Sony’s SOCOM Hits New Low (or High?) in Used Video Game Punishment

By  |  Monday, April 18, 2011 at 7:36 am

Last year, a few video game publishers started withholding online multiplayer from used video games unless buyers paid $10 for an activation code. I figured that was just the beginning of the attack on second-hand sales.

Sure enough, SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy Seals charts a new course in punishing used game buyers, and it’s at once better and worse than the status quo of $10 online passes.

As described on the official Playstation Blog, SOCOM 4 will let all players access the game’s multiplayer portion — as it should, because online play has always been SOCOM’s main attraction — but used game buyers will miss out on special guns, game types, and other perks to be added later. To get these features with a used copy of the game, you’ll have to buy a $15 activation code.

Sony’s spinning this bundle of features, dubbed “SOCOM Pro,” as an enhancement for new game buyers, rather than a drawback for used copies. It’s semantics, sure, but it’s also┬áthe direction in which these used game restrictions should be going.

Multiplayer paywalls do little to entice the customer. Players need to get hooked if they’re expected to pay for extra features, and two-day trials, like the ones Electronic Arts offers with its used games, don’t cut it. Sony’s approach with SOCOM Pro is more like some of the “Lite” apps you find in the iOS App Store. They’re enough to enjoy on their own, but a subset of players will be interested enough to pay extra for more features.

My concern is still that over time, publishers will hide more features behind activation codes, so the used version is barely worth buying. SOCOM 4 is another step in that direction.



29 Comments For This Post

  1. Ryan Patterson Says:

    I admit when the manufacturers cripple the used game it does discourage me from buying a used copy. But more importantly it also discourages me from buying a NEW copy. There is no way I’m going to support a company that screws over its customers like that.

    Plus the only way I can justify buying most games new or used is assuming I will get half my money back when I sell it used on amazon.

  2. Developer Says:

    The point is though that when you buy a game used you are not a customer of the company, you are a customer of the game store you bought it from.

    Publishers only get a cut from the initial sale of the game, they receive nothing from onsells of that copy so why should they go out of their way to make someone happy that has not actually paid them anything for the service they expect to get?

  3. MaGaO Says:

    They don't go out of their way to make someone happy. They go out of their way to make someone unhappy. What is the problem with used games? There is only one licence, which the owner of the CD can use. They already paid for that service. It makes no sense they get paid again and again.
    What happens if I decide to gift that game I don't play any more to a relative? Do developers get a cut of zero money then? Should my relative pay for using the unique copy that I'm no longer using? Are the developers suddenly having to service more people? No, they aren't. They had one costumer before (me) and they have one customer now (my relative).
    So please stop throwing ludicrous arguments around. It's not as if an used game would cost more than an original copy, right?

  4. cyclops Says:

    If I buy a table then sell it, the manufacturer only gets the initial money too or a car or a book or ANYTHING else for that matter! Thats a BS argument! If I buy it it's mine and i should be able to sell it.

  5. malefactor18 Says:

    It's true that publishers don't get a cut from ongoing sales. Just the same as other manufacturers don't get ongoing sales from their products. A lot of cars now feature the ability to remotely kill the engine. This is a great feature for law enforcement or repossession purposes, but would you say it would be ethical or fair for that dealership to remotely kill the engine and refuse to unlock it when they find out the car was sold to someone by the original owner, giving them the option to come down to the dealership and pay a couple of hundred dollars to "activate" the car.

    Yes, it would be a great money maker at first, getting all of these smaller amounts off of future transactions through the life of the product, but does that make it right? The manufacturer makes a product, and then they sell it for a price they feel is reasonable that they can make a profit on. If they've already sold it once for what they felt like was a fair price for all parties involved, for what they feel like it is worth, why does anyone else owe them anything out of future transactions? I think that the developers who do this will make some decent money on it at first, but I also think that it will hurt their reputation and sales in the long run, perhaps excluding them from a lot of other potential income.

    Like MaGaO said, they're not going out of their way to make anyone happy. They're going out of their way when they get involved with ongoing sales of a product that was already purchased from them and no longer belongs to them now that services like the PSN give them the ability to do so.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with making ongoing money off your games. I've paid plenty of money to developers after purchasing games I enjoyed in order to get expansions and add-ons. That's the way to keep bringing in profit off an existing title, not crippling it and forcing people to pay for feature they thought they were already paying for.

  6. Muay Thai Says:

    I can name a few companies that do that… selfish bast***. Muay Thai Combinations | Muay Thai Kick | Martial Arts for Children

  7. noone Says:

    I know this may 'irritate' some, but as far as I'm concerned, publishers should make games completely nonfunctional if bought used. and charge higher fees to unlock them as well. Say $30.

