It’s a treacherous environment, being a game developer these days. Make a popular game, and factions of fans whine at you for selling out. Release a DLC pack, and people complain you’re trying to rip them off (because apparently they have no willpower of their own, or you’re telepathically inducing them to buy it) or, in the case of Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski, you can point out why you don’t like the second hand games market and then watch as the internet gaming community jump down your throat and tell you how wrong you are.
Because apparently, it doesn’t matter if you’ve made bestselling games (Or, as one oh-so-enlightened soul commented on that blog ‘got lucky with bloody shooters’) you apparently don’t know enough about the gaming industry for your opinion to matter.
Hmm… lets see… whose industry knowledge do I give more credibility to, the game creator or the random commenter on Tumblr…
Anyways, amidst all the internet hate and blind horseshit of people going “FAG” there remains the fact the Bleszinski has some damn good points.
Ultimately he makes games. He wants his games to be successful. To that end, he seems to have been pretty unimpressed that GameStop, who – up until then – he had considered a good trade partner, started handing out flyers offering deals on trade-in for Gears of War 3 at the launch event for the game.
The weird thing about the gaming community is how okay they think this is.
Lets rewind a few years to the launch of the last Harry Potter book. The books had gotten so big that, like many games today, they had big midnight launch events. Now, imagine if you went to the bookshop, and as you were standing in the queue, someone working f0r the bookshop came up to you and handed you a flyer saying “If you finish the book in the next couple of days, bring it back and we’ll buy it back from you so we can re-sell it!”
I would be distinctly unimpressed if a bookshop took such an action, and yet the general consensus seems to be that it is perfectly acceptable for game shops to do exactly the same thing.
I can’t think of any other entertainment industry where the retailer is allowed to have this level of clout. When I walked into a game shop the other day, I had to look very hard to find the new games, because the presence of second hand games was pushed so far forward. Usually the two are either intermingled or – in the case of Game, the UK branch of GameStop, the second hand releases were promoted much more heavily than the new games.
This is not a good situation for the industry to be in. The retailers are clearly – and expectedly – focused on their profit margin and for them pre-owned sales are far more profitable than new sales. Like other industries, be they film, music or print, any first hand sale generates royalty payments for the creator of that media. Whilst an individual is perfectly within their rights to buy second hand that sale generates no revenue for the game creator at – it is purely profit for the retailer.
What gets me, as much as anything else, is the sheer bloody short-sightedness of it all. The Videogames industry is not a small time gig any more. It isn’t just a passtime for kids – its one of the fastest growing media industries on the planet, and retailers seem intent on trying to cut it off at the head. Yes, second hand sales are a good source of revenue for them, but in their promotion of those sales they are not only driving up the price of games, they’re encouraging publishers to do what microsoft tried to do with their controversial DRM – cut the retailer out of the loop.
It isn’t even as if second hand is a better deal for the consumer any more. I recently saw one shop that was specifically devoted to selling second hand merchandise selling a game for more than the games retailer down the street was selling a first hand copy.
Over 20 games studios closed in 2012. And these were not small outfits – THQ and Sony Liverpool were two prominent names. That equals hundreds of jobs lost. Similarly, Game only survived 2012 by the skin of its teeth.
Depressingly, Microsoft’s controversial DRM plans may have offered a solution to this problem – the potential ‘trading fee’ for used games would have created a level of symbiosis between the retailer and the publishers/developers that could have given the industry a stable platform between frontline distribution and backend creation. That symbiosis could have led to lower game prices overall, because the developers would have had more of a reason to support second-hand sales – it would have been a more constant revenue stream from circulation. I very much doubt that we’d have had publishers charging full price to transfer the ownership from one gamer to the next, as that would also have been an unsustainable as any other. Two or three quid every time an ownership is transferred – which would have been included as part of the point of sale? I’d never even have noticed, frankly.
As it is, we’ll never know. And as it is, I’ve made a resolution to only buy games first hand from this point on. There’s nothing to stop me looking around for a better deal or waiting until they’ve had a bit of depreciation, but I want to know, when I buy a game, that at least some of that money has gone towards the people who’ve made that game possible.