GameStop is best known for selling used games, oftentimes much to the chagrin of game publishers and developers who have had to get creative in order to cash in on aftermarket game sales. But GameStop is also trying to get in on the ground floor of the whole tablet movement, announcing that it now carries a selection of Android slates in more than 1,600 U.S. stores.
A class action lawsuit has put the onus on GameStop, not videogame publishers, to warn buyers of used games that they will be unable to access certain downloadable content (DLC) and online features unless they pony up an additional $15 for an online pass. GameStop could have fought against the measure, but opted for a settlement that requires the world's largest games retailer to post warning signs on shelves where used games are sold in California stores, as well as online, for the next two years.
Sony has been understandably tight-lipped about its next generation game console, most obviously because the company is still trying to move PlayStation 3 hardware. But could another reason be that Sony doesn't yet want to reveal its planned participation in killing off the used games market? It's a subject that was touched on earlier this week, and now new information about "Orbis," the codename for Sony's next gen console, seems to suggest that Sony's all-in with the idea.
GameStop's cash cow is its used game business. Sure, you can also buy new titles, game accessories, and even tablets at your local GameStop, and you can't purchase a game without the guy behind the counter pressuring you into pre-ordering half a dozen upcoming titles. But used games are the fuel that makes the company's engine run. You can imagine, then, why GameStop refuses to believe that next generation consoles will try to kill off the used game business model by linking software to your specific hardware. Sounds unfathomable, doesn't it?
GameStop is the place you go to for used game trade-ins, new titles, new and used hardware, accessories, and things of the sort, most of which are related to consoles (save for a sad one-sided rack of PC games). But would you buy a $400 or $500 Android tablet at GameStop? The brick-and-mortar chain is going to try to sell you one this coming holiday shopping season, with free games added to sweeten the pot.
Conventional “wisdom” says consoles are a land of milk, honey, and Firefly never being canceled while PC is a piracy ridden hive of scum and villainy. And let's not dance around the facts here: we'd all be a lot better off if pirates took a cue from Fable III and traded in their horns for halos. That said, the game's lead combat designer isn't convinced that consoles are any better off.
Valve kept it short and to the point when addressing a rumor that Steam is getting ready to dabble in used game trade-ins. We'll get to Valve's succinct statement in just a minute, but let's first take a look at the rumor that's been going around.
"Steam gives gamers enough other stuff so that they don't resent the fact they can't trade in their games," Michael Pacter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan, explained in a recent interview with NowGamer. "And you know, name all the Steam games that you've purchased that you've traded back in to somebody else for credit. Steam's about to let you do that supposedly, you know like trade and exchange, but they're going to take a fee from it."
Game publishers haven't exactly kept it a secret that they vehemently oppose the used game business, and we have a hard time envisioning Valve going this route. So does Valve, as it turns out.
"Untrue. We've never met with Mr. Pachter," Valve's Doug Lombardi told BluesNews.
Used-game sales have been a particularly painful thorn in game publishers' sides (and wallets) for years now, so we can certainly understand why THQ would want to dig its fingernails in deep and yank them right out of existence. On the other hand, however, the publisher's plan to ask for even more of gamers' money up front might be the equivalent of poking and prodding the thorn until it goes in even deeper.
The program's making its debut in WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2011, and asks players to hand over a flat sum of $9.99 in exchange for the promise of “select select downloadable content released throughout the life of the game for a one-time anticipated purchase." For now, they're calling it “Fan Axxess,” which caused our spellcheck to run to its room in tears and stop speaking to us.
So, why fork over your dough before the DLC's even finished cooking? Because, in the long run, this method's cheaper for you. For instance, the first DLC pack will go for 560 Microsoft Points (or $7.00) on its own, while the second one will lightly tickle your piggy bank to the tune of 240 Points ($3.00). With Fan Axxess, you'll pay $9.99 up front and get both once they release later this year and next year, respectively, on top of immediate access to all the game's unlockables and -- presumably -- more DLC in the future.
The implication, of course, is that this is only the beginning. Two DLC packs could hardly be called a “life,” so more is probably in the pipeline. A potential problem, however, climbs into the ring and clocks the ref with a steel chair if the game tanks and DLC development stops being worth THQ's while. Fortunately, for now it seems THQ's only sticking Smackdown vs. Raw's giant, steroid sponge of a neck out with this one – probably to gauge players' reactions before deciding whether or not to implement it into other titles.
So, the obvious question: Would you pay for “Fan Axxess” – assuming, of course, that it didn't have a name that made you want to hack THQ in two with an axe? In retrospect, we would've killed for something like this back when DLC-heavy games like Fallout 3 and Borderlands first launched. Of course, we're saying this now – after both games have already fulfilled all their DLC-related promises. What's your take?
Electronics chain Best Buy has been experimenting with the used game business by offering customers store credit for trading in their pre-owned titles, a service which just recently was expanded to include 600 stores across the nation.
"The expansion of our trade-in program reaffirms our commitment to consistently pursue new ways to bring a better gaming experience to consumers," said Chris Homeister, GM of the home entertainment group at Best Buy. "Fall marks the launch of several highly-anticipated gaming titles and new technology, and we're thrilled to provide gamers with innovative ways to connect with the games they love."
By October, Best Buy will have rolled the service out to the rest of its 1,089 stores, and while there haven't been any specifics yet, the company is also reportedly going to start selling used games at its stores soon.
THQ's Cory Ledesma didn't come out and say that used game buyers are the scum of the earth, but it's hard not to feel like you've just been given a verbal wedgie if you've ever shopped at Gamestop or bought a used game off of eBay.
"I don't think we really care whether used game buyers are upset because new game buyers get everything," Ledesma told Gamasutra. "So if used game buyers are upset they don't get the online feature set I don't really have much sympathy for them.
"That's a little blunt but we hope it doesn't disappoint people. We hope people understand that when the game's bought used we get cheated."
And therein lies the point of debate. While Ledesma and those who share his opinion feel that the used game business cheats publishers and game developers out of hard earned profits, it's based on the assumption that a used game sale is taking the place of a new game sale. To some extent that's probably true, but across the board? Not likely.
Ledesma's comments come on the heels of U.S. analyst Micheal Pachter claiming that DLC codes are having very little effect on Gamestop's bottom line. There's also been some talk that THQ plans to raise the price of online access to $10.