Friday, June 07, 2013

Video game expiry dates and the second hand market

The new XBone will tie your game to your account so that if you lend the disc or (bom bom bah) actually want to sell it on; the person on the receiving end may have to pay full price once they stick into their system. It appears to be Microsoft's answer to both a) piracy and b) the scourge of the second-hand market.

If they can't force you to buy everything from their digital store where they can charge what they like and keep it at that price in perpetuity they can damn well stop the physical used market dead in it's tracks.

The whiny tone is that the publishers don't get any money from the sale of used games so they have to keep the prices high. If only they could ensure that a game played means money in their pocket, then prices would drop... and pigs would rise.

The part they miss out (because it spoils their argument) is that gamers tend to trade in games to buy new ones; that gamers may buy a second-hand version then spend a ton on the optional extras in-game. They might buy the first in a series and then continue on.

Not being able to do this means a gamer thinking - huh I'll just buy a PC for the same (or less) and then buy the same games for that (which retail for less). It's not as convenient, but the hassle is made up for by the console manufacturers attitude. Is this necessary though; is there a way around this? Well yes and it's already in force.

I recently picked up a copy of Assassin's Creed III; a new copy. It comes with an online 'passport' and a PS3 exclusive download all available using the codes within the box. It cost me £17.99 down from £35.99(ish).

If I'd bought it second-hand the codes wouldn't work and I'd have to purchase them online for a fee; that money goes directly to the publisher. In theory the publisher might be getting more profit from the purchase of the 'codes' than they would from a direct retail sale. Anyhow I entered my passport code and had it accepted; I entered my bonus code and had it rejected. Huh? Ah I know...

Studying the small print led to the answer - the bonus code expires on 31 May 2013. Am I mad about this? No I'm not it's a rather clever method of both gaining money from second-hand sales and encouraging early non-discounted sales. It's become a hackneyed term but this is 'nudging' plain and simple.

So I have a choice to buy it new at full price; or discounted with partial content; or heavily discounted/second hand with no content. How much better is this then simply not allowing me to buy the game except at whatever the publisher wants to charge me?