Thursday, April 26, 2012

Used games, DLC

Used game sales need to be made illegal. Fair use is fair enough between friends, but I take issue with those who take 100% of the profit from the sale of someone else's intellectual property. These profits belong to the developer/publisher and not passing them along is akin to selling pirate games. The companies who stand up for their "right" to sell used games remind me of the people who scream about their "right" to download things illegally.

The way I see it there is an obvious solution to this-- to have the game stores purchase additional licenses from the publisher to include with their used games. I have heard of game stores buying "online pass" tokens to include in the box with their used games, but the cost needs to be higher for the game store. Don't even get me started at the abhorrent practice of offering a $5 discount off the new price for a used game which then demands another $10 for the full functionality once you get it home. This to me epitomises why game stores deserve to die.

I suppose the main reason this stuff is considered to be okay at all is that we as humans still have trouble seeing beyond physical products. Not that this is surprising, considering how heavily the entertainment industry markets this illusion of "ownership" over the contents of physical media. Selling consumers a feeling doesn't cost any extra but adds immense perceived value to the product, and allows them to go on charging $60 for a pressed plastic disc.

"You wouldn't steal a movie" is one of the catch phrases of the anti-piracy movement. What "a movie" constitutes is left deliberately hazy to encourage people to associate it with the physical media-- the thing we are trained to understand holds the value. If a DVD is worth $20 and a Blu-ray is worth $30, how much is an MKV file worth? How much is an ISO file worth? The entertainment industry has trained us us so well to value the physical medium that we have no concept of the value of the IP once it's divorced from the medium.

This is exactly why "on-disc DLC" is such a reviled concept-- we are being asked to purchase something we have been trained so well to believe we already "own".

There's also the way that video game players do not typically consider a game-related purchase as a value proposition, but just as "omg this is the new hotness MUST HAVE". So when the value proposition is poor, instead of taking the rational route of not purchasing the product, they just let the company take their money undeservingly and whinge that they "had to" do it.

I am the [apparently rare] type of person who is willing to pay more money for a better game. If I already know I enjoy the game, even when the DLC is less content per dollar, it remains a strong value proposition because I already know that I will get good value out of those dollars. For example, I'm afraid to think how many hundreds of dollars I have spent on WoW over the past six years-- subscriptions, expansions, character transfers, extra accounts, and cosmetic extras. But proportional to the amount of enjoyment I have gotten from that game over the same amount of time, I feel that I have gotten extremely good value out of all of it.

I get so very irritated listening to people talk about whether they agree or disagree with the validity of certain types of paid DLC content. They start splitting hairs with assertions like "if it was developed alongside the primary product they should not be allowed to charge extra for it" as if the intention of the developer somehow changes the value of the end product. The sense of entitlement turns my stomach.

So in response, I present Coreus' guide to buying game-related products [either physical or virtual]:
Step one  Compare the monetary cost of the product to the amount of enjoyment you are likely to get from it. We call this a "value proposition".
Step two  Based on the above, either buy the product or don't buy the product.
Step three  There is no step three. This is not fucking rocket science, people.

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