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Nickel and Dimed at the Online Store

An in-depth roundtable discussion on the growing used games monetization problem – and its solutions.

Jesse: If a gamer is going to have to purchase an additional $10 online code to play the game online, then the used price should be lowered. 

What surprises me is that GameStop hasn’t moved to a tiered trade-in value system. Here’s an example: Mortal Kombat contains a code that can be redeemed to play online and it is very easy to see if it’s been used (you have to remove cardboard overlay). If a gamer trades in a copy of the game with the code still intact they should be given a higher value than someone who trades in the game without the code. This should also translate to how much the game sells for as well. Gamers could choose to purchase a used copy with the code or without.

IMO this practice should also be extended to trade-ins that don’t include manuals or original packaging. I hate that GameStop charges the same for a game that only has the disc as a game that doesn’t, but that’s another conversation all together.

Esteban: I'm afraid that is wishful thinking on your part Jesse. While I agree that trade-in values should be corrected to take into consideration online passes, not every market is in a position that they can do this. Nor would they want to. They're still making their money either way.

What's really disappointing is that there's an additional fee for buying something someone else already had. I understand that publishers want that extra money but this business model doesn't work. When was the last time you bought a used CD of Aerosmith's Pump from a pawn shop or something, popped it into your CD player and realized that you can't hear "What It Takes" because you need to pay an additional two dollars to hear the last three songs of the album? That's essentially what this online pass is doing.

What also needs to be taken into consideration is that there aren't going to be new copies around forever. Eventually, stores stop stocking certain titles because they're old or they didn't sell well. A used copy will be your only option. EA sports titles' servers go out in two years so that may not be a big problem but if I want to buy Mortal Kombat on the PS3 in four years from now, I'll probably will have to buy a used copy. So now I have to also pay for the online pass just because a used copy wasn't available. Why am I being punished (essentially) for waiting? Maybe I didn't have money to buy the game when it was new. Maybe I didn't have the console. This online pass idea lacks forethought and publishers need to think of some other way to make money because this only hurts their titles, similar to PC DRM but that's another discussion.

Jesse: See, I don’t think the music metaphor works in this case because the markets are completely different. There isn’t the ‘used’ music market in the same sense that there is a ‘used’ video game market. Sure, there are the random mom and pop stores that sell used CDs and records, but these are so few and far between that they don’t have any real effect on the industry. With video games it’s different. There’s a GameStop in practically every mall in America and the used market has grown so much that even mass retailers like Best Buy and Amazon are starting to get in on the action.

The only market that is remotely similar is the used car market but as I said earlier there is an inherent loss of functionality or value when purchasing a used car that isn’t present when buying a used game. Online passes serve to create that loss of value.

As far as old games that you can’t find in stores anymore and have to buy used, I’d bet dollars to donuts that the servers have been taken offline at that point. I can still find many PS2 and Xbox titles for new online so a game has to be pretty old or pretty unpopular to go out of print so fast that it would make a difference.

Esteban: The thing is that new copies of the game are not readily available. Maybe you can find a new copy online but those uninitiated in such practices will be forced to get whatever version they find at their local Gamestop. So they'll pay that additional fee because they couldn't find a new copy and were uninformed that they could find one online? Also, to reiterate, the sports pass makes no sense. Popular or not, those servers close after a couple years.

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10/25/2011 at 09:11 PM

Jesse- it's funny you mention that the used price should be LOWER if an online pass is required to play it.....just today I was scouting the Gamestop site for a used copy of Battlefield 3, and the used pricetag (for ps3, at least) is 49.99.

Is this a taste of things to come???

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/25/2011 at 11:57 PM

That's probably what newer releases should be used to begin with. It's a good start, anyway.

Jesse Miller Staff Writer

10/26/2011 at 09:12 AM

It very well could be. The blessing in disguise could be lower used game prices for gamers that couldn't care less about online content. My worry is when games like the new Batman have single player unlockable content that actually ends up being a good chunk of the game.


10/26/2011 at 01:47 PM

Agreed. The entire 10 dollar headache in order to use Catwoman is absurd....she's a significant portion of the game, and easily one of the most anticipated characters in AC by fans. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside knowing that GameStop is going to do a solid and give that access to those who purchase used. BTW....if either of you guys need NOS codes for a Batman Beyond skin, let me know via PM @ 1Up, I'll shoot them to you directly. I drink NOS every day.

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