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DICE: Blocking Used Games Would Promote Diversity

It seems like everyone is weighing in on the used game debate these days.

The latest is interim DICE CEO and Battlefield 3 executive producer Patrick Bach, who in speaking to CVG discussed the pros and cons of a next-generation console that blocks pre-owned games.

On the one hand, Bach says it's a loss if this "only means you'll be able to get fewer games for the same money," but it could also be a good thing, as "a lot of companies making games today are struggling based on second-hand sales." And getting rid of used games may also help promote variety and diversity; Bach argues that a lot of online-based games are very popular as are multiplayer-oriented shooters.

"So on the positive side you could see more games being created because of this, and also more new IPs, because there'd be a bigger market for games that don't have for instance multiplayer. There could be awesome single player-only games, which you can't really do these days because people just pirate them, which is sad.

From a gamer perspective, if you want to buy as many games as possible then this could be a problem, but if you want more diverse games then it's a more positive thing than negative. The only thing I know is that people are not doing it to be evil and stupid, it's about trying to create some benefits for consumers."

There are arguments for both sides and you can bet we'll hear plenty from developers and publishers in the future. However, just bear in mind that most analysts agree that next-gen consoles very likely will not block the playing of pre-owned titles.

Tags: used games, preowned games, used games market, dice

5/2/2012 10:32:11 AM Ben Dutka

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Comments (43 posts)

wackazoa
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 12:05:13 PM
Reply

They should let us rent new games before we buy them...

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xenris
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 12:20:24 PM
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I see where he's going but I think there are some problems with what he's saying. First off pirated games =\= a lost sale, in fact there are a lot of cases where pirated games lead to a game sale because the person just wanted to try it out because there was demo available or they didn't know if their pc could run it. Also a lot of the time the person who pirated the game wasn't going to buy it anyway. CDProjekt said something similar in an interview, while they lost about 1 million copies to piracy they expressed they couldn't assume that those were lost sales. Notch has a similar view to people pirating minecraft.

From personal experience, I buy single player games and trade them in in order to help me fund other single player games. If I couldn't do this I can't count how many games I wouldn't have purchased when I was younger and didn't have a stable job or high income. So I think used games can have their place and even help makes sales that otherwise wouldn't have been possible.

However I do support this model as I have a huge library of games on steam and you know what I don't technically "own" any of them. I rely on Valve to keep their servers up so I can download them again if I reformat my computer or if I get a new one. I'm basically renting the games for life. However steam has some really good features, like you don't need a constant internet connection to play games in your library. Because they have such good security if you have it in your library chance are you got it legitimately. This means your not locked into a terrible system that relies on a constant internet connection for games that don't need it, or even worse making developers shove unneeded multiplayer into their games as a sort of DRM method. Steam also has frequent sales, fast patches and updates, and a wide variety of genres.

If the next consoles want to do this, they need to follow in Valves footsteps as Valve is obviously the only company doing DRM right. A lot of my PC gaming friends hate all forms of DRM even steam, but honestly as long as the company doesn't up and leave its the best way to prevent piracy and give the consumer games and a lower price because its all digital. Thats the other thing, if games can't be sold used or go all digital I would hope that the price drops. As there is no middle man, no retailer and no shipping costs, they should give the consumers better prices. Games could 9.99-49.99 depending on the size and scope of the game, that seems reasonable to me.

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Highlander
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 1:22:53 PM

Xenris, The financial numbers do not lie. Piracy hurts the industry, pure and simple. There may be individual cases where someone buys a game after playing a pirated copy. But those cases are in the minority.

Used games sales similarly do affect new game sales in a negative manner. That isn't so much of an issue for a company that sells several million copies of a game, but for a company that sells a few hundred thousand or less, the impact of piracy and used game sales can be the difference between profit and loss. Loss making devs and publishers tend to cease operation. So anything that upsets the balance of game purchasing hurts smaller devs/pubs disproportionately. With fewer small devs/publishers willing to take risks, and large devs/publishers working on multi-million selling sequels and reworkings, it's really easy to see how diversity can suffer thanks to things such as rampant piracy and used game sales.

