Video game manufacturers say that they are entitled to a portion of the revenue generated from the used game market. Should they get a cut of the action? The answer is clearly NO. If I buy a wooden chair from IKEA, and five years later I sell it, should I have to kick back some dough to IKEA? No. It’s ridiculous, but the VGMs are set on doing it, and so far they have done it in a very annoying and unimaginative way for a group of people who are so creative. I can smell suits in the room.
Paying for codes to enable online content is completely asinine, and here is why. Before even playing the game, the gamer is angered at having to pay a fee that punishes them for not purchasing the game new. That $15 charge (or whatever it is) will forever be linked with that game in the gamers mind. So when he is talking about it with his friends, the first or second thing he is going to talk about is how he had to pay an additional fee. It’s the same thing with airlines charging for luggage. “Yeah it was a great flight, but they made me pay for my bag!” You don’t hear people justifying paying for that bag. Everyone hates paying for that bag! Secondly, the used game fee reflects negatively on the VGMs brand. Yes, the VGM suits can huddle together in a small room and rub their clawed hands together like Mr. Burns, but this solution does not help the company in the long run. “Yeah it was a great flight, but they made me pay for my bag! I’m never going to fly them again!”
I have come up with a solution that best serves all parties involved, VGMs, retailers, and gamers. It’s not a perfect solution but at least the gamers aren’t getting screwed and the blood sucking suits will still be able to do laps in their money pits. Since it is debuting tomorrow, I will use Halo Reach as an example. If you do not know what Halo Reach is then you are reading the wrong article on the wrong web site and you should close your browser immediately.
My solution is actually pretty simple and can be broken down into a few stages.
Stage 1: VGMs provide a chunk of time for the game to sell at its full retail price at retail locations and then transition to a web based sales system directly through the VGM. Here is how it works. Halo Reach retails for $60 (we are rounding up here). I don’t know the exact number but let’s say the retailer buys the game from Bungie for $40. Halo Reach is released on 9/14/10 and for the next three months is sold exclusively at retail stores (Amazon, Game Stop, Best Buy, etc.). On 12/14/10, you can now purchase Halo Reach directly from Bungie online for $40. To recap, the retailers get the early sales, selling oodles of copies (at full price), and when the game’s popularity drops, Bungie sells the game directly to the public and makes the same margin as they would on a new game. They also add a customer to their database (marketing).
Stage 2: After another three months, the VGM discontinues the game completely (unless it is still selling really well, which it probably isn’t, but if it is, then they can extend this sales window).
How does this affect the used game market? During the first three months of the game’s life, the used game market would stay exactly as it is today (without the annoying fees). You could bang out Halo Reach in two weeks and sell it on eBay for $40 or so (while Game Stop still sells it for $55). Once the VGM starts selling it direct for $40, the value will drop but you should still be able to get $25-30 for it. This seems like a fair drop in price for a game that has been out for three months.
There are various other benefits to the VGMs that I won’t get into in this article, but by using my solution they look good and they get their money too. Game Stop would lose some business based on their stranglehold on the used game market, but to be honest, they can suck it because they won’t be around in five years when all games are digital downloads and you can buy consoles directly through the manufacturer. The gamer’s window to make decent money by selling one of their games shrinks a bit, but the disappearance of the fees more than makes up for this.
If you have questions, or suggestions on how to make this solution better, let me know. There are no stupid suggestions, except for the stupid ones.