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THQ admits used games aren't entirely evil

If you've purchased an EA or THQ game in the past while, you've propably been wrangled into signing up for an online pass to enjoy the full breadth of its online offerings. The system was designed to cut studios in on the used gaming action by charging second users (i.e. renters and used copy purchasers) a modest fee for accessing online content that would have been free if they bought it new.

As expected, this strategy has sparked concerns that studios are taking advantage of consumers, or worse, trying to kill the used gaming market outright. Not so says THQ's Brian Farrell, who has stated THQ recognizes the market's role in the industry, and he'd rather find a way to benefit from it than see it disappear.

“The most important thing is we have to participate in the value chain in used games,” said Farrell in a brief interview with MCV, “We understand, given our focus on the gamer, that consumers like to be able to monetise their game library. So it is an ecosystem between publisher, gamer and retailer that just has to sort itself out."

Farrell added that instead of fighting the sale of used games, studios like THQ need to focus on giving players more motivation to keep their original copies, explaining,  “The bigger win is keeping our gamers engaged with DLC and robust online play, and that keeps the disc in the first purchaser’s hands.”

THQ's online pass appears in the newly released FPS Homefront, in which it charges second users $10 to rank beyond the fifth experience level in the multiplayer mode, and enjoy all of the game's online features.

[Source: MCV]

Mar 17, 2011

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15 comments

  • alphafour - March 20, 2011 12:19 a.m.

    The whole used game market argument on the side of the developers make no sense. I just want to clarify a few points. 1) Developers say they are losing money from sales when people buy second hand games. Rebuttal: They are not losing money because the person who buys a second hand game (as far as I am concerned) intended to buy it second hand from the outset for a variety of reasons be it monetary or other factors. In parallel, the person who buys brand new is doing so with the knowledge that there is a pre-owned version available at a lower price but they still commit to paying the brand new price. 2) Some people appear to say that the developers need to make up "server costs" and that these funds are foregone in the event of somebody buying pre-owned. Rebuttal: Clearly, this is a "one in, one out" situation. In other words, one person buys brand new at (for example) £40 and then they sell the game to somebody else (through an intermediary or other, its irrelevant). The original purchaser is no longer playing the game (assuming nobody pirated the game before selling it) and the next owner buys the game for, let's say) £25. Note that there is still only 1 person playing this game online/offline. The developers are, by logic, only entitled to £40 (their cut of that after shelving discounts etc etc etc let's not go into that) per 1 individual playing the game. The used-game market never posed any more a threat to the industry than used cars do to the motor industry. The developers who put an online pass on their games are effectively getting money that they were not originally entitled to, and the receipt of that money does not follow any logic. Now, it might be better to put forward my opinions on what should be done about the situation. The developers claim that they use incentives to ensure day one purchasers have a reason to buy the game. However, EA's system is not really an incentive system for people who DO buy brand new; rather a simple punishment for people who DO NOT buy brand new. Let's take Fifa 10 for example. Buying the game at full price £40 = the amount of game received (taking into account online and offline features were all available at no extra cost and included as part of the game) is 100% Buying the game at used prices >£40 = amount of game received is still 100% In the case of Fifa 11. Buying the game full price £40 = game received is 100% Buying the game preowned >£40= game received is >100% (depending on how high you value the online features foregone) It is up for debate whether you agree with that but it is logical to say it is less than 100%. I know there are real world examples, although I cannot think of any at this time, of games/systems being sold with "extra" features or physical items. EA did make a half-hearted attempt at this. I was lucky enough to have FIFA 11 bought for me by somebody and I was told that I would be able to get a free "We are 11" tshirt from the HMV from where it was pre-ordered. When I got to HMV (only 2 days after the release) I was told that there were no tshirts left. Although it did say "While stocks last", I would consider it unacceptable as they knew exactly how many people had pre-ordered the game. There should have been some system in place where EA would supply the same amount of tshirts as pre-orders. There was really no other reason to pre-order the game as games very rarely are out of stock like consoles can be. In essence, developers who offer "extra" goodies on top of the 100% product are getting it right. For example, a free figurine or perhaps some "extra" levels (but should not be ones that would affect the full game severely if ommitted). here the consumer would be getting more than 100% of the game in return for their loyalty and their custom. Alternatively, the developers will have to try to make the game so good and so enticing that gamers simply cannot wait to play the game and cannot wait for pre-owned versions to appear on the shelf. This is my take on the subject. Feel free to disagree, use your opinion before you lose it ! ;)
  • Spybreak8 - March 19, 2011 8:21 a.m.

    I usually buy new games and rarely I pre-order as well, pre-ordered Dragon Age 2 to get the free Signature upgrade, but if Gamefly is doing one of their crazy sales I'll be all over that. Also jump on the Buy 2 get 1 free used game sales that Gamestop does online now. I don't like codes, mainly because I don't know if the game will play well on my satellite connection, some games work better than others, so sometimes I don't even try the online in fear of using the code. Shit it's almost like the used book store and the CD in the back that I never opened, It's worth more than that, oh man you're ripping me off...
  • Ninja-Monkey-91 - March 19, 2011 4:06 a.m.

    I can see where there coming from with this and I don't disagree only problem I have is what about those who rent games? Theres no point to them paying a pass for a game they don't own but that shouldn't mean they get left out of the experience.
  • mockraven - March 18, 2011 5:37 p.m.

    @FoxdenRacing Good points, there. I don't generally play console games online so most of my experience is from the PC side of things. Interesting to see how most of the services are provided by third parties (such as Live, as you had mentioned) or the players themselves. Also, I didn't realise that the fees are specifically tagged to individuals and not the machines/tags. Kudos on your research!
  • FoxdenRacing - March 18, 2011 3:31 p.m.