  8. MaGao Says:

    Your post is not irritating. It is a plain troll. It doesn't really matter, either way. Their losing market share will make them see the error of their ways.

  9. Cyclops Says:

    have you sold a used car? Did you give money to the manufacturer? How bout that old couch on Craigslist. Traded an old book?
    What you're saying is ridiculous!
    They should give the game away or charge $10 for it the charge for online usage like WoW does.
    EA FIFA makes more in sales inside the game than it does off the initial sales of the game.

  10. noone Says:

    This could be spun as an 'anti-piracy' access fee. Plus even for single player games, there should be a charge for passing certain levels, points, or areas in a game. Plus a monthly subscription charge for single player games. If every publisher did this at once, and also at once made all other games published prior to this point stop functioning, including having all achievements, trohpies, saved-games, etc., deleted for all previous games, for all players, at once, players would be more than willing to accept the new pricing and usage rules. Plus EULA's must be inforced upon all customers, including children, and children themselves must read and accept the EULA' themselves. A quiz on the EULA that is required as part of acceptance, with any wrong answers constituting comlete rejection, and with the provision that once rejected, the game that came with the EULA, plus all codes, goods, etc., shall immediately become useless for anyone else to use or accept, and the rejection should make any other attempts to accept null and void (and make those games useless as well), this would be made acceptabelt ot he consumer. When consumers realize that this is the way everyone is going in the future, they will accept these restrictions.

  11. malefactor18 Says:

    Single player games have no reason to access the PSN network other than perhaps trophies. If a developer tried to charge me monthly for the privilege of earning my trophies for a game, I would laugh in their face. I enjoyed games before trophies were introduced, and I can enjoy them just fine without them as well.

    Also, I'm pretty sure that forever disabling a media because you failed a EULA quiz is illegal. You could give a quiz if you wanted to, and sure, you could make them take it over and over until they get it 100% correct, but if you made it disable the media for one wrong answer, I'm pretty sure you have to give them a refund when they bring it back, because they paid for it and then you made it useless for no reason.

    I understand your viewpoint of "consumers will put up with any crap you give them as long as they still get the game." But you have to understand that there is a limit. If you make it so expensive that the only people who can afford to play video games have trust funds and 500k houses, then you're cutting out a lot of potential income and people who can't afford it will stop playing.

    Honestly, if they did everything you suggested, I would fly to Japan to burn my PS3 on the front lawn of the Sony headquarters. Seriously, are you Jack Thompson? Or did he put you up to this?

  12. Brent Zedilar Says:


  13. Dave Says:

    So… we're back to selling games the way id was doing back in Wolfenstein3D/Doom1? Only now, you buy the demo, and pay more for each part of the full game… Guess I'll have to go buy a console, looks like console games are all that's coming out now.

  14. Harry Says:

    And people wonder why there are Pirates?

  15. Odie Says:

    They should be giving the game away. and then you buy the components you want.
    if you want network play you pay 5.00. if you want a better weapon, you pay 10.00 and so on.
    it's simple, if the game is good it will make money. and if not it will crash and burn.

  16. hex Says:

    This $1 independent game has incredible sales, and it only costs a buck. people are raving about it. check it out here.

  17. snakernetb Says:

    So if I buy and car and then down the road sell the car. The next guy should have to kick in $2000 to the auto company to drive it? This is BS and everyone knows it. I didn't know that "used" games were such a problem… How will this effect businesses like Gamefly? Also what is the deal with buying a game in a store anyway. I would much rather just download the game and run it from my HDD. Yet they still want to charge you like you are actually getting media most of the time.

  18. John Stoves Says:

    Good article, I agree with you. Myself and a lot of people I know never buy games anymore unless they're used. I don't think there's very many that are worth full price. Now even used ones won't be worth it with all this extra pay to play garbage.

  19. Niko Says:

    This poses a couple of other things besides Gamefly. PS3's allow for multiple user profiles, and game saves, and PSN access are seperate as well. Will my wife playing a game that I bought new and started on my profile mean she wouldn't be able to play the same game?
    The argument of not buying new because of punishing for buying used isn't just whining. People tend to let bad experiences stick in their mind a lot longer and more adamantly than good experiences. If you were looking for a used game and were told you had to buy a new version or suffer, you're more likely to tell the company to go to hell and boycott *all* of their products rather than make your life easier by buying the new version of that one game you wanted. We're all hardwired that way and saying "Just suck it up and deal" just adds fuel to the fire for that person. Now you're a douchebag in his eyes, and he's even less likely to listen.

