Last generation saw Electronic Arts launch a crusade against used game sales with a number of cockamamie schemes. After years of DRM, Day One DLC, and Online Passes, gamers rebelled, which was the obvious reaction, and then EA backed down, which was the predictable response. But now, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen is calling used games "an important part of the industry" that helps keeps game prices down, flip-flopping so hard that the impact of his words caused a small-scale earthquake.
"People think about the prices of games based on the fact that they can still return that game and they need a physical disc to do that," Jorgensen said during a UBS Global Technology Conference. "And so that will probably keep the physical business around for some period of time."
What's with the sudden change of heart? Five years back, Electronic Arts, along with damn near every other game publisher, was trying to find the perfect knife to shove into the back of used games and, by proxy, the people who bought them. EA blamed GameStop's second-hand business for its failed franchises and vilified anyone with the audacity to buy something used. Now their Chief Financial Officer is singing their praises like they're the best thing since microtransactions (or whatever Chief Financial Officers get off on).
But if you've been following industry trends, Jorgensen's reasoning makes sense. Essentially, he believes EA can still make money off people who buy things used. "So you might still buy a physical disc," he added, "but you might extend the gameplay on that by 10 or 12 months based on digital extensions to it where all that comes via downloads coming in smaller pieces."
While you might be tempted to stare daggers in the publisher's seemingly hypocritical direction, it's hard to deny that this actually ended up working out for the best for basically everyone involved. After a generation of blaming the gamer for doing what was good for his or her own self-interest, Electronic Arts has actually responded to what the market wants.
People who buy new still get to buy new unencumbered, but they'll be offered more stuff to give them excuses to keep playing. Sure, they'll need to buy said stuff, but so long as the content is worthwhile, people won't complain. Those godless heathens (EA's words, not ours) that buy used also get a good deal, since they're allowed to keep doin' what they're doin' without being guilted into feeling responsible for the death of the industry. Hell, even developers benefit from this; it's hard to justify laying off half your staff after a game ships when you're still on the hook for 12 months of content.
You can already see this in action with Battlefield 4, which offers bountiful rewards for those who sign up for Battlefield Premium. Premium gives players monthly in-game items, all of the DLC, and occasional boosts. In other words, it's stuff that's wholly unnecessary unless you actually want to play the game--something that should help keep this sort of thing in check. If the content was garbage, and the game wasn't good, no one would sign up for Premium. Similarly, because the bonus content in no way compromises or diminishes the core experience, gamers won't be up in arms about being sold parts of the experience that should have been packed on to the disc.
It's win-win, no matter how hilariously hypocritical it might sound. The only real downside here is that we now must think long and hard about what new thing we should now complain about. I vote for goddamn turtles.