    Guess I wasn't the only one raising unholy h*ll over their practices...glad they're willing to hear, now to see if they listen. Oddly, he made a lot of the same points I did in my letter to them. Methinks I'll try to open a dialog, see if there's not a happy-for-all middle ground to be had. I buy my share of used because I'm late to the party on a lot of things; I have broad tastes in games, and can't afford to buy every game I want to play on Day 1...but when I have the money and I'm willing to buy new, most times they've already been delisted and can't be ordered in. I've been through it half a dozen times already this year. But, I buy new when I can. @Mockraven: Mileage varies based on who published the game. I don't have any firsthand experience with THQ's, but EA's 2nd-gen 'pass' is the worst, hands-down. Complete lock-out, and even with a preordered copy one's siblings/roommates/wife/etc have to shell out $10 each, in stark contrast to Microsoft's "purchaser's gamertag and/or purchaser's console". I imagine Sony has a similar policy for PS3. Ranking servers are all that's being provided...once you connect to a game, it's purely peer-to-peer, no central server involved. Live handles the matchmaking aspect, so it's not even doing that. All the third-party server does is track statistics. Some games, namely the Halo series, store all kinds of stuff...replays, photos, kill-by-kill recreations of games, user-made maps and gametypes, detailed histories...and those servers can eat up a lot of hard drive space, but are still ultimately cheap. I once worked for a website that had over 100 million unique visitors per month, terabytes of hard drive space, 2-3 million concurrent users at all times, and enough capacity for 20 million concurrent. It required about $3000/month in server fees, rented from a third-party. At wholesale [aka owned by the publisher], those fees are easily an order of magnitude smaller; the hardware only needs replaced if it fails, and bandwidth is cheap. The only place game servers *are* expensive are dedicated/persistent worlds. Every MMO has a subscription fee for a reason...those servers cost a mint. What the servers for games like Homefront do any schmuck could set up in his home, though you'll need more than 1 computer on a residential connection to handle the volume of a AAA game. I used to run dedicated servers while I was in college...they're not meaty unless it's tracking a persistent world. I stand by my belief that no gamer is a second-class citizen. There are ways to get gamers to prefer new over used...but the current system simply doesn't work, as it targets the wrong people...symptoms, not diseases. To truly solve it, they're going to need to make games people don't want to sell back. They're going to need to play hardball with the retail giants knifing them in the back. And they're going to have to keep the goodwill of gamers while they do it.
  • Cleanser247 - March 17, 2011 10:24 p.m.

    I prefer buying games new, unless I can't find a certain game, or maybe I'm looking for an older game.
  • HankVenture - March 17, 2011 9:36 p.m.

    I never Sell my games because, well why would I. And I don't buy used games because I have the money and would much rather have a brand new disc and box in my collection, it has nothing to do with bringing down the used game sales.
  • mockraven - March 17, 2011 9:26 p.m.

    I'm interested in seeing how well this goes. It doesn't really bother me that there's a on-time fee for full access their online content if you buy the game used. Something has to keep up the cost of servers, anyway, and if it helps promote the longevity of online services, why not? If there was an additional fee for offline play, that'd be a pretty bad deal; however, it's my understanding that you're paying for the *full* online portion, and not just basic access which is free for people to try and see if they like it. Games are evolving and offering more online content than they used to and something needs to fund that accessibility. My only concern is that, if such fees become common that the online services become and/or remain equally exceptional.
  • IRIsH - March 17, 2011 9:07 p.m.

    I have a vast collection of games and buy alot of new games but have always liked the second hand market, it helps me to build my collection by buying games I wasn't big for on release. The amount I pay for second hand titles vary's and I see the saving as a nice way of keeping some money in my pockets but if I have to buy microsoft points to unlock content where the hell does my saving go.
  • yasmarc - March 17, 2011 8:58 p.m.

    I'm with Celtic on this one. Samsung doesn't make money if I resell my TV so should they put a fee on it to be able to hook into a different house's cable system? Of all the used games I own know how many I would have bought new? ZERO!!! They aren't losing money on used games because they've already made their money selling them in the first place.
  • Larinah - March 17, 2011 8:54 p.m.

    I personally admire THQ for trying to make the best of used games, rather than just complaining that they ruin everything. Between them, Ubisoft, and Epic, I still have hope for the gaming industry.
  • Cruddi - March 17, 2011 8:50 p.m.

    I must admit i feel guilty if i trade in a game with a used passcode... but it's not my fault i can't get a good enough trial to see if i like it or not, but i am hoping Homefront is a keeper
  • celticwhisper - March 17, 2011 8:35 p.m.

    Bingo. Pre-orders and other incentives to make buying new more attractive are the right way to go. We (in the US anyway, laws vary by location) have a right of first sale that states what you buy is yours to resell, period. "Licenses" (oh how I abhor that word, and how the content industry loves it) do not trump the right of first sale. Anything intended to disable functionality in secondhand games is just begging for, and deserves, a great big class-action suit.
  • MrKrunkle - March 17, 2011 8:27 p.m.

    I have always agreed with this idea although I see both sides. If you buy new you should be entitled to everything and if you buy pre owned you should be aswell. However I always remember the potential sales lost on killzone 2 after some stores released it early and people tried to play it online found the servers weren't up and returned the game and then allowing the stores to make double money on the same games essentially.
  • oufour - March 17, 2011 8:22 p.m.

    eh, fair enough. Got to make a profit after all, might as well give some incentive to buy new. I guess Pre-orders are really a way to get people to buy them new as well.

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