  20. malefactor18 Says:

    I wouldn't compare buying a used game to buying a bootleg movie. A used game is a legitimate original media from the developer that is being resold by the person who purchased it, and they have full legal rights to do so. You should not expect it to be crippled just because someone else owned it first.

    A bootleg movie, on the other hand, is obviously not the same as a used movie (or game) that is resold, it was an illegitimate copy made by an individual. In this case, you should expect fewer features than the legitimately released DVD and poorer quality, it's a ripoff of the original. However, used games are the original, just being resold by their rightful owner.

    When it comes down to it, this is just developers taking advantage of the ongoing life that many games have now via the PSN to continue getting money off transactions for the life of that game. I like the comparison above about someone having to pay a fee to the original dealership or manufacturer of their car every time they resell it to a new owner when they get a new car. That's exactly what this is like. Good for the company, bad for the consumers.

  21. Red Horseman Says:

    forget the socom i believe the latest release includes a MAG trial version on disk. get into it. its the BEST FPS ever made.As an adult gamer, it is so much better than the usual 16 player TDM due to its strategic depth and type of play.

  22. Scott Says:

    It's always funny and a little sad when some company tries to escape the rules of economics.

    I have never, ever paid full price for a game. The game experience is not worth $50 to me, under any circumstances.

    When I bought my PS3, I only did so because it came with a bundle that included a game I didn't want that I could resell to make back money. I have a friend who only buys new games with the understanding he can recoup a certain percent at resell.

    If the used buyers disappear, the value of a new game will drop, thus the numbers of new game customers will decrease = less revenue for the manufacturer.

    LOOK AT IT THIS WAY: If you knew you couldn't resell your car, that it would be worthless to anyone but you, would that not effect the price you would be willing to pay up front?

  23. Hmmmm Says:

    The car analogy is really bad. A used car is affected by its use. Mileage, wear and tear, damages, etc. There is an incentive to still buy new cars over old cars. In gaming nothing is changed by the game being used. It plays the same as if it were new. So there is no incentive for the consumer to buy new over used. Therefore the impact is much greater on used/new sales with games over cars. Horrible analogy; justify your gripes with paying $10 a better way and we'll see.

    I personally buy almost every game new (I have taken advantage of gamestops buy 2 get 1 free once or twice,) because i prefer to support the game makers over the game store conglomerate. And I'm not wealthy nor do I live with parents. If you cant afford the hobby find another.

  24. Jackmouve Says:

    I understand all the comments on both sides, but at the end of the day, this is a business. If you developed a game and one person bought it then passed it to a friend and so on, would you be happy with ONE sell? AND, seems like if you own and copy and you want to loan it to a buddy, and all he has to pay is $15 to activate a new license, you getting off cheap verses paying $65 for another copy. Digital media has different rules than say a car or something. You can't load a car into a Bluray drive and make a copy of it, and drive that copy for free. You want to blame someone, blame all the people that have always pirated digital media. If you pay full price for your copy then sell it, what do you care what the next guys has to pay. Meanwhile, Sony has to worry about people trying to find a way to get the game without paying for it. They are a company to make money.

  25. Jackmouve Says:

    I somewhat dissagree with Scott, you are not just paying for the game, you are also paying to play it NOW. People go to the movies and pay around $20-$30 per person to see a movie that they KNOW they can see in a few months for as little as $1 (RedBox) for the whole family. This is the same for gamers, and with online being a big feature, people want to play WITH their friends not after they are done playing and give the copy to them. Ultimately, companies may start just making ONE game and then just putting out updates each year. This will likely mark the beginning of the end of used game sale to the masses.

  26. ebpp Says:

    I wish the companies would stop selling us a bill of goods. If you are going to make an unpopular decision, stand by it…instead of telling us that this is actually to our advantage when it's not.

  27. Hazel Gjelaj Says:

    That was type of inspiring! Completely unpredicted. Now I realize what I’m heading to do tomorrow ­čÖé

  28. Bob Says:

    I like the game socom. I buy use game (economi for me and ecology for the futur generation ) and i did not kwon that il get rob.
    Now il will have to pay more that a new copy to have the same as if i buy it new at the first place.
    Save 10 $ will cost me 15 and more to have it all.
    Ok for the activation code it good…Make sure that if i want to go online i have to activate my copy but juste use that code to unregester the previous oner and register me. I take is place and is no supose to have the game anymore….

    For the car analogy the point is if i sale it i dont have a car anymore ..Is the save for all online game use the code to make sure i dont'have the game anymore ….And like a car a online game have a king of depresiation whit the new game come out …Like a new movie .

    Sorry for my bad speling.

  29. zidanmarshall Says:

    Now il will have to pay more that a new copy to have the same as if i buy it new at the first place. Headway University