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Calling Them Out: Why I’ll Continue to Buy Used (and you should too).

by on April 2, 2012

Calling Them Out is a new series of featured articles on TheParanoidGamer where we, your favorite tin hat wearing writers, verbally dissect the most fetid and insidious of industry pandering articles being pumped out by the mass gaming media. 

Up on today’s butcher table is a real stinker of an article written by Slashgear.com’s Don Reisinger, a man who’ll never buy another game used and tells you why you shouldn’t either. Oh boy, here we go. 

[quote]Used video games have become a desirable purchase for many industry fans. With prices coming in at substantially lower amounts than new alternatives, it simply makes sense to many people to buy used titles. The more you save, the more products you can buy, right?[/quote]

Well that’s not really all that true, considering that retailers sell used copies of newly released games for barely $5 or $10 off for the first several months. It’s also quite apparent that given the rising popularity of midnight releases that there are many gamers out there just chomping at the bit to get their copies on release day. You’ll normally only see Gamestop shelves filled to the brim with used copies of a recently released product if it’s horrible all on its own . What we’re really talking about here are “tail sales”, the continued purchase of a product over the end of its projected life-span. This is usually around the point that people tend to buy used games out of sheer practicality, but I’d argue that developers still see a substantial return from used games and always have. This return is, of course, the sequel. For example, a development studio releases a risky and unique original property, and while it sells pretty well it doesn’t explode any charts. So why do games with relatively small sales (like Darksiders) even manage to get sequels? Because they know that hundreds of thousands of gamers who didn’t risk their $60 on the original release bought the game for cheap at used retail, and that many of them fell in love with it and would happily snap up a sequel at full retail pricing. The publishers and developers are well aware of the phenomena and they know that used games massively fuel their word of mouth and the viability of a successful sequel. So to answer your question Don, yes it does make sense. More sense than anything else in your article.

[quote]I’ve long been one of those people that tries to take advantage of cheaper used games. To me, saving a few bucks here and there was worth it. Plus, if I had the chance to turn it back in and get some of that cash back, why not do it?[/quote]

I couldn’t agree more. Why not indeed? You’d almost have to be a total fool not to take advantage of a better value in this economy.

[quote]But over the last few years, my attitudes towards used games have changed dramatically. I never buy used games any longer, and I’m a firm believer that over time, they could very well become a key ingredient in hurting the industry and the quality of games we play.[/quote]

Now it’s possible that a few gamers got this far into the article and are already thinking “Oh no, maybe I’ve been wrong all these years and my used game purchases have been killing the industry I love and bankrupting my favorite developers!”. Fear not fellow gamers because this is, of course, complete bullshit. Nothing is hurting the industry and the quality of the products more than the nigh masochistic hand of the industry itself. An industry that refuses to trust its customers, attempts to milk every last revenue stream out of them that it possibly can, constantly cuts quality assurance corners to maintain deadlines thus releasing virtually unplayable or broken titles that can only be fixed via a delayed patch, rips content out of the game to sell it back to you later, and who thinks that the best way they can gain the loyalty of their fanbase is to consistently remove features and dumb down the gameplay while pumping out endless successive sequels. 

[quote]Yes, I know I sound like a developer when I say this, but it’s true. Whenever a consumer goes to the store and buys a used video game, the developers and publisher don’t get a dime of that exchange. Instead, the profit is used to line the pockets of GameStop, Best Buy, and countless other retailers that are seeing the value of used titles.[/quote]

No, you don’t sound like a developer. At least they actually worked on the game. While I can’t personally speak to the internal policies at Slashgear.com, most videogame and technology media outlets are little more than a marketing arm for various publishers who get free review copies, press materials, exclusive preview info and all your paycheck from ad revenue you generate by being able to deliver this content in the first place, most of it at the behest of the people whose product and practices you’re supposed to be reviewing, all while telling other people what they should or shouldn’t do in regards to their own hard earned money. That just makes you a deeply out of touch “journalist”, not a developer. At least developers are obviously biased and don’t claim otherwise.

