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Post by Steve Farrelly @ 12:26pm 15/07/11 | 15 Comments
A few years back now, there was a bit of worry creeping through game publisher camps regarding the pre-owned gaming sales business. How could publishers regulate one-off sales when fickle gamers were actively trading their games in for other new games, leaving publishers out in the cold with no remuneration for selling their game in the first place (please imagine a sarcastic tone in my voice while reading this).

"I know!" someone, somewhere, proclaimed. "We'll create an online pass for first-time owners and a one-off digital fee for used games buyers to be able to go online and play the multiplayer portions of our games."

This happened, much to the chagrin of gamers, who clearly believe that once an item goes on sale, and is subsequently bought, it no longer belongs to its publisher. That's surely the free-market at work, right?

Wrong. The online pass system is spreading through the gaming industry like widlfire, with Sony announcing plans to adopt it last week, and today Ubisoft, who plan to introduce it properly with the release of Driver: San Franciso later this year. It comes as no surprise as the model, popularised by EA, is proving lucrative enough which even prompted Ubisoft CFO Alain Martinez telling investors last year they'd be "looking very carefully at what EA is doing regarding the $10 solution, and will probably follow that line sometime in the future" (thanks EDGE).

online passubisoftsonyeawarner brostrade-insused games

Latest Comments
Posted 01:35pm 15/7/11
Edit* - knee jerk comment.

sometimes I wish I got into building model aeroplanes or some s***. Publishers seem so intent on extorting the very people who enable their industry to thrive.
Posted 01:00pm 15/7/11
I don't get why people have a problem with this.
Posted 01:16pm 15/7/11
Nah but when I buy a car from the manufacturer I think that when I sell the car it won't be exactly identical to a brand new car of the same model, I expect that the buyer will be able to identify a clear difference between a new car and a second hand one and that they will be aware that the products are not the same. Nor do I expect to be able to sell the car for near on the same price like EB do with second hand games.

They aren't stopping you from selling it secondhand like you seem to be suggesting at all, they are simply competing with the secondhand market by adding in an incentive to buy new over old. If this upsets you I wonder how you are going to react when you find out you can't sell any games in your steam account or music in your itunes account. That is actually stopping you from selling secondhand yet people seem to happily accept it.

Edit: Thanks Steve, now I look like a crazy person.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 01:21pm 15/7/11
It's more a concern that, in order to play multiplayer, in a product built with it from the outset, you need to pay a fee to do that if you buy the game second-hand, or are even given the game by a friend or something for free. I don't really see a need for large publishers to do this... it's just a desire on their part to cash in on another user-generated aspect of the industry
Posted 01:37pm 15/7/11
They aren't stopping you from selling it secondhand like you seem to be suggesting at all, they are simply competing with the secondhand market by adding in an incentive to buy new over old.
My issue is that that incentive is not bonus functionality, but functionality that has been removed from the product that you've paid for.

IMO, it all ties in with the same bulls*** excuses for publishers not supporting third party dedicated servers.

Publishers justify these 'incentives' by saying that they are trying to cover the costs associated with operating the servers and support required for their multiplayer service, but screw that for a joke, if their games supported an open dedicated server model, they wouldn't have to incur that cost at all. Because if their game is fun, then the players and third party internet hosting companies will happily operate and bear the costs of the servers themselves. There's plenty of history that proves that.

The only value-add that might be justifiable in that respect are the stat-tracking and leaderboards services, in that they could charge people a fee if they wanted to be ranked in that. But then nobody would, so if they want to charge, their only option is to remove key features from the primary retail product to offer as a value-add after the fact.

It really doesn't sit right with me. If you purchase a product like that, you should be able to onsell it without any lost functionality. This is one of the main things that concerns me about Steam.
Posted 01:53pm 15/7/11
How does the pass work. After putting the key in, does the multiplayer bit get locked to your machine/console? Or do you have to create an account for that game/publisher? Cause I certainly don't want to have a different account for every freaking game!
Posted 01:56pm 15/7/11
Parabol: It generally activates the game's online functionality within your account with that publisher. So it's not a matter of a separate account for each game, rather a separate account for each publisher (or they might use unified third party ones like Games for Windows) etc.
Posted 02:20pm 15/7/11
It seems pretty clear to me that it's their way of competing with the secondhand market of the major retail chains. I don't think it's a particularly consumer friendly way of doing it either but I 100% support their right to do something about it. People who lend/give or privately sell games are certainly getting the short end of the stick but it's because of the actions of major retail chains like EB and Game that try to push secondhand titles over new that this action is occurring. I much prefer the one off DLC key approach than the online pass to be sure but people complain just as bitterly about day 1 DLC so they are never happy.

