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Sony looking into charging second-hand buyers for online play. Fair deal, or massive rip-off?

The second-hand market is a tricky beast to tackle. On the one hand it's every gamer's desire - and right - to pick up a bargain-priced slice of digital delight. But at the same time second-hand game sales mean than an increasing amount of players' purchases are of no benefit whatsoever to game developers' livelihoods. With game budgets spiraling this generation and game studios dropping out of the industry like rot-riddled teeth collapsing out of a tramp's mouth, loss of revenue is obviously a big problem nowadays.

Rather than try to stamp out the second-hand market altogether, the current flavour-of-the-month strategy within the industry is to monetise online play for second-handers by including single-use online access codes in game boxes. The idea is that when the original buyer has used the code, subsequent owners will have to buy a new one if they want to take their play to the tubes. EA is already using the model, but it could be set to become a much bigger phenomenon. Because Sony has revealed that it's thinking about implementing it too, for its first-party titles.

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe President Andrew House has told that the House of Sackboy supports third-party publishers' use of the system and is exploring the option for its own content. However, he also said that a blanket charge for all online play was something that Sony would "struggle with", due its pride in the PSN's free-to-use policy. Sigh of relief.

To me, the online pass idea currently seems the best compromise for all concerned. However much we might not like it, game developers do need to be paid, whether we choose to buy our games at full-price or not. If that doesn't happen, studios disappear. Or games get more expensive. Or both. Whether you balk at the idea or not, I think allowing discounted second-hand sales to go on while recouping a small amount of cash for online features is a pretty fair deal, and realistically, something that's necessary for the health of the industry. And it's infinitely preferable to the hideous Kotick-touted idea of online subscription fees by default. That one would go down like turd-cake on a hot day with already-paying Xbox Live users.

But what do you reckon? Is the online pass idea an insidious money-grabbing affront to a free market? Or a fair compromise for the benefit of gamers and game makers alike? Let me know.

Topics

Sony

60 comments

  • MaelstromKING - August 28, 2010 3:11 a.m.

    What if you buy a game and you want to take it over to your friends house so he can see what it's like? You're basically screwed unless you planned to bring your PS3 to lan?
  • pin316 - August 27, 2010 1:53 p.m.

    Isn't this illegal in a lot of countries though? I'm not sure of the intricacies, but it is a consumer right in a number of countries that once the customer buys a product, that prodcut is then theirs' to do with as they wish (under the restrictions of copyright etc, obviously). If that person then wishes to sell the product they have every right to do so. Ignore places like gamestop for a minute, and just think of the most basic option - I sell my copy of a game I bought new to a friend after I have finished with it. That person is entitled to the product that I sell, and I am entitled to sell the whole of my product. If you compare this to the rest of the consumer industry, it would be like a car manufacturer somehow making it so that if a car is sold on past the first person who buys it the wheels all fall off, not due to wear and tear, but specifically designed to do do, and you have to pay the car manufacturer to fix it... Or for a really similar example; a hollywood studio selling dvds with a feature whereby if the film is sold on, half of the chapters are locked and you have to pay them to watch the rest of the film... In both of these cases, i doubt anyone would dispute the fact that this sort of thing would be illegal, so why are games companies being allowed to get away with it? Don't get me wrong, i support games developers and would much rather see them getting paid than places like game, gamestop etc, and i buy over 90% of my games new. I just don't believe that this is the right way to do it as it breaks basic consumer rights. Devs should set it so that they receive X percent of used game sales, or something else along those lines. The real problem isn't second-hand sales themselves - those open up gamers to new experiences/franchises/studios etc and can encourage future sales - the problem is greedy retailers paying a fraction of what the game is worth to the public, and then selling at a huge profit. I get the impresion in a number of places in the UK that retailers actually encourage people to go second-hand rather than by new, as they make a bigger margin of profit that way.
  • gamewriter - August 27, 2010 4:50 a.m.

    i was thinking of going to buying a playstaTION BUT IF INTERNET IS NO LONer going to be free then no way
  • jackloder - August 26, 2010 3:51 p.m.