[quote]Now, some might say that that’s capitalism at its best. Retailers and consumers have found a way to earn some cash, and they’re using that to their advantage. The companies that couldn’t see that coming, meanwhile, are out of luck. If only they’d been smarter, some might say, they wouldn’t have to complain.[/quote]

Gamestop has existed in one form or another since 1994, and even longer than that if you count its 1984 fore bearer Babbages. Used videogame retail chains have been around for just as long as the gaming industry itself and have seen them grow from a mere child’s play thing into the world’s highest grossing entertainment medium. Whether we’re talking about the Goodwill boxes full of E.T. Atari catridges in the 80’s or a Gamestop bargain bin full of current gen titles, the used game market is nothing new. In the interest of positivity, I’ll agree with Don that this is indeed consumerist capitalism at its finest. Sadly however, and as I stated above, he’s wrong completely wrong-headed in his assertion that there was anything to “see coming” save perhaps for the current economic crisis with which we are all so embroiled. It’s perfectly natural that people will seek out cost efficient alternatives during a difficult financial period and, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with that. The economic landscape should therefore have been a call for publishers to deliver quality products and experiences to people in such a way that their desire to support developers with a day one purchase outweighed the potential hit to their wallet. Instead its become an industry wide battlecry against gamers from virtually every walk of life except for pirates who, surprisingly, don’t have to deal with nearly as many issues as the people who actually buy their games.

[quote]I understand that point. And to some degree, I agree with it. The game industry could have seen used games coming and it could have capitalized on it. But it didn’t. And although its calls of foul get old, there’s nothing wrong with allowing those companies that spent time and millions of dollars on a game to at least get a piece of used sales.[/quote]

Whether it’s wrong or not is entirely debatable when we’re talking about the myriad of draconian DRM methods employed by modern publishers and the manner in which they’ve been removing finished game content just before it hits the presses in order to charge you for it later. That’s just if they don’t lock it away on the disc you just bought so that they can save on the download bandwidth while screwing you over.

[quote]The vast majority of us don’t just do work for the fun of it. We want to be compensated for it and know that we have something to show for all of our hard work. Developers and publishers get that from new game sales, but on used titles they don’t. And to me, that’s plain wrong.[/quote]

The vast majority of the world doesn’t work at computers in air controlled offices, and those of us who do usually work mind numbing and non-creative jobs. I hate to say it but most of the pressure placed upon developers is almost always a result of bad internal management, under performing titles, and publisher practices that care more about pushing them to make an arbitrary release deadline rather than a good game. And to me, that’s plain wrong.

[quote]So, I’ve decided that I’ll never buy another used game. And although it might not be the most popular opinion among gamers, I urge everyone else to follow my lead. Until developers can get some portion of the revenue generated from used games, I think it’s only right.[/quote]

Then Don, you and every other gamer out there are in luck! For today is that day! You see, with developers ripping content out of their games left and right only to sell it back to you at exorbitant costs (Mass Effect 3 From Ashes DLC), cordoning off entire sections of the single-player campaign to new buyers only (Arkham City Catwoman sections), and online passes as far as the eye can see (almost everything), developers now get more revenue from used gamers than ever before! Why, now that the internet makes these practices easier to inflict upon us, we may never buy a complete game used ever again. 

[quote]I realize that such a plan might cost you some money and you might not want to help out the huge developers that post billions of dollars in revenue each year, but remember that it’s not just them. There are countless small, independent developers out there that need the revenue stream from used games. And right now, they’re not getting it.[/quote]

Or, you know, informed consumers could just decide whether Electronic Art’s latest first-person shooter reboot/rehash deserves their dollars more than a tiny, deserving developer like Frictional Games. You know, the sort of informed consumer that’s reading a technology and gaming blog in the first place, and I’m pretty sure that most of them already do exactly this. 

[quote]That’s too bad.[/quote]

Not nearly as bad as your industry pandering article though. One that seeks to “appeal” to the savvy gamer heart by trying to guilt them into ignoring all common sense and smart consumerism by needlessly throwing away their dollars on massive, greedy corporations that have taken nearly every turn and opportunity to prove that they couldn’t care less about you not just as a fan or gamer, but even on the most base level as an intelligent consumer; that’s the real shame here.

If you have any good tips on a recent gaming media article that deserves to be “Called Out”, please feel free to email it to us at Email: info[at]theparanoidgamer.com and we’ll make sure to give it a look.