I can't think of any industry where there is no practical difference between secondhand and new and they are sold in the same store. I mean JB doesn't have a stack of secondhand movies and music for sale but they do have a large amount of secondhand games. They are directly competing for sales against their own product and all they are doing is artificially creating a difference between old and new.

As with all things, if you don't like it you can vote with your wallet but personally I blame the major retail chains for this situation rather than the publishers so I never buy secondhand from them in the first place.
Posted 02:45pm 15/7/11
I don't get why people have a problem with this.

Pay your money to toyota for your 20yo corolla you buy your son when he hits 16 and starts his learning to drive.
Posted 02:46pm 15/7/11
But why does it matter if a store is selling secondhands copies next to new ones? It's digitally media, the only difference is going to be the potential for some slight wear.

A game that gets re-sold is a game that someone didn't enjoy enough to hold on to. Clearly the solution then isn't to penalise future recipients of that copy, but to make games that the original buyer doesn't want to part with in the first place.

Can you imagine the uproar if a music publisher told secondhand buyers that they'd have to pay them a dollar to unlock the tenth track on their CD if they wanted to listen to it, otherwise they only get the first 9 tracks. S*** wouldn't fly. But for whatever reasons gamers put up with it.
Posted 02:52pm 15/7/11
I don't get why people have a problem with this.

10$ more is f***** s***, along with the 15$ dlc packs it makes the game well over 100 to buy if you actually want to full game.

Remember when you got a full game with multiplayer included for x$, now its here is 1/4 of the game for 100$, oh did u want to play online, another 10$, so you have finished it now... want to play the other 3/4 of the game content, well thats just another 2 dlc packs at 15$ each.

+ what happens if the multiplayer is pathetic, like heaps of games lately, and you pay 10$ and there is no community or its just straight up s***?

Also, does this mean that if you buy a 2nd hand game you just dont get multiplayer? or do you transfer the multiplayer card number (or is that associated with ur console?) or do you have to pay another 10$ to get another online card
Posted 03:17pm 15/7/11
I disapprove of this.
Maybe publishers should produce quality games with a good shelf life and they wouldn't have to worry.

I'd like to see some statistics;
Who buys 2nd hand games?
Does a consumer purchase a 2nd hand game, than buy the sequel or DLC packs as 'new' when they are released?
Are the games being bought 2nd mostly Console, PC or both?
Are the games being bought 2nd hand have little or no Multiplayer.

They should look at the data properly instead of just looking for the quickest way to make some money, they will ruin the gaming industry more if they did this.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 03:52pm 15/7/11
I think there's a model for DLC (in staying with the expanded price beyond initial buy argument), provided the game, as Mosfxx points out, has a good shelf-life.

In my opinion Mass Effect 2 and Fallout 3 and New Vegas have great models for this. Though I'm happier to hear Bethesda Game Studios' Todd Howard would rather lean towards more substantial DLC, akin to old-school "expansions" for Skyrim - so less smaller, and only a handful post-release, but much more substantial in what they offer. If they can do this at a price-point that I believe is in line with the work put into it post-release, I think that's a good option for adopters.
Posted 03:56pm 15/7/11
Mosfxx: No company would ever introduce such a thing without ever doing research beforehand.

Sc00bs: I think you misunderstand how it works. When you buy brand new you get a coupon for free, but once it's registered to your account with the publisher (EA, Ubisoft, GFWL, etc.) it can't be used again. If you lend the game disc to a friend they will need to purchase a coupon for their own account or use someone else's account who have that particular game registered to it. Likewise if someone bought the game off you.

I'm indifferent about this issue since I buy my games brand new via import or Steam anyway, but I can see why it enrages people. It means potentially more money via a new revenue stream to the publishers, yet no obvious benefit to the customer. What will definitely impact me is having to create an account and provide details to every publisher - especially in light of all information leaking due to hackers (Sony, Sega, etc.) and the fact I'll need to remember even more logins and passwords!
Posted 04:07pm 15/7/11
10$ more is f***** s***, along with the 15$ dlc packs it makes the game well over 100 to buy if you actually want to full game.
I don't think you quite get it, it isnt $10 more for a new game, it's $10 more for a second hand game, the online pass is included in a new game.

I kind of wonder who this will effect though, it's probably only going to catch out "noobs" who go into eb of jb and see a second hand game for $5 cheaper then get home and realise its missing online, but this would be as much the second hand retailers fault for not disclosing the differences.
I think this will just make second hand games $10 cheaper on the shelf than they are currently, and as for resale price everyone always complains how eb screws on trade in anyway, it's not like theyll start making you pay them to take your old games?

I think people it will screw over completely though are multiple player households that want individual accounts/stats.
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