News

Game makers create incentives to buy new over used

Victor Godinez
The Dallas Morning News (MCT)

Game publishers and developers have long been frustrated by their inability to get a cut of used game sales at retailers such as GameStop.

Rather than just complain, though, game makers are now starting to provide gamers with incentives to not sell their games at all or, at least, not buy used games.

Shacknews recently rounded up some of the goodies in upcoming blockbuster games that will only be available to owners of brand new copies of those games.

For example, each copy of Gears of War 2 will ship with a unique, one-time-use code for downloading extra multiplayer levels.

Once the code has been used, subsequent owners of that copy of the game will be unable to download the levels.

And NBA Live 09 will include a similar free, one-time code for accessing daily roster and stat updates.

If you buy a used copy of NBA Live 09 and the previous user has already redeemed the code, you'll have to pay $20 to get the updates.

Game industry experts used to wonder whether downloadable games would undermine brick-and-mortar retailers.

In other words, once publishers start selling their games only as software files that you download directly to the hard drive in your console or PC, there won't be physical copies that you can take in to GameStop to sell.

But an entire game file is now so huge (potentially dozens of gigabytes on a Blu-ray equipped PlayStation 3) that selling that game as a pure download would dissuade all gamers except for those with the fastest Internet connections.

By disabling certain parts of the game for second-hand buyers, the publishers don't have to wait for super-fast Internet connections to spread.

The question now is how gamers will respond.

If game makers now make it standard practice to eliminate some of the features that used game buyers have come to expect, then I expect game sales will simply drop.

That's because the people who buy used games likely don't have a ton of extra cash to spend.

So if a gamer who normally buys discounted used games now decides to buy one new game to get all the features he wants, he'll buy fewer used games.

The makers would probably be happy with that result, since they get some profit from that one new game, whereas they get zero profit from every used game sold.

It's also possible that used game buyers will stop buying used games in protest or buy the used game but do without the disabled features.

All in all, I don't think these efforts by game makers are going to garner much loyalty from gamers, but if they add to the bottom line, the game makers probably won't care.

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