I doubt anyone will be the least bit surprised on this front as this is not the first instance of this kind of tactic being implemented by game publishers. But for those unaware, EA is now tacking on a $10 multiplayer activation charge for their used games starting with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 and following in the suit of SONY's similar charge on their PSP Socom title, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3.
I really wish I could be angry at them. Actually, I know the opportunistic penny-pinching consumer part of me is. The last thing I want to do as a consumer is to spend more money on games as, for those who aren't kids anymore know, games can put a nice dent in you wallets and bank accounts pretty darn fast. This is especially true with the current video game climate where it is becoming a market filled with more worthwhile game titles and consoles than we can sometimes have money or time to spare. I can just hear my economics professors echoing the foundation of economics in my ears: Unlimited wants and limited resources. There is probably not a much simpler truth than that so it is hardly shocking that so many people rely upon those nice deals that are used games to help meet their list of wants. Sure, Gamestop is laughing all the way to the bank, but we the consumer honestly have no real reason to care.
However, while I don't care about EA or SONY, that doesn't mean I don't get why they're doing this. You make a game that takes millions of dollars of investment - tens of million on the current gen platforms - and a team of considerable size and filled with an assortment of talented individuals only to have someone buy your work, beat it in three days, sell it back to the store that they bought it from (for maybe a lousy third they initially paid), and watch an infinite cycle of resale and re-buy that has the middleman nabbing more of your hard-work in the form of cash than you are. In fact, you get money only on the initial sale. Granted, they're getting a nice piece of the pie, but that doesn't make the used game money making scheme all that much more tolerable from their perspective.
In fact, I find that this isn't the first move towards trying to kill the used game though this will be the first that really will hit the consumer. I've come across a lot of people complaining this console generation about multiplayer in games in my times across game forums. A sort of whining that to paraphrase comes down to this: 'Why are they wasting their time on the multiplayer instead of the single player?'. You can go ahead and tack on such things as the complaints about single player campaign lengths as well. But what it comes down to is that game developers are trying to give games the longest lives possible. The longer it hooks gamers into playing the less used games on the shelves. So unless you're in the RPG genre, it is pretty hard to keep gamers hooked long enough. But multiplayer? That's the ticket assuming it is handled well enough and, perhaps worst of all, if it is good enough many people will sometimes overlook a shoddier than necessary single player experience. But that's a whole different thing for me to gripe about another time.
So now that we're here, facing what I fear will be more companies following EA's lead to get a piece of the used game pie, what happens now? The consumer is either not going to feel this at all or we're going to feel this a lot. Somehow though, I'm leaning towards the consumer getting bit pretty hard on this one.
Best case scenario: Gamestop lowers used game prices to accommodate the activation cost. Consumer still gets used games at a lower cost overall - even more so if the consumer doesn't pay the charge - and the entity taking the profit hit is Gamestop. Yeah, that's not likely I'd wager
Worst case scenario: The consumer is forced to either buy used game and miss out on multiplayer or we pay more and just buy the game new which increases new games sale and make the publisher happier and still pads Gamestop's bottom line anyway.
Right now, the only silver lining is that this is just EA - SONY too, I guess - and only multiplayer. But, in the words of Big Boss, "The moment zero becomes one is the moment the world springs to life. One becomes two. Two becomes ten. Ten becomes one-hundred." We're already at two. So just how long until we reach one-hundred? And perhaps more importantly, is there anyway to bring this back to zero? Sadly, I don't think we can.