There are always multiple ways of looking at a problem. The entertainment software industry sees the used game market, embodied by GameStop, as a bad thing. As THQ’s Cory Ledesma put it in an interview over at CVG:
We hope people understand that when the game’s bought used we get cheated
And Penny Arcade got in on the act and made the “used games = piracy” association.
I wrote 1,500 words on the subject, but tossed them because in my mind it all comes down to a simple choice.
You can say “screw you” to those who purchase the used version of your game, as THQ did in that interview:
I don’t think we really care whether used game buyers are upset because new game buyers get everything. So if used game buyers are upset they don’t get the online feature set I don’t really have much sympathy for them.
Or you can figure out how you can turn them into a customer. Here is somebody who has an interest in your game. Getting that far is most of the battle.
Couldn’t you just tell them that if they want to access the online content they need to enter the code that came with the box, but if that code has been used or missing, they will have to purchase a new code for, say, $10.
$10 seems like enough to keep from rewarding the market from buying used.
Sure, you’d want to tinker a bit with what people got. Maybe the original code gave you a little something extra, some sign that you didn’t buy used. But you would want the second-hand purchaser to have access to all the functionality.
But if you work that out, it makes that person your customer in fact. You made a sale that had very little overhead, the customer having provided his own box, disk, and manual. It gives your marketing department another name and email address. And I am going to guess that a certain percentage of such buyers will feel invested enough to buy your next game new.
It isn’t that I think THQ’s point of view is not legitimate. They do have a point.
But is their response necessarily the best one?