Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is out in stores today and I was quite looking forward to buying it. My 3DS is finally getting some attention after a post-launch release drought and I was hoping to keep up the momentum started by Ocarina of Time 3D with Capcom's debut offering.
However, the news that it will contain persistent save data that cannot be reset has caused me to rethink my purchasing decision. After talking to gamers, GameStop, Capcom, and weighing my options, I have decided to keep my cash and wait for something else.
I will respectfully abstain from purchasing The Mercenaries 3D.
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The driving factor of my decision is that I feel I would be supporting a cause I have staunchly opposed for many years -- the fight against used games. I support the secondhand game market because I believe it is ultimately beneficial to the games industry -- I think it helps poorer gamers afford brand new titles with trade-in credit, and I believe it generates greater exposure to an intellectual property, in that those who buy a game used are more likely to buy the sequel brand new if they enjoyed it.
These are long-term benefits to the used games industry, but unfortunately, publishers only ever think of childish, short-term gratification. They want their cash now, and they feel entitled to that cash even after they made an initial sale. Features such as online passes -- that hold content to ransom unless users input a purchasable code -- inconvenience new and used consumers alike, and eventually devalue used games, which could have long-term ramifications on the market. As someone who cares about the future of this industry, as well as consumer rights, I cannot in good faith support any move that fights used games in a direct and potentially damaging way.
Capcom has stated that the used market was not a factor. I can't say I am wholly inclined to believe it because ... what other factors could there be? I'd love for Capcom to set my mind at rest by explaining what DID factor into the decision, but the truth is -- it hasn't. I asked a very direct question while chatting with the publisher -- what influenced its decision to stop consumers erasing save data? My conversation with Capcom ended there. No answer was given.
Regardless of Capcom's justifications, however, the fact is that The Mercenaries 3D does represent harm to the used game market. Reports of GameStop's refusal to accept trade-ins for the game are increasing, and store managers have personally told me that their computers outright block the game from being processed. In essence, this has quite smartly locked The Mercenaries out of the used game market, and could easily inspire other 3DS game publishers to pull the same stunt.
It's not hard to imagine those publishers already fighting used games -- the likes of Electronic Arts and THQ -- are salivating at the prospect of games that are effectively immune to used sales.
Some will argue that, due to the non-linear nature of the game, this won't effect anybody. However, a used consumer will potentially risk buying a game that has all content unlocked, and a range of user-inputted high scores rather than scores set by the game itself. Some of you might not like unlockables, but I know I'm not alone when I say that the appeal of a non-linear, arena-based game like this personally lies in the discovery of new skills and fresh stages, a gradual release of content that keeps me invested in playing, rather than a complete explosion of gameplay with total access from the outset. Some of you might be fine with having all the content and somebody else's high scores -- I am not.
Even outside of that, I know of gamers who like resetting their data. Ars Technica's Ben Kuchera stated today that he regularly starts all types of handheld games again from scratch.
"I wasn't sent a review copy, was going to go out and buy it, but MAN that's just a direct attack on your customers. I can't support it," he Tweeted. "I really like wiping my save game files on portable games to start from scratch. Do it all the time. That makes this a shit deal for me."
I'm not a big data-eraser myself, but I understand why some like to do it, and I totally agree that Ben has a right to be perturbed by this. It's yet another instance of control being taken away from gamers -- a worrying theme of this generation.
Not to mention, Capcom's decision will inevitably lead to an increase in hacking. When you tell gamers they cannot do something, a certain subset of them will invariably take that as a challenge. Every time a company claims that its hardware is impossible to hack, the hackers rise to the challenge and prove them wrong. Capcom blocking the erasure of saved data is akin to painting a great big bullseye on every copy in stores. People will find the exploits that allow them to wipe data, and that could easily open the doors to other types of exploits that publishers won't like.
Ultimately, I'm not outraged by any of this, but after rationally examining the situation, I feel that I would be undermining my own principals if I gave monetary support to a game that directly conflicts with something I unequivocally, proudly believe in -- the importance and value of the secondhand game market. Whether Capcom truly did this to fight used games isn't the issue. The fact is that Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D does have an impact on the ongoing conflict, and as such, I abstain.
I've got too much respect for this industry and its consumers to support something that represents a direct assault on used games.