August 31, 2009

Stop Being Greedy Video Game Business!

Will the video game industry listen to me?  Nah, I doubt it.  

Some of you may be aware that in the video game industry a war is going on between the developers, publishers and designers of video games and the used game sellers.  Apparently a lot of people in the game-making business think that they should make profit off of used video game sales.

Um, excuse me?

This is the system they want to implement, and I will try to explain this with an example...

A game development team, let's call them Team Every Penny or TEP, makes a video game called Awesome Ninja Ducks.  They develop it and then distribute it to game sellers across the country, including Best Buy, Toy's R Us, Target and other similar stores.  These stores buy each copy of Awesome Ninja ducks for 55 bucks.  They can't mark up the game too much if they want customers like me to buy the game, so in stores Awesome Ninja Ducks is priced around 60 bucks.  In this process, TEP has earned 55 bucks per unit sold so far.

I decide to buy Awesome Ninja Ducks.  I pay 60 bucks for it, giving the Target I bought it from a mere 5 dollar profit.  Remember, they had to pay 55 bucks to put that game on their shelves.  I play the game for a month, but after a while I've beaten it twice and I'm not as into it anymore.  I don't want it to waste space on the shelf, so I decide to sell it back.  Let's say I go to Gamestop for this purpose.

Here's where it gets tricky.  I sell it back to Gamestop for only 15, but they sell it for 35 bucks to some guy named Doug.  I make back 15 bucks for selling my game, and Gamestop will sell my used copy of Awesome Ninja Duck for a $20 profit from some guy named Doug.  TEP will expect a kickback from Gamestop for selling a used game that they helped create, oh let's just say 25%.  So really, because TEP wants to continuously get paid for the game they produced every time it's sold, they'll get 5 bucks from Gamestop when they sell the used version of Awesome Ninja Ducks, giving Gamestop only 15 bucks profit.


Can you see a problem with this?  The game Awesome Ninja Ducks exchanged ownership at least four times in this scenario: 

 TEP-->Target-->Me-->Gamestop-->Some guy named Doug

TEP have every right to sell the physical copy of Awesome Ninja buck for profit when they give it to Target, but why in the world would they have any reason to get money from Gamestop when TEP doesn't even own the game anymore?  Gamestop owns the game now, not TEP, so TEP has no right to the profits.  Unless of course they want to act like the mob and "protect" Gamestop from "dangerous people", which of course is super illegal.

A lot of people in the industry don't see it that way.  They still see the game as their property when Gamestop sells it, so why shouldn't they get a kickback?  Recently David Jaffe, developer of God of War and Twisted Metal, has gotten into some hot water for not only argue a point I find extremely flawed, but not arguing his point well.  In response to people sending him tons of logic, he has seemed to shut himself away from the internet.  Way to show 'em, Jaffe.  He and a couple others are making the industry look horrible by not only making them look greedy, but ignorant and stubborn as well.

The problem is that a lot of the property that publishers/developers/designers complain of owning and hence wanting profit from is not the physical ownership of a game disk and case, like me buying a copy of Awesome Ninja Ducks.  They're talking more about the intellectual property that they have created, i.e. the characters, story line, setting, engine, etc.  But that doesn't work the same way that selling the physical game does.  You essentially are getting paid for letting the company use the idea in the game that they will produce.  The people at TEP get paid for their ideas and the development of them, they are not getting paid for the disks that they don't physically produce.  So no, TEP doesn't own those disks as they travel from hand to hand.  As soon as TEP sells those disks to stores like Target, they no longer own the disks.

TEP, however, can still make a profit on the ideas.  If another company, lets say Break In Games or BIG, has a lot of money and would like the rights to use the content for Awesome Ninja Ducks for the sequel, TEP can sell those rights for big profit.  And companies do that all the time.  Does it mean that BIG will make Awesome Ninja Ducks 2 a better game?  Hell no.  It does mean that the first selling of the original Awesome Ninja Ducks is not the only way TEP can make a profit.

In conclusion, the video game industry needs to get over itself and realize they have no power over the used game market.


  1. As you say, it all comes down to the fact that stores like GameStop, Games For Less and others are making bank off of used games and the industry wants a cut of that sweet, sweet cash.

    Nice blog, btw!