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xenris
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 2:31:42 PM

I know it can have a negative impact, but I personally don't think its as big of an impact as its made out to be that's all. All of my friends and people vocal on boards also express that they use the trade in credits at gamestop to buy new games. I don't have any numbers for this its all anecdotal but still I think it should be taken into consideration.

I find what you say the opposite. I only see small devs and publishers taking risks. CDProjekt for example, no DRM still made profit of TW2, not to mention all the games on GoG are DRM free and selling well. Dozens of games on steam, and games in the humble indie bundles. So many indie games do just fine regardless of this. Minecraft is a great example.

DRM isn't the solution, outside of Steam DRM fails every time, and in most cases makes it harder for the legal paying customer.

We also have the first-sale doctrine to look at. We have a right to sell something once we purchase the original legally. They also have the right to make this hard for us sell used games:P

I'm all for them fixing this issue though. However the methods they have tried so far have been pretty terrible. If consoles go the steam route that would be alright. But I get really concerned because if a console sells all their games digitally and you can't sell them or get refunds. They have no competition for pricing like with the PC, so they have no reason not to charge 59.99 even though they eliminated shipping costs, and retail outlets which should reflect the price that the consumer pays.

In theory it all makes perfect sense what this guy is saying. I'm just skeptical that given that position of power companies wouldn't get greedy and start to manipulate pricing.

I do hope they find a fair solution though. As I love supporting developers and people in general who create things that make me happy.

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Highlander
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 3:22:15 PM

Xenris,

The doctrine of first sale applies only to the copyright on the contents of the disc. Software is covered by two kinds of law. Copyright and contract. Copyright law says you cannot make a copy of a copyrighted work, it also imposes resale restrictions that are relaxed by the doctrine of first sale. However that only covers the sale of the physical artifact. The book, record, cd, DVD, BluRay, painting, or whatever. The software on the disc is a physical copy of the master copy. You can buy as many used copies of it as you like under the doctrine of first sale.

But you're still not licensed to use the software. That is the contract law. The doctrine of first sale only covers the physical expression of the copyrighted work. Using the programs you bought a copy of still requires a license.

The license granted to the original purchaser of the game is non-transferable. So technically a used game buyer should seek the publisher and acquire a license to use the software. They will also have to obtain a license or service agreement to use any associated online services.

The doctrine of first sale was never meant to cover virtual items in a digital format that does not in any way deteriorate over time with use. Books and all the other physical expressions of a work do age, used copies are therefore considered inferior to new. This is the balancing factor that protects content creators. The doctrine of first sale was designed to protect consumers against over zealous copyright holders. But it also created a situation where the rights of both consumers and creators are balanced because of the physical nature of the copyright works that were considered when the doctrine was laid down.

The digital real is far different. If the item never deteriorates and is always perfect, there is zero need or incentive to ever buy new. In fact even BluRay discs upset the balance because they are so difficult to scratch, so a used game on BluRay is often as pristine as a new copy. That doctrine of first sale however doesn't apply in the digital real at all. Considering how easily abused digital copies of things are, it seems quite unlikely that the copyright office would extend the doctrine of first sale to cover digital goods.

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xenris
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 3:37:35 PM

That one little paragraph was the part you chose to elaborate on :P

I see, I guess I misunderstood some of what I thought the First sale doctrine was, thought it was the right to sell what you purchased after the initial sale, at least thats what I remember from school although I might not have been paying much attention :P Learn something new everyday :) But what makes it legal for gamestop to sell used games? Or is it technically illegal? Or is there just a loop hole in the system that allows this?

My main point though still stands, I don't trust that if they had complete control over the retail or digital market that we would see cheaper more diverse games. A good example would be most of EAs origin. There new games go for 59.99 which is the standard price for console games sold in a retail outlet. But considering EA owns origin and that is all going in their pocket, they have sort of proven that they want to keep the prices the amount they are no?

