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Opinion: The games industry and pre-owned games

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The video games industry is one that’s constantly changing – in the last couple of years we’ve seen motion controlled gaming take a leap in to the mainstream, we’ve seen online gaming take off – and now we can add some longevity to our games with downloadable content – small “add-ons” that can provide anything as subtle as new character skins to something as big as a new level.

Of course video games are making more money now than they ever did before – products like the Nintendo Wii and franchises like Call of Duty basically print money – but in the background games publishers are waging a war on pre-owned games. Pre-owned games are used but someone decided to trade them in at a store like Game and even mainstream supermarkets like Asda are getting in on the pre-owned lovin’. Pre-owned games are an excellent way for savvy customers to save a bit of money – but publishers like EA don’t get a penny off of these pre-owned games.

Electronic Arts – or EA for short have probably taken the most bold steps to try and combat second hand games by introducing a scheme that they call “Project ten dollar” – the premise is simple: buy the game new and you get to access some – Dr. Evil quotation marks here: “Free DLC”, if you buy the game used then you don’t – and if you want in on the content in question then you’re going to have to cough up some money (in the region of yup – you guessed it, $10).

But so far this year I’ve not been particularly impressed with the system, which doesn’t seem to provide people who go the extra mile to pay full price for a game with any extra content that’s particularly worthwhile. In Mass Effect 2 we got some extra weapons and Zaed Massani as an extra character but beyond that not a great deal. With Battlefield: Bad Company 2 we simply got to access maps that were already on the disc – but we were withheld from them for several months as EA slowly rolled them out. It ultimately feels like they’re just taking content away from people who paid for the full game. I mean really, why did I have to wait until August just to play Squad Rush on Laguna Presa when that content was already on the disc?

Furthermore this content is stuff that, if I were to buy a game pre-owned, would never fork over 1200 Microsoft Points over. Oh boy, I can spend £10 on some maps that are already on the disc or some extra weapons and a character that I’ll probably never really care about. Woopie doo.

So what do I suggest the games industry do? Two things, firstly:

Publishers should accept trade-ins

As it is publishers like EA are just giving people minuscule amounts of content for buying the game new – but the main problem with video games these days is the price. £40 for a new game? There aren’t many games out there where I can justify that price point – I can only think of one this entire year. Publishers need to accept this and start finding ways to save consumers money.

So here’s the deal: a publisher like EA should accept trade-ins of games that they publish – this could be particularly useful with franchises that have annual releases like Fifa or something like that. As an example of what I’m taking about you could trade in Fifa 10 and get a discount on Fifa 11 – where EA could reuse the materials for the game that was traded in again. Simply recycle the game manual, reuse the case, re-write the disc so that it’s a different game and sell it as something else. In theory a copy of Fifa 11 could end up becoming a copy of Medal of Honour.

This way a customer gets rid of a game that they don’t want and get a discount on a new game, EA save on production costs and avoid the financial wrath of used games sales. Of course by using this EA could simply sell a copy of a game as used and make money that they would otherwise be losing to retailers.

Give customers something, rather than taking it away

As I mentioned earlier, thus far “Project ten dollar” feels like content that should have been in the game is simply being omitted just so that EA can make a quick buck. It kind of feels like going to the cinema and getting one of those annoying advertisements that yells at you for pirating movies even though you’ve paid for a cinema ticket.

Downloadable content (DLC) is a major part of the games industry these days – a game that gets released without ever having any DLC for it is almost unheard of. Why not give the people who bought your game new a discount on downloadable content? If you can convince a customer that buying the game new is a sound investment by saving them money in the long run then you’re going to earn some extra sales. After all, you’ve got a customer that’s spending £40 on a video game with the additional cost of DLC, so why not soften the blow for them?

I should also make note that I’m not just criticising EA – though I’ve certainly name dropped it quite a bit – I was simply using it as an example.

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Written by Pokeh

December 13, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Opinion

Tagged with , ,

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