A Few Extra Virtual Maps Isn't A Real Reason To Buy A Video Game
from the it's-about-the-scarcity dept
There’s definitely been an ongoing battle in the video game world from some executives complaining about used game sales for console games (there’s been a bit of confusion in the past tying this to video game DRM — which is more focused on PC games). We noted that EA was among those concerned, but was hoping to give people more reasons to buy new, rather than second hand. However, some folks in the comments complained about the methods EA was using, and that’s worth a further discussion, especially as other examples are being shown. Reader DEF points out that another video game company, Epic, is trying to encourage original purchases by giving buyers a free voucher for certain in-game items, such as special maps. Such vouchers would only work for the initial buyer, thus, in theory increasing the value of the initial purchase.
There are a couple of problems with this approach. While I do think it’s better to come up with “reasons to buy” rather than trying to sue people or pass laws requiring a cut of the secondhand market, this approach may get it backwards. Effectively, they’re selling “infinite goods” rather than scarce goods, and that seems likely to backfire, for a few reasons. First, it actually diminishes the value of the game. One aspect that buyers take into account is the resale market. An active second hand market increases how much people are willing to pay for the original product, because they recognize that they can sell it later.
Second, when the focus is on charging for infinite goods (or only promising them to those who buy first hand copies), the incentives get risky. Suddenly, gaming companies are put in a position of choosing what “virtual” items are allowed in the game for first hand buyers vs. second hand buyers, and that leads them to make bad decisions in locking up important aspects of a game, frustrating potential buyers.
Plenty of games have shown that money can be made in charging for the service (a scarce good) of connecting and accessing an online world or community. If video game makers focused on that, then the entire issue of the second hand market wouldn’t be such an issue. In that case, they’d want to get the actual games distributed as widely as possible, with as many features enabled as possible, to make the idea of playing in the online environment even more appealing.