All righty, now that I’ve gotten a decent start on The List of games using online passes, I’d like to kick things off here with what in my opinion is the best-written argument on the subject, from Wired’s Chris Kohler: GameStop the ScapeGoat: Why Used Games Debate Isn’t So Simple
Finally, we come to the stickiest, most convoluted part of the equation. The relationship between used and new games is likely a deep and intricate one.
Among GameStop’s detractors, there seems to be an unstated belief that, roughly speaking, every used game purchased equates to exactly one new game not purchased. I sincerely doubt it.
For the last 15 years or so I’ve bought a mix of new and used games, using a pretty complex decision matrix. Do I want the game immediately, or can I wait? How much is it? How much are used copies? Are they in good condition? Are they covered in GameStop’s horrific yellow diarrhea of stickers? A lot of things can affect that decision, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I saw research that showed that the average used games buyer also buys a sizable amount of new games.
More than that, as Bill Harris pointed out earlier this week, the used games market fuels new game sales, too.
…Harris’ point is that the relationship between used and new games isn’t parasitic, it’s symbiotic, and to go tinkering with that symbiosis without fully understanding all of the ways in which the businesses are intertwined is to court disaster, taking the chance that you’ll leave things far worse than you found them
Actually, I should probably dedicate a whole post to Bill Harris’ essay, as he also does a great job tackling the subject.
Nintendo saw this problem coming long ago in Japan and took action. First, it aggressively moved towards producing software with smaller development budgets that it could sell at lower price points — price points that it could maintain throughout the lifetime of the software without having to slash the price later. It attempted to develop games that would be sticky over long periods of time, so that users wouldn’t want to sell them. And most notably it established Club Nintendo, a loyalty program that rewards purchases of new games with cool prizes.
Lower prices, better games, free stuff. Contrast this with everybody else’s plan: higher prices, chopped-up games, less stuff than you used to get.
It’s nice for gamers that Nintendo hasn’t jumped on this bandwagon… yet. Of course, with Nintendo losing money in the 2011-2012 fiscal year for the first time in basically forever it seems possible that they may try some type of online pass scheme with their upcoming Wii U.
Or, the tides could turn the other way if enough gamers get upset and stop buying games that use online passes, and the whole online pass experiment could be deemed a failure. I guess we’ll see!