    This is a fair deal as the prices are low but what if you go over to your friends house with the game and play on his PS3 then you won't be able to play online.
  • bigmonsterguy - August 26, 2010 11:56 a.m.

    This is Disgusting. reCAPTCHA: ///zzzzz\\\, i think
  • reaperman22 - August 26, 2010 10:55 a.m.

    I see what they are doing it for but i think it can be better compromised by inserting exclusive content for the new buyers, that way people would be more enticed to buy it brand new, if they went with the charging for online plan i personally probably wouldn't pay unless i really badly wanted the online for a game, not that it would really matter to me as i buy most my games new anyway
  • KFid - August 26, 2010 5:32 a.m.

    I'm fine with it, mostly because I feel that everyone should get paid for the work they do. I look at the online pass as a way to make up for the dicking over that devs seem to get from all of the big retailers that continuously seem to line their pockets with other people's cash.
  • EnragedTortoise1 - August 26, 2010 1:41 a.m.

    As long as you don't charge any more than 10 or 15 bucks... but idk. If it's a sony first party game with online that I want, then I'll probably pre-order it anyways.
  • mrmorozov987 - August 26, 2010 1:10 a.m.

    I buy practically all my games used, so I'm absolutely for paying for online. Technically, people who say otherwise also support pirating, since both have the same result for the developer: no money.
  • mausjake - August 25, 2010 11:51 p.m.

    It seems that the 360's idea of charging for live wasn't that bad of an idea after all. I'm willing to bet that will keep us microsoft "fan boys" safe. So you PS consumers keep making cracks and we'll all see where your corporation heads over the next few years. I hope they keep your best interest as gamers and fans in mind. I was a PS3 gamer for quite a long time, got a 360 and eventually sold the PS3. And I'm glad I did.
  • BazyLastard - August 25, 2010 11:51 p.m.

    Retailers who sell used games vs. game companies who make them... way to go video game industry! And yeah, if you don't understand how game companies lose money on second hand sales, don't go into business. Oh what the heck I'll try and explain it for you anyway: You operate a lemonade stand and charge $60 a glass (yeah, it's that good). Two people in your neighborhood are thinking about buying lemonade. Hello $120! The first guy buys a new glass from you. Bang $60. The second dude sees it and decides he's really thirsty, it looks good, and he pulls out $60 to buy a glass from you. Woah! At the last second the first dude says, "hey, I've barely drank any of my lemonade and I decided I don't really want the rest. I'll sell it to you for $55" (Yes, he works at Gamestop). And just like that, your $60 sale goes to someone else who didn't build a lemonade stand, didn't buy the cups and pitcher, or the ingredients to make the lemonade. And he certainly didn't invest his own time and energy making the lemonade. And what should have been $120 in sales drops in half. And when the second dude sells the cup of lemonade to his little brother for $50, you have 3 sales, but you've got the profits to show for only 1. Now I'm thirsty.
  • kiwimonster5 - August 25, 2010 10:25 p.m.

    I really hope this doesn't happen, while i do get most games new, and not used, i still wouldn't want to have to pay to play online. I like it how it is now, we play online for free, with the exception of Playstation Plus ( for the people who WANT to pay for an extended experience.
  • Evilsafetyboy - August 25, 2010 10:17 p.m.

    I buy both used and new games. I reserve buying used games for those that didn't interest me from launch and sometimes are no longer available new (some PS2 gems). I mostly buy new games, but do so very carefully: maybe only a few titles a year. WoW gamers have to pay a monthly fee for their games, so I don't see an issue with charging a premium for multiplayer games on consoles. However, I am already paying for internet access and Xbox Live and now I have to pay another fee? Perhaps they can either relax Xbox Live fees or tier-up like PSN, issue credits or exclusive multiplayer content for subscribers. If they start charging for single player, I would expect a resurgence in gamers busting out their old off-grid SNESs, Dreamcasts and PS2s rather than pay. This isn't the local arcade where I pop in a quarter for each play. And the often seen comparison between used homes/cars and video game disks? Apples and oranges. A used console would probably bust before the game itself.
  • geneticallyalteredsupergiraffeejaculatinggrenades - August 25, 2010 9:17 p.m.

