Pre-owned games- royalties vs. loyalties

A majority of the video games I owned are pre-owned. PS2, 360, Wii, DS, PC- when I walk into a game shop I tend to gravitate towards the pre-owned section before the ‘new’ section. Like a lot of people out there, I can’t afford £30+ for every game I want to play. “So wait until it comes down in price,” I’ve been told. All well and good, and in some cases it is worth it. But what about games like Legend of Zelda- Twilight Princess for the Wii, which is still retailing at roughly £30 brand new after 3 and 1/2 years?

I recently pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition of Alan Wake– a double win for me, as I’ve never longed for a game enough to pre-order it. And yes, I will obviously be paying the full release-day price for it. But with the undercurrent of hype for the game, I feel justified in spending a little bit more to be able to get while it’s hot. From the sound of things, a lot of people have been doing the same, meaning that Remedy Entertainment and Microsoft Game Studios will be getting a very tidy royalty sum.

But it was an article I spotted yesterday that made me review my own collection of pre-owned games. Eurogamer‘s short piece spells it out in layman’s terms. EA Sports will soon implement a ‘Online Pass’ system to allow gamers to access online content and, in some cases, online multiplayer. Which is fine if you’ve bought the game brand new- but means all pre-owned buyers will be relegated to offline play and denied extra content. Unless they spend extra money on a separate Online Pass to activate the content.

From a business standpoint, it’s a good initiative. A business needs to protect its revenue, and a developer/publisher’s income primarily comes from royalties of game sales. Buying a game brand new gives the maximum amount of royalty money to the publishers; but a pre-owned game brings in less money. Less desirable from a business standpoint, as co-founder of Blitz Game Studios Andrew Oliver outlines.

If this feeling holds true across other developers and publishers, we may well be seeing more ‘first-owner bonuses’ like EA Sports will be rolling out with the release of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 in July. It will be interesting to see if the move has an effect on pre-owned sales; as Andrew Oliver says, gamers buy a game new and finish it, have no desire to replay it, and so decide to sell it on to fund their next purchase. Gamers may be less inclined to buy pre-owned if they have to fork out more for the full content, meaning that the copies will sit on the shelves where they will either gather dust for a while- or may force sellers to lower the prices in order to make the bundle of ‘pre-owned game plus online pass’ more reasonable for those looking to pick up a second hand copy.

For now, I am more than happy to be a primarily pre-owned games gal.
And will probably be stuck to my 360 for most of the weekend running round Bright Falls with a flashlight.

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~ by Tegan on May 12, 2010.

2 Responses to “Pre-owned games- royalties vs. loyalties”

  1. According to the MCV posts I keep Reading everywhere publishers think that pre owned is a bigger problem than piracy because they don’t get anything for these subsequent purchases. Hopefully the games industry will have more sense than the music industry an instead of trying to keep the Market how they like it they’ll adapt. Offering additional online content makes sense if you can purchase it later as a new owner of the pre owned disc and it allows publishersto extend the shelf life of their games by adding additional content without having to develop and Market a brand new game.

    • I completely agree. Home entertainment has never been a one-owner industry; music, DVDs, games, everything* eventually fails to interest the original owner any more and so they sell it on.
      DLC is a great idea; case in point, I enjoyed Fable 2 enough to purchase the DLC of Knothole Island; yet the game disc itself was pre-owned. They still got some of my money- admittedly not as much as they would have done if I’d bought the game as new- but the game worked for me so I was willing to invest in it.

      *The obvious exception to the ‘everything’ is collectors editions, in many cases.

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