As videogame publishers looked for ways to increase their bottom lines in the face of increasing piracy and a burgeoning pre-owned market, they came up with what they felt was an ingenious idea. With online play being as popular as it is, and a huge selling point for many gamers, they devised a method whereby accessing online content would require a pass, which would need to be purchased for as much as $10 by gamers who rented or bought pre-owned copies of the game. Taking this whole concept a step further, some developers and publishers have even begun limiting access to all of the features in their games without the use of these codes to unlock everything.
To combat these online passes, many used games shops have begun to decrease the cost of their used games in comparison to the new ones, while simultaneously decreasing the amount they pay out in cash or trade to the people selling these games to them. In such a scenario, their profit margin stays the same, with the added benefit to gamers being that for the ones who don’t care about playing games online, they’re now getting used games for even less than before.
Other than those gamers who don’t care about online play getting their used games for cheaper, everyone else stands to lose out. The gamers who buy new, or buy used and then pay for the online passes, will receive less money when selling their games than they used to. Gamers who rent games will not have access to all the features or online content, and are unlikely to want to pay $10 to do so for a limited time.
The most sobering aspect of this pre-owned dance is that early statistics show that games with these online passes are not seeing their sales rise much if at all in comparison to their used sales.
A recent survey conducted by Cowen and Company likely explains why, as just 26% of gamers said accessing bonus content, which could be locked out of pre-owned copies of a game, was important to them. Even less were interested in purchasing new games because of loyalty to the publishers, as just 16% said they would purchase new over used for the purpose of supporting game developers.
Of those surveyed, their reasons for purchasing new over used were far less noble, with nearly half of all respondents citing the fact that they wanted games on the day of their release, which ‘forced’ them to buy new copies, and 54% simply saying they preferred buying new products as opposed to used.
With publishers not seeing much inherent loyalty from their customers, and with their online passes not having the desired effect of spurring more new game sales, it seems it’s back to the drawing board for beleaguered publishers, who likely can’t wait for the dawn of digital distribution to save them from pre-owned game sales and all but wipe the practice out.
Unfortunately for them, it will be at least another console generation before digital distribution of games fully takes hold, as the PS4 will include a physical medium thanks to the built-in Blu-ray disc drive. With download speeds and online infrastructure simply not up to par in many countries, digital only sales and downloads simply isn’t a viable option at present, and may not be for another 10+ years.
Do you like purchasing games new, and if so, what are the main reasons why? Do you feel any obligation to support the games industry by purchasing games new as opposed to used? Let us know your thoughts on the whole pre-owned debate below, and where you see it heading in the near and distant future.