Pre-shared games, with @Sebasu_tan


UPDATE: The title should be "pre-owned" games! Don't know why I wrote it as "pre-shared"!

The illustrious Sebastian of A Lonely September and @Sebasu_tan fame has posted an article about pre-shared games which I felt compelled to comment on, aside from the fact the person in question is awesome of course ^^.

The article in question

Titled under New and Pre-owned games… Together, Seb explores the issue of pre-owned games and their potential impact on the gaming industry. He argues (and I hope I'm not mischaracterising his points) that all the profits from pre-owned games are returned to the retailer, with none being rewarded to the original game developer, then goes to discuss the challenges of selling pre-owned games in an era where activation keys are the norm.

I agree with the latter wholeheartedly. To a certain extent with online stores like the iOS App Store, Steam, the iTunes Music Store, the Amazon Kindle store, and so forth, media is tied to a particular owner. The idea of the first sale doctrine that exists with physical media is eschewed (gesundheit) in favour of being "licenced", as such I can't "lend" or sell that media to someone else. It's a dangerous slippery slope, and I hope it's challenged in court more often.

Shock of horrors!

In terms of his former point however, I'm inclined to disagree with my friend Seb here for the first time! Well, only partly :)

I don't buy (if you'll pardon the bad pun) the argument that pre-owned games represent a lost sale for new games, which hurts game developers. Industries regularly trot out figures claiming piracy is costing them trillions of dollars for example, but that assumes that a meaningfully large number of people would have bought the media had they not pirated it. For those with hundreds of movies on hard drives that would have cost thousands of dollars to buy on Blu-Ray or DVD, I doubt this very much.

I think the logic is equally dubious for pre-owned games. As Seb pointed out in his post, given the prohibitive cost of new games, it seems doubtful everyone who bought pre-owned games would buy new copies if the pre-owned versions didn't exist. A few might, but not most.

Sebastian may be onto something though. We have no evidence this happened, but its irresistible to speculate that a couple of the large gaming companies leaned on their distributors and asked them to stop selling pre-shared games. "Nice looking store you got here! Gee, it'd be a shame if suddenly we had to raise our wholesale cost if you won't get rid of your pre-owned games sections! Nudge nudge, wink wink!"

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