Or: The Tastiest Pre-Owned Analogy You'll Ever Read
We're firmly of the opinion that there's nothing wrong with the pre-owned market, even as publishers can't decide whether to kill off used games with online passes or lick serious retailer rim with pre-order bonuses. The internet is awash with half-hearted analogies likening games to used cars, movies and music to prove their point (we've certainly tortured the odd metaphor ourselves) as pundits desperately wonder what on Earth to compare the evolving games industry to. With next-gen consoles and a digital-only future on the horizon, the issue of whether used games have a place in the new world order has never been a fiercer talking point.
Personally, however, I tend to abide by one simple rule. A tenet to live by, a fundamental truth that explains why, in the grand scheme of things, pre-owned games have every right to exist.
Videogames are not sandwiches.
A sandwich, no matter how delicious it is, has to be literally consumed. You'll engage your maxillofacial muscles, reduce the moist bread and filling into bite-sized chunks, before enjoying the glorious taste sensation and calorific content. Sandwiches have little intrinsic value (beyond a particularly lovely four-level club I still fantasise about to this day), and once you've eaten it, it's gone forever.
Sandwiches therefore don't cost very much, because you have to destroy them to enjoy them. There's no pre-owned sandwich market, because such a thing would be pointless. And unhygienic. Deeply, deeply unhygienic.
As we've already established, however, videogames are not sandwiches. They're not destroyed in the act of consumption, instead, they persist eternally as a work of art with massive intrinsic value. If you buy a boxed game, it's also a physical commodity; a tangible thing that has both real and artistic value even after you've played it. As opposed to a wrapper full of crumbs and bits of picked-out tomato. You wouldn't sell your crusts, but why shouldn't you be able to lend or sell your games to whoever you see fit?
So, sandwiches are out as a decent analogy here. As are, I'm afraid, used cars and movies. They both have their merits, but they're very different markets, and much more established than our young and ever-changing industry. However, there's one form of media that has a lot to teach the publishers of today.
Videogames are not sandwiches. But they have a lot in common with books.
Like games, books don't spontaneously combust after you finish the final chapter, and you certainly don't have to eat them. Once you're done with a novel, you can lend it to a friend or sell it on at a boot sale without ripping out the last hundred pages until the new owner pays $10 to Penguin. Their publishers don't ask you to sign up to a subscription service, create an account or otherwise inconvenience yourself with DRM. After all, it's a work of artistic expression that will last as long as the ink remains unfaded, the same as a physical copy of a game. It's your property, yours to do with as you see fit.
Books also have a successful digital market that mirrors the digitally-downloaded games scene. If you have a Nook or Kindle (for the record, other e-Readers are available), you can pay for a digital copy of a book that's often tethered to an account. Like games, you'll pay for the convenience, and won't mind that you're not receiving a physical copy. But if you decide to buy an actual, physical book, you're buying an object that can later be sold off at a second hand bookshop... or perhaps, given to your kids years down the line. Again, they won't have to pay for an online pass to read it.
The pre-owned market will have to adapt to many changes over the coming years, the switchover to fully-digital future chief amongst them. We're not sure whether used games as we know them actually can survive, and last year's European court ruling muddies the water yet further.
But until we actually have to start putting our games between two slices of bread and scoffing them down with a light smearing of mustard, we're not entirely sure why we shouldn't be able to sell them on. Stop grasping, dear publishers, and actually give us a reason to buy them new instead.
Gosh, but I'm so damn hungry. I should really stop writing articles at lunchtime. Stay tuned next week for "Why Videogames Are Like Brazilian All You Can Eat Steaks" [NO, go have some lunch Jon - Ed].