddening that there are people who would join greedy publishers in taking away the few rights we do have. All we have left, as consumers that should be pro-consumer is the ability to vote with our wallets. We can make the choice to support draconian DRM, always online and anti-used games technology. We only need to make the choice to use it, and as they say, the victor shall write history.