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The Used Game Sale Conundrum

Why do game companies feel the licensed products you buy still belong to them after their initial sale?

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. You might’ve heard of it. Releasing today, the arcade style shooter won’t allow players to erase their save data in any capacity. You heard that right – if you purchase this game and want to start over at any point, you won’t be able to. “Well,” you say to yourself, “I probably won’t ever start over anyway, so no big deal.” Until, of course, you go to trade-in the game after you’re sick of it and you’re being offered pennies on the dollar because nobody wants your game used. I’m guessing that’s when some frustration is due to set in.

If it wasn’t clear, Capcom is making a direct attack at the used game market. They don’t like that you can buy their games used instead of new. Why, you might ask? Well that’s simple, they don’t make any money on that sale. So of course, Capcom wants to sell more copies of their game because that will make them more money. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, at the point where consumers are hurt by the decision, it starts to become unacceptable.

In this case, Capcom isn’t just hurting consumers who would prefer to pick the game up used at a discount, they’re hurting their loyal fans who decide to go pick the game up on day one. Everyone who buys the game is left with a gimped copy that can never be returned to its factory settings. Sure, in this particular case, the damage will be minimal because the save data is nothing more than high scores and weapon unlocks, but the point still stands that the game experience is hindered by the choice.

This raises the question: why did Capcom do this? If you ask me, it’s an obvious admission of failure. The game won’t have the legs in the market and they are expecting most people will likely grow bored of it quickly, so they tossed it out in a state where people will be highly motivated to pick up the game new. It’s a slime ball move on Capcom’s part and one that I hope consumers openly reject by either picking up the game at its likely massively reduced used price or not at all.

What’s worse about this game in particular, is that while its content will be new, the game is nothing more than an ancillary mode originally featured in Resident Evil 4, ripped out and stuck into its own game. It already strikes me as a title that was probably a minimal investment for Capcom, so any sales should easily justify it in the market.

Putting aside this whole Resident Evil issue, perhaps a better question to ask is: why do gamers buy games used? I’d think the answer to that is obvious for most cases - it’s a cheaper way to get the game. Given the success of Gamestop, whose primary good is used games, it’s pretty clear that gamers want to buy and sell used games because it saves them significant amounts of money.

Let’s be honest, gaming isn’t a cheap hobby, so it helps to save wherever it’s possible.

Games have only gotten more expensive with this generation and the 3DS is no exception. What would’ve once been a $30 game is now a $40 game, so players have even more of a reason to pursue the game when it hits the used market.

I know that it frustrates game companies that used game sales exist, but the bottom line is that used sales exist in just about every single market out there. Everybody has had to figure out a way around the problem and game companies should too. If they choose to solve the problem at the expense of their paying customers, so be it. But they shouldn’t be surprised when people openly reject their games due to the choices they’ve made.

Of course, it’s only a matter of time till we’re all screwed anyway. Full digital distribution isn’t that far off and when it does come, goodbye used game sales, goodbye trade-ins, goodbye license of the game you purchased whenever companies decide to revoke it. Enjoy a repurchase next generation. The best you can do to fight is boycott products like this and vote with your dollar. Remember, it all comes down to dollars and cents – money speaks louder than words.



Stanton Daries Staff Alumnus

06/28/2011 at 01:45 PM

I pledge to not buy this game!

Jason Ross Senior Editor

06/28/2011 at 02:02 PM

The good part? Anyone who doesn't buy this game because Capcom has disabled save deletion will be looped into the group of people Capcom suggests didn't buy their game because there's just no market for games on the 3DS.

Like how people didn't buy enough Resident Evil Rail Shooters on the Wii.

Joaquim Mira Media Manager

06/28/2011 at 04:22 PM

If only the gaming industry would start their own retail chain. It would solve all the problems they whine about, and torture their clients with. Every used game sales they could ever want would logically revert back to the respective publishers/developers.

Jason Ross Senior Editor

06/28/2011 at 06:56 PM

I still find it enlightening that Honda and several other car companies advertise resale value as a reason to buy their cars. GameStop does the same with Nintendo's games, with trade-in prices far higher than that of other games. As it stands here, with the rising price of individual games, game trades and used sales often fund new purchases. Considering how quickly nearly every game released drops its price on store shelves, early sales are vastly more important than later ones, and a lot of gamers can only afford buying a game on the launch week thanks to trade-ins. I'm not really making much of a well-thought out argument here, more listing a few observations, but I'm sure there's some strong correlations to be found between restrictions of game content and the increase in used games sales. Or at least, there's something like that to be found in a real analysis.

Regardless, it's not like Mercenaries was an outstanding mode to begin with in 5. I didn't play the mode in 4, so I can't suggest an opinion there. Point being, the game is a cheap enough cash-in from Capcom as is. If any gaming player asked me if they should pick up this title or wait for Revelations, the clear answer is Revelations. Mercenaries seemed to be an inclusion to the Resident Evil line just so the back of the box could advertise a few more game modes. I know it has it's fans, but outside the small group who enjoy intentionally impeded movement with a mass onslaught of enemies, I don't think the Mercenaries experience I had would fit too many tastes, really.

Lukasz Balicki Staff Alumnus

06/28/2011 at 09:08 PM

While it won't affect me in a big way since I find the mercs mode in each Resident Evil game re-playable, I doubt that I will get rid of this, then again I rarely get rid of games. I can still see how some people will be frustrated that they can't delete save data.

I think the PSN DRM implementation of some Capcom games is 20 times worse than this anyways.

Kyle Charizanis Staff Alumnus

06/28/2011 at 10:37 PM

So wait...does the "New Game" option just get erased after you save once? Or could you still start a new game but not save anymore?

Anyway, very interesting article.

Joaquim Mira Media Manager

06/28/2011 at 10:38 PM

I was reading some comments on Kotaku about Capcom's public denial that their choice had nothing to do with second hand sales, and one of the comments made so much sense. What if the save file corrupts? You can't delete it, so... lolz?

Jason Ross Senior Editor

06/28/2011 at 11:16 PM

Capcom makes perfect games, Joaquim. Their save files can't be corrupted. No one would want to resell this one, anyway. It's a non-issue.

Matt McLennan Staff Alumnus

06/29/2011 at 11:48 AM

Oh Capcom, you silly company you. Just you wait for my steaming pile of hatred coming soon!

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