Going into the Ethics file…

Yesterday the gaming blogosphere got all hot and bothered over an issue that was kicked off by an article regarding a wrestling game that is shipping with a one-time-use code that unlocks online content for the game. The question everyone is now asking is: If a consumer purchases a used game (from a friend, from GameStop, etc.), is that basically the same as piracy? The developers aren’t getting their cut, so it’s basically the same, right?


I admit that I’ve sold used games back to GameStop in the past. Sometimes a game just isn’t that good, and I’d rather recoup some of that cash back into my pocket… which then goes into buying more games, thus supporting my game-buying habit AND the developers who make the games. The economy is tough on all of us, and games aren’t a must-have item, so my budget is limited.

If I have $100 to spend, I can buy one $60 game. Now, if I don’t like that game, I can take it back, get $20 for it, pair that $20 with the remaining $40 and get another $60 game. On that second game, the developer is still getting the full wholesale price of their game, probably 50% or so of the retail price. GameStop “ate” the $20 that they gave me for the original game, but they’ll make it back when they resell it, plus an extra $15-$20 for their trouble and overhead.

On the flip side, sometimes there are games that come out that look interesting, but due to previous bad experiences with a particular publisher or franchise, I just don’t want to spend $60 on that game. This doesn’t happen that often, but it’s usually a dealbreaker. 9 times out of 10, I’ll skip purchasing a game that I consider a “risky” purchase, and then the developer doesn’t make anything off of me. If I find a used copy of it for half-price… sure, I might give it a try. The developer still isn’t making anything off of me, but if I try it and like it, then they’ve won back my trust and I’ll be more likely to purchase something else from them in the future.

All that said, you’d probably think that I’m all “USED GAMES R TEH AWESOME!”… and really, I’m all for people being able to sell their used games. It’s recycling and it’s green and it’s helpful for those of us who have families and limited budgets. But at the same time I do view game developers as artists, and I would agree that they deserve compensation for their work.

And honestly, I think the way that THQ is handling it… with the game content being playable solo but having a key to unlock online play… is brilliant.

Think about it: you buy a game used, for let’s say $30. You play it, you like it, you want play against other people, but you can’t because you don’t have the key. The publisher can then sell the unlock keys online. Pay $10-$15, and voila, your online access is there. You’ve still spent less overall on the game, you’ve saved one more plastic cartridge/disk from being thrown into a landfill, and the developers got some compensation for their work. Like a 10-day free trial in the MMO world, used-game players would get to see if they like it first. If it’s a good quality game, the companies get the cash from unlocking the additional features.

Maybe it would even encourage companies to, you know, make better games.

1 thought on “Going into the Ethics file…

  1. Jaedia

    I see the used game issue as being near enough the same as buying second hand DvDs, books, and so on. You're not exactly committing piracy, it's stuff you can pick up at car boots, in charity shops, on Amazon, Ebay.. etc. I can understand why they would stop you from playing online with a used game, mind, they're out to make money so fair enough, but so long as they allow you to still play the offline content. Your suggestion of selling keys for online content is a good one 🙂


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