It's not a surprise, but it is still aggravating.
Ayep, we're back to this topic ... again. I've already made plenty of commentary on used gaming and the back and forth between the industry at large and the players, but when stuff like Jameson Durall's recent article, entitled "I Feel Used" hits the internet I feel motivated, nay, compelled to talk about it. Again I realize that this mostly isn't going to be anything new, and that it's also rehashing what the majority of people have said in response to his posting, but still I'd be remiss if I didn't say anything at all, and I hope to add a little more to the arguments myself.
For those that didn't wish to peruse the article linked above, Durall basically feels jilted that the used game market exists. He claims that, "what most consumers don’t realize is that every time they buy a used game, there is ZERO money making it back to the Game Developers." And he briefly touches upon what some of the solutions to the problem might be: DLC, purely digital media, and of course thanks to the recent Xbox rumours the idea that a console will be made that prevents used games from being played.
Like I've said in the past, even if I can't (and rightfully don't) agree with the stance that the industry takes on used sales, I can at least see where they're coming from. The thing about Durall's comments though that I think has caused such a response (at the time of this writing some 440 replies and coverage on major sites like Destructoid) is that it comes off as really condescending to the gaming public at large.
Durall makes statements like, "Personally I think [a console that doesn't play used games] would be a fantastic change for our business and even though the consumers would be up in arms about it at first…they will grow to understand why and that it won’t kill them," and "People often don’t understand the cost that goes into creating these huge experiences that we put on the shelves for only $60. They also don’t seem to realize how much they are hurting us when they buy a used game and how pirating a copy is just plain stealing. Maybe something as simple as educating them could help solve the problem…"
These kinds of pronouncements make it seem like the average gamer -- especially the used one -- is something akin to a puppy that needs to have his face pushed into a puddle when it makes a mistake. What he's either ignoring or conveniently glossing over is that this dog bites back, HARD.
We live in a more technological and consumer savvy time than ever before; people might not know exactly how much work goes into making a triple A or even any large console title in general. Here's the rub though: they don't care. Why should they? It might sound cruel, but the market is fiercely competitive and even without used gaming people aren't going to stand for too much crap before they start looking elsewhere or even worse: stop looking entirely.
Consider this: if the next generation of consoles sees the release of the next iterations of the Xbox and the Playstation at the same time and one plays used games and the other doesn't, which is going to prove more popular? Certainly each console will have people that will buy it regardless, the diehard fans and the people for whom it might not be a big deal, but if you've been on board with Microsoft for the past two generations but at the same time a staunchly used gamer and their next console prevents that, then what are you going to do? You either buy the rival console, wait for the console you like to be hacked so you can play used, or you just don't buy at all. Any company that alienates a rather large chunk of their own userbase isn't exactly making a good business decision, but it hardly stops there.
Durall noted above that gamers need to be "educated" about the problem of used gaming. Well, in turn I believe that the gaming industry as a whole needs to be equally educated about the kind of crap that drives people to used games in the first place. I'm talking about stuff like $60 for a ten or fifteen hour gaming experience if you buy new, as opposed to that same amount of money buying two or even three used games. Going beyond that, what about the games that cost just as much money as the big name titles, but are nothing but poorly designed shovelware for the most part; look at half the literal garbage on the Wii, look at the vast majority of movie tie-in titles, does the industry honestly think that we should buy these titles knowing that the work is often shoddy and the development cycle rushed? The industry as a whole needs to stop asking why people won't pay $60 per title and start asking what would make them pay.
A price drop on physical media certainly can't hurt, but I'm honestly afraid that it wouldn't probably help unless it was truly substantial: used game sellers are going to undercut the new price either way, so it winds up mostly being a self defeating proposition. As I mentioned above putting in things to stop used gaming entirely is just going to further enrage and ultimately alienate the very public that ultimately decides whether or not you get paid, so what is there to do?
Here's a drastic thought: the game industry needs to listen to the people that drive it forward. Rather than say "well, used gaming is bad and you shouldn't do it" they need to ask the used gaming community what factors -- besides price point, obviously -- play into people determining whether or not they buy games used. There needs to be an actual dialogue established here rather than both sides ranting and yelling past each other.
Durall states regarding used gaming that, "In the end, I fully believe that we have to do something about these issues or our industry is going to fall apart," but I think that at the rate things are going that the industry might inadvertently trigger the very doomsday scenario that it so desperately wants to avoid, all because they think that they know what's best for us and that we shouldn't have any say in the matter. I just can't help but wonder how many sales will be lost, how many amazing games won't be made, the magnitudes more that won't be played, and the amount of gamers that will turn away from a hobby they loved, before the industry realizes that it sawed off its own foot to spite its little toe.