What a difference a month makes. As soon as the dust settled on one gaming myth that had been been blown out of the water, another one has been shot down and drowned in a similar fashion!?
Earlier in the week, we brought news that researchers at the University had completed a decade long study that concluded video games did not have a negative impact on children – challenging a long held assumption that the graphical improvements and level of immersion in modern gaming was somehow responsible for children’s poor behaviour, emotional instability or lack of focus.
Well, this time it’s an internal gaming industry myth that is FINALLY being debunked – or at the very least – questioned!
The long held, well publicised developer’s viewpoint of the used game market has been a contentious issue within gaming circles. Developers felt that the used game market was crippling the ‘multi-million dollar’ industry’s chances of survival, whereas consumers felt it was an essential part of a gamer’s life.
The Xbox One originally tried to ‘take on’ the used game market when it was announced that renting, borrowing and, indeed, buying second hand games would be impossible on the new machine. Customers showed their might and responded, in force, with a resounding number of loud complaints – eventually prompting Microsoft to back down and change their policies (or risk losing even more ground to Sony).
This week has suddenly shown us a world we never thought we’d see. First Sony, then software giant EA, coming out and saying – not only does the pre-owned market NOT hurt the industry– but that it may actually be a very important part of the games industry at large.
Speaking to GameInformer, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO, Andrew House admitted that used sales are not really eating into the profits of game developers:
I’ve seen data that the vast majority of used sales go immediately into additional purchases, that they are not somehow being extracted from the overall game economy,”
A giant like Sony publicly saying that the harm done by used games is negligible is a huge thing for consumers. Sony haven’t exactly been ‘pro-used game’s in the past, but DID enjoy promoting their used game policies when Microsoft came under such heavy fire. What this means is that there is a real chance that the used market will be around for a lot longer than we thought (although, expect the big companies to continue pushing for some kind of revenue share).
EA have done a total 180. They also came under heavy fire for their methods of trying to force revenue out of the used game market. However, like Microsoft, they also had a change of heart following pressure from consumers. Reversing their policies, abandoning online passes for all their games and now speaking out in favour of pre-owned. After acknowledging that customers still like the immediacy of physical copies of games, EA CFO and executive VP, Blake Jorgensen, had this to say:
I also think that used games are an important part of the industry. People think about the price of a game based on the fact that they can still return that game and they need a physical disk to do that. And so that will probably keep the physical business around for some period of time as well.”
I would love to sit here and claim that the human element made a difference. The ghosts of gaming past visited EA executives and reminded them of when they played that pre-owned copy of Wipeout or borrowed Final Fantasy VII from a friend – prompting their misty eyes to take a second glance at their harsh barriers to second hand gaming. However, the cynical side of me feels this just comes down to money.
What both Microsoft and EA saw in response to their efforts to squeeze every last penny out of us, was a drop in sales and interest. Less people willing to engage with them in terms of sales and pre-orders, as well as massive backlash all over the internet.
There does seem to be a bit of a lack of understanding of the pre-owned market from the big companies. They want to push everything into a digital world because it’s cheaper for them to produce and distribute. However, people still like to have the physical copies of things. After all, e-readers haven’t killed books, streaming services haven’t killed DVD and Blu-Ray sales and MP3 players haven’t killed off CD and record sales (completely).
However, it’s more than that in the games industry. Consumers buy and play games. But when the ‘next big thing’ comes out- and costs £50-£60 – the games collecting dust on your shelf have a value. Without that value, many gamers would not be able to justify buying the new games.
When ‘The Last of Us‘ was released in June, earlier this year, I had no idea what to expect. However, I took the plunge and bought it because I was able to trade some older games in toward its value and only had to pay £12 of actual money. Without the second hand market, I would not have been able to purchase that game. Also, the reason I was looking towards ‘The Last of Us’ in the first place was because I knew (developer) Naughty Dog had a track record of producing quality games that appeal to me. How did I know this? Well, because a few years before this, I bought and played Uncharted 1 and 2 – second hand. After being blown away by the quality of those games – games I could not afford when initially released – I made sure I had money put away for Uncharted 3 and happily traded away old games to get hold of The Last of Us. Both Uncharted 3 and The Last of Us were purchased at full retail price (less trade-ins).
In short, though Naughty Dog had to wait for my money, because of the used game market (and the quality of the games), their games will be a priority purchase in the future. We need the pre-owned market to have an opportunity to experience such a wide variety of games and develop our gaming pallet. Reading news and reviews is a great way to get an idea about the upcoming games and where to spend your money, but NOTHING informs your choices like actually playing the games. If games companies expect us to spend £60 every time we want to try a new experience – a LOT of their games will be left unpurchased.
And that’s not good for anyone.
Do you play pre-owned? Do you think the second hand market is fair to developers and publishers? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Richard is a father, teacher, gamer and writer. He believes that The Last of Us and Olli Olli 2 are the finest games ever made, feels that the StarWars Saga should only be watched in ‘the Machete order’ and once cleared Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in one sitting. Took him 20 hours, four cups of tea and a sausage roll. You can follow him on twitter @TLOUFactionsMP or @VigilanteSanta and view his occasional twitch outbursts on twitch.tv/spooklebeans.