    Sounds fair to me. The developers should get paid for their work
  • obie191970 - August 25, 2010 9:04 p.m.

    I have no problem with this whatsoever. And I would rather my money go to a developer than a place like Gamestop. If people want to get mad about something, get mad that Gamestop buys a game off of you for $20 and turns around and sells it for $50. They are the real culprit in all of this.
  • Palitroke - August 25, 2010 8:11 p.m.

    As bad as everyone makes it sound,I don'r agree with them an here is the reason why and I feel that if everyone looks at it from the developer's point of view they would uderstand and I do believe that they are in the right, as a former gamestop Manager I do understand where the game developers come from and the question is: Why should a used game store make more profit on a game that someone else worked hard at and invested their time and money and get away with it? How would you like it as an individual that you spent your time investing your money your time and risk losing it all working hard on building a product, then sold it for what you felt was reasonable and made a small profit from it, just so someone can come sell it again and profit more than you with not even a fracture of the effort you put forth into your product yet they are making more money than you out of it?
  • ZiegZeon - August 25, 2010 7:48 p.m.

    @mevildan Your post popped up while I was typing. You bring a very legit point up. I can forsee a problem will devolpers will get greedy enough to do THAT. (See how Blizzard handles SC2 accounts) and I agree with you here, it needs to recognize the console OR come with 2-3 uses. @mattrickhoffman You win 2k monies, and are absolutley correct. The sole purpose of a company is to make money. I may not agree with Kotick, but he is where he is because he is damn good at his job which has but one goal: To make money. Yes we have companies like Valve that kick ten kinds of ass, but their structure makes them money. You can hate Activision: Their structure makes them money. They say if it ain't broke don't fix it, but lets say 20% of the people playing your game are playing used. Those people gave you no money for the game. So whats wrong with trying to recoup from your product?
  • whiteknight1981 - August 25, 2010 7:44 p.m.

    It isn't entirely the developers fault for the exploding budgets. How many gamers cry and whine that they don't have nice water effects or that they don't have 5 million different voices for their open world games. I mean how many posters throw hissy fits over pop ins or certain textures aren't perfect? The whole car analogy thing is pretty ridiculous anyway. Don't we have to pay to license our cars every year? Though I'm sure someone will nitpick and say "That's what our Xbox subscriptions are for." That money does not go to the developer. It goes to microsoft and to the upkeep of the servers. That's why Xbox live is superior to PS3 multiplayer. And I own a PS3 so that's not fanboyism captcha: edges(N) solhints what?
  • ZiegZeon - August 25, 2010 7:41 p.m.

    @CountZero First off, your "replay value" analogy is terrible. If you buy the game play it for years, you bought the game. Bam. Done. It doesn't matter how long you play it. Sell it to someone else, then they are affected, your point there is moot. And i am force to only somewhat agree with the ridiculous budgets. Ion Storm died off BECAUSE of it's ridiculous spending, so using them as an analogy states that the issue will resolve itself. They also put out poor games. Also, give me a way that they can cut down on costs. It all depends on the developer. Yes, some really do overspend. With others, telling them to spend less will result in worse graphics and gameplay because testing "wont be in the budget."
  • mevildan - August 25, 2010 7:30 p.m.

    How will this online pass work? Is it one pass for one PSN account, or is to one pass for all users on one playstation? If I buy a game, me and my brother can play it online in the same house. He signs in with his account, and I have my own account. Don't tell me this pass system is going to rob people sharing in the same household of online unless they pay extra.

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