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Highlander
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 10:31:31 PM

As far as I understand it the doctrine of first sale is called that because the copyright holder has the control over the first sale, but not the sale that follows. So Gamestop can resell, because the copy has already passed beyond the control (for resale purposes) of the copyright holder. Clearly they cannot copy it since that would be a direct infringement, but they can resell the physical article, much like a used book store does.

Your point about publishers having control over both retail and digital distribution is a fair one, except of course they really don't have control over the retail space. That said, the examples you use are all large devs. Much smaller teams live in a vastly different world.

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Axe99
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 10:37:56 PM

When you say Valve is the only one doing DRM right, you should take a look at GamersGate as well ;). Unfortunately these days, your average PC gamer is just as (and in some cases more so) poorly informed as your average console gamer, and many just follow the standard line on things (ie; Steam).

As for piracy, the main reason why consoles rode over the top of PCs in the late 1990s and first half of the 2000s was piracy. In some niche areas, there are loyal enough fans and not enough casuals for piracy to have a significant impact, but for the vast majority of PC games, piracy hurts, and hurts significantly. I know from industry insiders, though, that many of the worst pirates are in the industry (which would explain some devs taking a much more relaxed line), so maybe it's just karma....

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xenris
Thursday, May 03, 2012 @ 8:31:28 AM

Highlander

I meant more if they went digital only and there were no physical copies left they would kind of have a monopoly in the console retail space. Unless consoles become more like PCs in the future but we're seeing them go the opposite direction.

CDProjekt isn't really that big though right? I find indie devs seem to be able to do quite well even despite piracy. This is on the PC I'm talking about, and I am sure there are companies that suffer though, and it seems like its a bigger problem for the consoles maybe? However indie devs are usually using Steam as a method to sell their game which is a form of DRM so maybe thats why they don't suffer as much.

I do find it interesting games like sniper: ghost warrior selling pretty poorly manage to get sequels. But I guess that is a case of how much money was spent to make the game, how big the team was etc.

Axe99

I was not aware of Gamersgate, just checked it out now. What is better about it that Steam, I see the coins system as a cool way to reward players, other than that it has the same pricing as steam from what I can see? Do Gamersgate give the devs a better cut than steam?

I use another site called...Getgamesnow, which I find has some pretty ridiculous deals sometimes. I support GoG whenever I can as they don't even have DRM and I love supporting that website.

Honestly, I think following the standard and using steam is still much better than following the standard and buying games from gamestop. Devs get more money from steam, and are able to get patches out really fast and easy.

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Highlander
Thursday, May 03, 2012 @ 10:18:02 AM

Xenris, the exception does not prove the rule. One or two examples of how diversity triumphs against piracy does not alter the general picture. Congratulations to those devs and publishers that do have success. However I think the more general picture is far less encouraging.

With regards to digital market places. I do think that consumers will have to accept that use game sales are not possible in that space. There really isn't a way to justify reselling a digital copy of a game as used, it doesn't make any sense within the realm of copyright law simple because there is no physical expression of the work, and every copy is as pristine as the first.

I don't believe that publishers will act altruistically and lower prices in the digital space because of this, at least not until consumers demonstrate their unwillingness to play by those rules. The trouble is that more piracy (which I think is likely in that potential future state) will simply bring more oppressive DRM schemes.

I think we are likely to see something similar to the Ultraviolet digital locker system implemented in the video game world where all digital is a reality.

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xenris
Thursday, May 03, 2012 @ 3:06:53 PM

I don't see why they would make more oppressive DRM styles. Everyone knows that pirates get around that really quickly. I think game prices would drop quickly if everything was digital. Most people are pretty vocal that if everything was digital, they expect prices to go down by a noticeable amount. Not to mention if they didn't lower the prices people would just turn to piracy which might make the game companies problems even worse than before.


I think another thing that would work is if they had your register your key to a game that was linked to your account. The account is something you use on your console but it isn't linked to that console. Otherwise you would be screwed if it broke. But once you use the key, your free to play that game on your account regardless of what system your on. I think that is something that could work for consoles. This is similar to steam, and could integrate cloud into the equation so you wouldn't need memory cards if you were going to a friends.

