To discourage people from buying used video games, THQ and EA Sports recently started locking away features, such as multiplayer, and requiring used game buyers to pay extra. Realizing that this practice will likely make people feel angry and cheated, THQ has plans to sweeten the deal.
Starting with WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2011, multiplayer unlock codes will include the game’s first batch of downloadable content for the same $10, Eurogamer reports. It’s a clever move because it entices — rather than forces — used game buyers to hand a little money over to the publisher. “So the used consumer feels they’re getting something for their money, not just a getting out of jail card,” THQ Core Games Vice President Danny Bilson said.
Bilson was prompted to reveal the plan after THQ’s wrestling games creative director, Cory Ledesma, told CVG that he doesn’t have much sympathy for used game buyers. Ledesma’s blunt remarks caused a bit of an uproar on the gaming blogs.
I understand the plight of the developer when it comes to used games. When a store like GameStop buys an old game from a customer, then turns around and sells it for a huge profit, the publisher makes no money. That hurts the publisher’s sales figures, which in turn reflects poorly on the developer, resulting in a smaller budget for the next game, or worse, layoffs.
But lashing out at the consumer is disingenuous when there’s an entire broken system to blame as well. Publishers reward Gamestop by offering special incentives to players who pre-order new games from the retailer (which end up becoming the fodder for used games). And they don’t offer new releases for direct-to-console download, which would cut out disc-based sales completely. Instead of disrupting the cycle of new-to-used games at the source, it’s much easier to target consumers. Yes, it’s a band-aid measure, but I’m glad THQ has found a way to take out the sting.
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