The games industry has declared a state of total war against the pre-owned market... and us gamers are being caught in the crossfire. Publishers tried to use the carrot of launch DLC and pre-order bonuses to tempt us away from the high street, but as I sadly had to point out in a previous article, we simply aren't the valued clients that we used to be. We're the enemy to them - brainless cattle at best - and when the carrot failed, the big stick was trotted out in short order. Us gamers just can't be trusted to buy new games at retail, reckon the cadres of executives, and it's up to them to make the choice for us.
Online Passes, one-shot codes that unlock multiplayer functionality, are here to stay for the time being. After EA started the ball rolling, many of the major publishers have followed suit - with the most recent being Ubisoft whose Uplay Passports will launch with the release of Driver: San Francisco. Even Sony and Insomniac are getting involved. After all, any company who fails to jump on the bandwagon essentially ends up providing a source of store credit to purchase their competitors' Online-Pass enabled wares. Gamers had the opportunity to vote with their wallets - and the vote was unanimously in EA's favour. We've still got the ability to independently decide whether or not to buy into the system, but frankly, I'm not sure that we have the willpower to do so. No wonder that publishing executives think so highly of us.
But Online Passes look like a blessed benediction from Mother Theresa compared to a worrying trend that's starting to emerge in the 3DS market.
Capcom launched Resident Evil: Mercenaries with one of the most controversial deterrents to have ever featured in a game: perma-saves. Every unlocked character, upgrade, achievement and high score is irrevocably set in stone. It's a a devastatingly elegant way of ensuring that high street retailers will refuse to accept trade-ins, but on the flip side, it also completely removes the ability for multiple players to compete for high scores on the same cartridge.
And we hated it. Not only did gamers rail against the measure in their thousands (with most players simply choosing to ignore it outright), but a number of stockists followed suit and refused to put it on their shelves - new or otherwise. The word backfire is an understatement of epic proportions... and yet, Namco Bandai has decided to follow suit and test the water themselves. This system is self-destructive, insulting, ridiculous and lazy - especially when companies can just release their wares on the eShop and cut out physical copies entirely - and I can't wait to see where Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions places in the UK charts when it hits the shelves.
We've got nothing against developers making money from their hard work, and this is the logic that most publishers use to justify Online Passes and perma-saves. On the face of things, cutting out the pre-owned market should ensure that the money goes straight to the dev team... though, of course, it's the publishers and distribtors who actually receive it. Whether or not the men and women behind the games actually receive their bonuses on top of their salaries is anybody's guess. It's certainly a much more palatable reason than the transparently stupid excuse that Onine Passes somehow decrease multiplayer server load. I shouldn't have to explain that one - but will happily do so in the comments if you'd like.
There's a bigger picture here, though, and one that many publishers simply ignore. We all work damn hard for our money (hell, even us Dealspwn hacks all have second jobs), and the knock-on effect of demonising pre-owned sales is that it also completely devalues the concept of trading games in. Store credit is often the only way we can afford to pick up pricey special editions or actually buy new games at launch! Decreasing the intrinsic value of games we already own is nothing less than an insult, and a deliberate statement that us gamers are the enemy, not valued clients.
Not to mention the fact that preowned titles give us a means to inexpensively try out a series that we may subsequently buy into. Just saying.
Ultimately, though, the pre-owned war is resulting in a single universal phenomenon that's echoed throughout forums the world over. If publishers are willing to decrease the intrinsic value of their games, we're simply going to wait until they've decreased in price before we buy them! It's a no-brainer. Deal sites like us wouldn't exist if this weren't the case. If games aren't going to offer bonuses for purchasing them at the full RRP or ensure that they actually provide appropriate value, why pick them up for £40? Naturally, if the pre-owned market does go belly up, titles may hold their prices much longer... but an equally likely suggestion is that price wars between retailers will be much more aggressive than ever before. Frankly, I'd suggest that an industry-wide price cut would be just as effective as any of these trade-in deterrents... because we're just going to end up spending less anyway.
Right, rant over for now. Let us know where you stand!