I am happy to say that heated discussions on a website have contributed to critical thinking, instead of turning into ‘which side will say Hitler first?’, and I have had some time to refine my position on used games. When it comes to a stance on the subject, I think that used games are probably more harm than good, but I don’t want to get into that, I just wanted to give my position some background. When Satan Himself decrees some change in a gaming policy (microtransactions/DLC/competitor to Steam/Jacuzzi reserved explicitly for people who play Madden), the same sentiment comes up: “Yeah, well I will buy the game used! That will show them!”
XKCD - Doubly relevant, because this one is titled “Duty Calls”
So first, why is this an argument? It implies that by buying the game used, they will not receive the profit from the game, but you will still play it. There are two things that get me worked up about this particular argument, three if you count the fact that it just rubs me the wrong way - it just comes off as immature name calling for some reason. Oh yeah well....Peter Molyneaxue, you aren’t invited to my birthday party. Suck it Fable!
First: Wouldn’t it make a bolder statement to not ever play the game? That way the publisher/developer can’t say ‘if not for used games and piracy, we would have sold more copies’, instead they have to say ‘oops, looks like that game was kind of shit.’ Actually, they totally could, but there would be a better foundation to say that they are full of crap. In addition, it pushes a philosophical message, that you are willing to take a stand against their practices enough to not play that game at all. Shopping at whole foods instead of rifling through the trash at McDonalds to eat a hamburger that came with onions DESPITE THE FACT that you asked for it without onions....Yes, you can help me, by getting your shit together JANE.... because you are vegan. Sorry, I am bad at analogies.
Second, the tasty onionless meat of my thought process: The Profit. If you buy a game used, the publisher/developer cannot possibly get the profit, because the profit all goes to GameStop or an independent Amazon seller, right? I’m sure it isn’t 100% (taxes, stocking, etc), but that statement is more true than false. So the next question should be...then what?
For sake of argument, assume you purchased a shiny used copy of Call of Duty 7: Terrorists With Angry Turbans game used at GameStop. Your money is now Gamestop’s money, used to re stock their game wall with new releases, to pay money for further trade ins, and to create advertisements that could compete with both Quizos and the PSP squirrels at the same time for ‘shittest advertisement for a decent product’ awards. Now, I don’t have Excel, so I can’t produce a fancy pie chart, so imagine the below is relevant. Pick your least favorite publisher/developer, and spin the wheel of faith, and pretend like that is their percent market share.
You didn’t really spin it, did you? You know what? Forget it man, the moments gone.
If EA controls 20% of the market, then when you buy a game used, 20% of it goes back to EA when GameStop stocks back up. Then another 15% for Ubisoft. Then 10% for Activision. And way, way down at the ‘Jedi’ percentages shown above, there are the indie studies who are the only people with their head a sufficient distance from their taint for you to buy a game new. So at the end of the day, the people you support by buying used, at a supply chain level, are the people who sell the most games...who are the biggest publishers, pushing out Maddens, Call of Duties, and Half Lifes, or whatever the kids play (not that there is anything wrong with any of those games, by the way...popularity is not always condemning the game as crap). Yes, by buying that used copy of Nier, you accidentally supported Call of Duty. SIKE.
May or may not be actual boxart
Now this goes back to my first point: what if you had decided to take a stand on your convictions, and not support whatever it is you are boycotting at all? Instead of buying games from EA used, why not -* dramatically trite gasp*- buy games from their competitors, or from an indie studio NEW with the money instead? In the example above, let’s still say that you purchased Nier new (because it breaks my heart that more people didn’t). Gamestop probably only had a few copies of the game in stock, so maybe your purchase pushes them to order another shipment. The money from that shipment goes back up the supply chain when they order more to a single publisher/developer (grandiose assumption number 7 of this article, but it sure sounds right in my head)
So why does nobody post in an article: instead of buying Dead Space 4: Necromorph Dance Party (better with Kinect), I am going to buy five copies of Braid? My best guess is because as much as you don’t want to support their business practices, they still make too good of a game that you cannot actually pass it up. It will eat you up inside to not know how Mass Effect ends, to the point where you have to balance your insatiable desire to play it against your weak stance against a publisher/developers decisions. It is having your cake and eating it too.