The concept of property rights is one which our entire society and its history is based off of. The Enlightened thinkers of the 17th and 18th century looked to the monarchs of Europe and saw a disproportionate amount of power and property concentrated into the hands of people who, quite frankly, deserved none of it. These men sparked a rebellion in North America in 1775 and ignited continental Europe shortly thereafter, this revolutionary inferno torching the existing order until it was extinguished in 1848.
Obviously we are dealing with matters of less dramatic consequence, but this issue of online passes cannot be solved until we answer a basic question with regards to this very same issue: when we pay $59.99 for a game, do we own it? Or are we just renting it?
If we are merely renting games for such an exorbitant price, then let EA and Sony have at it. However, if this is not the case, and I’m paying that sort of money on anything, I better be getting every single portion of it. And if I so choose to sell my property I have already paid for, EA and Sony can go screw themselves for all I care.
People mainly focus on the buyer-side of the used games market, how they must pay more due to what essentially amounts to a forced $10 surcharge in order to receive the full contents of a game. This is not without merit, but what of the seller? Not of Gamestop, but of the individual, whether he is selling to Gamestop or to a colleague? If I find myself discontent or displeased with a particular piece of my property, and I so wish to sell it, these companies have explicitly gone out of their way to make sure it is devalued below whatever the used market may sell it for on its own.
These companies have made my game less valuable so they can make more money off the property I have already paid for. Talk about sticking it to the consumer.
To these companies, you are renting their games. Under this logic, they can lock whatever content they so wish and charge further premiums on it. The online pass is analogous to the on-disc DLC – it is the progression of this insidious practice due to its complacent support of so many consumers. First they locked outfits and colors, and now they are locking entire sections – a shocking surprise indeed. Yet many see both as such fabulous developments. They defend them so bitterly:
“It is their game, they can do what they want.”
…Is that so? So this receipt was just a complimentary bookmark when I bought it?
It is the right of consumers to buy games below their MSRP, and to not support these companies if they are trying to peddle a game for more than it is worth. This is a basic function of market economies, and it is one of the few says we consumers have in such a highly controlled and monopolized industry such as ours. Duke Nukem Forever is not worth $59.99. It’s not worth $9.99. You could give me $9.99 with the game, and I’d still feel like I didn’t get my money’s worth.
Yet if a consumer has an interest in a game but disagrees with its pricing, in the market we are heading into he would have no recourse of action against the situation. Why do we allow publishers to set the price of their products with such rigidity? Why must we wait for them to allow us to buy things at certain prices? I thought the market was supposed to set prices? It is entirely antithetical to the capitalist ethos and the market economy as a whole.
These companies should get paid for their work. Except they already have, which goes back to the original, central point: do we own our games or not? I already paid for the disc and its contents. After that exchange, it is none of their business what I do with what I own. Publishers want to keep making money off of a product they've already made money off of, demanding a cut each time it is sold without any additional work.
Now sure: I don’t own the servers, which cost these companies money to operate and maintain. They could, theoretically, sell me a game with online multiplayer, without a pass, and simply not provide any servers, leaving me to resort to LAN fixtures or to try to corral their stupid AI offline. That is technically their right as well, since I am not paying for the cost of these servers in my purchase. It is a fair point.
I’d just be interested to see how many copies of Modern Warfare 3 will sell in November if Activision were to come out tomorrow, announcing to the world that they would not be funding its online operations due to the competition of second-hand software sales.
Something tells me it wouldn’t be very many.
We let these companies get away with so much bullshit. Of course, these are very trite and almost laughable complaints and inconveniences when compared to more serious issues – these truly are First World problems, so to speak. But there is plenty of room to discuss multiple grievances in an entire day. The rights of consumers, including their property rights, are not colossal endeavors which consume considerable amounts of time in comparison to, say, human rights.
The online pass is corrosive and denigrating to every ideal we base our economy on. These companies want a market for themselves and something entirely different for you and me. At the end of the day, this practice is simply not in keeping with how we, as a people, do business. Either I own all of a game, or I own none of it. You’d never open a box of Legos only to find a third of the pieces missing, available upon mailing an additional $7.99 to the manufacturer in an effort to combat people buying sets used instead of new.
So why the hell do we think it’s alright when EA and Sony turn around and do the very same thing?