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Highlander
Thursday, May 03, 2012 @ 3:40:31 PM

Xenris, read up on Ultraviolet and the digital locker, it's a cloud based approach that uses an encrypted key as a prove of purchase. You buy once, and play anywhere that is covered by Ultraviolet. So you're not locked to one console, so long as you have the key, you can play the content wherever.

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xenris
Thursday, May 03, 2012 @ 6:05:39 PM

That sounds like a great alternative. I would be for that.

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Squirrelicus
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 12:50:58 PM
Reply

Digital DL of BF3 is $59.99. So much for DL being cheaper.
The thing the developers are missing is in order for someone to buy a game used, someone had to trade in a copy that they bought new. Which means they didn't like it.
So in the case of Battlefield 3. Someone at some point bought the game with a certain expectation and the developer failed to meet that customers expectation. So if DICE produced a better product the used games sales would be slim.
Granted they can't please everyone and it's unrealistic to expect any game developer to produce a completely bug free product. But handing over all your servers to (1000 ticket Gulf of Oman only) D bags with $60, waiting 5 months to patch the product and waiting 8 months before releasing the first set of truly new DLC you deserve to lose sales to the used game market.

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Geobaldi
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 1:11:03 PM

You can get the DL version of Battlefield from Amazon for $39.96 and has been that price for a little while now. There are others that have it about the same price and cheaper from time to time.

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xenris
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 3:39:27 PM

True Geobaldi, but Origin is owned by EA and there new games go for 59.99 which is more than typical PC games go for. Not to mention they get all of the money you would think they would charge like 44.99 or something. I could see that creating a huge amount of sales for new games.

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Axe99
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 10:43:43 PM

At launch, on Steam, DLs are not cheaper (nor are they on most platforms). People look at the price of classics on Steam, or smaller games (the equivalent of PSN releases), then infer all Steam games are cheaper. Now that PSN is getting a decent back-catalogue of full games, were starting to see prices of the older games get closer to their equivalent on Steam (and newer games are normally pretty close to identical). Which is what you'd expect to happen in the marketplace. If you take into account the full range of retail options, Steam has never been materially cheaper than PSN, other than its ridiculous Summer and Christmas sales. At those points in time, it has a definite edge!

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ThePoetRazel
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 12:58:11 PM
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It's funny that he mentions piracy as the lack of used games would likely increase piracy. Perhaps the fact that so many gamers are not willing to pay the full rrp is an indicator that those games are simply not good enough to shell out that kind of cash on. People are generaly willing to pay when the content is worth it. Why is it that amoung other art forms saying that a product is mainly found preowned is saying more about the low quality of the content yet with video games it's assumed to be the consumer's fault?
A lesson in economics might just teach these companies how the free market works.

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Cuetes
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 12:58:34 PM
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You could make an aurguement that used games also promote diversity. Im not one to jump on one side or another on this subject but I will state the obvious: developers and publishers will always say stuff like this, they want more money and on the same token customers will fight this cause they want to keep money in their own pockets. Its a two way road, sadly thats never gonna change.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 1:04:27 PM

I'll make the point for you. Mirror's Edge didn't look like my kind of thing, to test it out I bought it used. Now I'm hoping a second one is made that builds on the first. If that happens, they could have a sale coming that never would have before.

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Underdog15
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 1:50:40 PM

I liked Mirrors Edge because of the free demo. And I didn't even have to leave my couch or spend money to see if it was my thing.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 2:01:34 PM

See, I hated the demo. I had to play the whole game to like it.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 1:02:09 PM
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I'm surprised someone this high up in the gaming biz is so delusional.

If every game has to sell brand new, we are less likely to see diversity and innovation because developers know they will have to pander to the mainstream trends to get that $60 whereas the inclusion of used sales disseminates original games and new ideas throughout the gaming community, opening gamers up to new franchises.

I think you'd see fewer new IPs, and hey EA there isn't any piracy on PS3. Eyes on the prize boys.

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Geobaldi
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 1:20:46 PM

There is piracy on the PS3, it just isn't as mainstream since it's harder to do. But pirated PS3 games are easy to find on disc and for download. And some of the hacking programs have already been updated as of last month.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 2:02:29 PM

I assure you the instances of piracy on PS3 are so minute as to be insignificant in sales versus possible sales figures.

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Highlander
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 1:36:19 PM
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Piracy and used game sales do directly affect the bottom line for publishers and developers. To deny that simple fact is highly delusional.

A larger developer/publisher who is responsible for a multi-million mainstream seller is affected by such things as well, but the far larger sales of their mainstream game cushions them from the blow because the revenue numbers are not so sensitive to the impact of these things.

If you are a developer/publisher of a title that will sell say 200,000 copies, you might just see revenue (assuming 200K copies at full retail price) of about $5 million. If the game cost a couple of million to make, and another million to produce and market, the total profit for the game could be as little as $2 million, split between developer and publisher. What if they don't sell 200k copies at full retail, what if it's a budget title at $49.99, then they will see less revenue. What if it's a PSP or Vita title and sells for $39.99. Total revenue on 200,000 sales even at full retail would only be about $3.2 million. If piracy and used games cost the publisher a very modest 10% of the sales, the impact would be swift. suddenly instead of $5 million, or $3.2 million, they are making $4.5 million or $2.9 million. If the game cost $2 million to make and $1 million to publish and market, that's only $1.5 million in the case of a game selling at $60, that will be split as profit by the publisher and developer. For a game prices at $49.99, there'd only be $600,000 profit, and a PSP/Vita game would be a loss maker.

Ok, I pulled the numbers from thin air - to illustrate the point. Smaller devs and publishers might sell 200,000 copies of a game. But even a very conservative estimate of lost sales due to piracy and used game retail can easily make the difference between profit and loss.

You can't deny how much more vulnerable small devs making more niche games are to anything that negatively affects the number of copies sold. This is where diversity is being and will be lost.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 2:04:37 PM
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You're going to see more of this unfortunately, the war on used games will soon attempt to divide us by calling used game buyers pirates or guilty of piracy.

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Highlander
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 2:33:11 PM

No, buyers of used games will not be called pirates because they are not. They legitimately pay for the disc. Copyright law covers that. What copyright law doesn't cover is the license to use the software. Buyers of used games are not pirates, but they are probably unlicensed users of the game.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 2:46:00 PM

Unlicensed user, sounds like an interestingly divisive euphemism.

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Highlander
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 3:09:14 PM

It's not an interestingly divisive euphemism, it's a perfectly valid, brief and factual description of such a user.

Games on disc are covered by two types of law. Copyright and the contract law relating to the license you agree to. The copyright law has a provision for resale under that wonderful doctrine of first sale. It's a precedent rather than something that is actually written into the law. But it essentially means you can resell and buy the used game disc.

The contract law relating to the license is different. The license is non-transferable, meaning you can't sell it or transfer it to another user. So when you sell your game disc which you are entitled to do, there is no problem. When the buyer buys the disc, there is no problem. But as soon as they install and play the game, they are using the game without purchasing a license to do so. They are unlicensed.

Pirates copy games, they are also unlicensed, but copyright theft is clear cut. With the music and movies industry acting against copyright theft, there is already law and precedent covering acts of such piracy, or copyright theft. So organizations tend to go after the copyright theft rather than trying to prove unlicensed use.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 5:55:02 PM

Accurate characterizations of this type are rarely devoid of negative connotations meant to smear people who haven't done anything of a malicious nature.

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josiahlo
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 8:33:01 PM

Yes and this is a reason the makers want to go digital completely sooner than later. No used game sales at all. If there are no disc drives in the consoles then this discussion will be meaningless because digital sales have no used option. If Sony and Microsoft can do decent sales like Steam then sign me up. If not I will just continually wait until games become in my price range.

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Highlander
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 10:32:37 PM

You know, I do so love the way people think that thumbing down a factual assessment somehow means something...

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DjEezzy
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 3:24:47 PM
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I think that if they come out with consoles that block used games, it will alienate a large amount of people. At that point whats the point of having a console when you can get a pc that does the same thing plus more. I'm not a pc gamer at all, but this is the way they are going pretty much. I mean there really isn't much that will distinquish a console from a computer at that point. I can't see why either console maker would really care about this anyway. It doesn't seem to me that sony would be losing out because activision isn't making their money off of used games or EA for that matter. I could be totally wrong and i do understand that there are 1st party titles that they are losing money on. Either way, there are so many good games coming out as it is. Do we really need that much more variety? Most people have problems keeping up with all the big releases as it is. To me, they are not thinking about this from a consumer standpoint at all. Which isn't really surprising because they want as much money as they can get for what they are doing as developers. From a business standpoint it makes sense i guess. I just dont think they are thinking of the consequences that may arise because of this. Seems like all they see is $$$$ signs and that is really unfortunate. I mean look at the backlash because mass effect 3 had a bad ending. I can't even imagine what people would do if they screwed a large group of people out of their hobby.

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JackDillinger89
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 5:47:08 PM
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I support mr Bach statement if these single player only games arent a 10-12 hour experience. I want single player games with replay value like rpgs etc. Most used game sales are mostly single player games or average at best reviewed games so i really dont buy into what Mr Bach is preaching.

On the flip side i mention repeatedly in my past post i always buy games new even thought i am %200 against blocking used games from being played on next gen consoles, but i do sell them when i beat em and/or lost interest in playing them.

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JackDillinger89
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 5:53:39 PM
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Ive yet to hear activision complain about the used games market is hurting them lol

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 5:55:44 PM
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Console that block used games might drive people to PC where they can pirate more easily.

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SnipeySnake
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 6:40:20 PM
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I'd be fine with consoles blocking used games if
1)The game is tied to your account so you can play it at a friends house by simply logging in his/her console.
2)If a game stops getting printed it should be put up on PSN or something with a discounted price so that you can still get the game somehow. I usually buy a game used when I can't find it new anywhere else.
3)There should be a demo for every game that comes out.

Last edited by SnipeySnake on 5/2/2012 6:44:09 PM

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Veitsknight
Thursday, May 03, 2012 @ 1:07:00 AM
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I'm gona say people who pirate will continue pirating and people who buy games will no longer have a cheaper alternative which will force them into piracy. YAY! The game industry is killing itself!

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Highlander
Thursday, May 03, 2012 @ 10:19:48 AM

you do realize that to a game publisher, there is zero difference between a pirated copy and a used sale? The publisher sees zero revenue from either transaction. To them, in effect they are the same.

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___________
Thursday, May 03, 2012 @ 4:39:25 AM
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funny how they see the oh but publishers will make more money so they will be more confident to do new IPs side.
but they fail to see the people wont be able to afford them because they spent all their money on the last new game they bought so there will be no one to buy the new IPs, thus being back at the same problem!
not exactly a solution now is it?

also what garuntee is there that publishers would use said extra funds to fund new IPs, or SP only games instead of just another multiplayer game like we already had?

this is EXACTLY why we NEED another video games crash, and NOW!
companies have become so f*cking greedy, watch the industry crash and burn, developers closing doors, publishers closing doors.
watch the tone of "waaaaaaa we only sold 1M units".
turn into "oh thank god we sold 1M units!".


Last edited by ___________ on 5/3/2012 4:41:09 AM

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79transam
Thursday, May 03, 2012 @ 9:12:15 AM
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Why do I have a feeling that if the used game market went away prices would go up and not down. I still think the devs need to build into the game an activation code that needs to be entered in order to play. Charge 5-10 bucks for each additional code. I can say that I got into the PS3 late, I bought uncharted used which led me to buy uncharted 2 and 3 new. I think the used market has a place it just needs to be made more fair.

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Bariikade
Thursday, May 03, 2012 @ 1:11:10 PM
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If they band used games on consoles then when a company stops manufacturing a game we'd never be able to play them, you'd have to hoard all your games as well and be careful in picking games you wish to play because you won't be able to sell them again because who's going to buy (company or otherwise) a game that doesn't work? More bad than good if you ask me.

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