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The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

Game Devs Using One-Time Bonuses to Fight Used Game Sales 229

Posted by Soulskill
from the thanks-so-much dept.
ShackNews reports on an emerging trend which sees game publishers offer one-time bonus codes to unlock extra content for certain titles. Rock Band 2, for example, comes with a code which will allow free 20-song download, but is only usable once. NBA Live '09 has functionality to update team rosters on a daily basis, but will only do so for the original owner. "'This information and data is very valuable and it wasn't free for us,' an EA representative explained on Operation Sports. 'T-Mobile is paying for it this year for all users who buy the game new. This is a very expensive tool to use, and if you don't buy it new, then you'll have to pay for this. It isn't greed at all.'"
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Game Devs Using One-Time Bonuses to Fight Used Game Sales

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  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:02PM (#25259899)

    This is not only aimed at the used game market, but pirates as well. Personally I'd rather see this approach than a root kit and a limited number of installations.

  • by azuredrake (1069906) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:04PM (#25259921)

    Is in the upcoming Gears of War 2 - there will be four maps available for download for multiplayer free on the day the game launches, but only if you buy it new.

    This is the right strategy for publishers to take - add value to incentivize purchase, instead of making your brand new version worse than a used/stolen version.

  • by Majik Sheff (930627) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:05PM (#25259925) Journal

    Agreed. Incentives to encourage the desired behavior are much better than punishments based on the assumption that all of your customers are hostile.

  • EA as usual (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Original Replica (908688) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:06PM (#25259933) Journal
    So consumers get jerked around when they rent a game from EA? That's been true for a long time, EA pretty much sucks when it comes to respecting the customer. Don't buy EA games, even under the Maxis title. If you do, then expect to be treated like a chump.
  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:12PM (#25259979)
    How is it? Think of how this work with a game? For example, you buy the game and get, say, one limited edition weapon with the code, your computer crashes, and that weapon is lost unless you buy the game again. Sure, the game is still playable, but you still lost something when your computer crashed (other than your saved game of course). Then the problem would be worse for MMORPGs where, if you got a limited edition item for using the thing on your own computer, and that computer crashed, it could severely mess up the economy (then again though, most MMORPGs are subscription/serial-code-account based, so the game would just be downloaded for free off the game's website)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:12PM (#25259983)

    This is the right strategy for publishers to take - add value to incentivize purchase

    They are not adding value. They are removing value and then adding it back with restrictions designed to devalue the game on the used market.

    This in not the right strategy this is greed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:13PM (#25259987)

    As long as they don't start making the one time bonuses something important to the main game, like downloadable endings or downloadable entire second half of the game.

  • by Quila (201335) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:13PM (#25259989)

    An option to buy the extra content if you are a second-hand owner would be nice. They get the money, the buyer gets the content, everybody's happy.

    Doing that would show an honest monetary interest in the extra content rather than a plain desire to kill the secondary market.

  • by MoFoQ (584566) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:17PM (#25260025)

    I know the desire to promote the sales of their products but I get the feeling this sort of promo that applies only to the original purchaser of the game may run afoul of the First Sale doctrine [wikipedia.org] of the US copyright law.

    I personally like "physical" promo bonuses, such as a free copy of another (older) game...or a limited edition widget/whachamacallits, etc.
    Or even a game poster.

  • by JPLemme (106723) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:30PM (#25260115)

    By your logic, if a restaurant gives free appetizers to their best customers then they're "removing value" from the meals of all of their other customers. If a casino comps a high roller they're "removing value" from everyone else who visits the casino.

    Rewarding customers who give you money is a better system than punishing all customers regardless. Maybe if the used-game retailers want to share the money they make on used games with the publishers they can come to some sort of a deal so that used-game buyers get some bonus material, too. But not offering merchandise to people who aren't paying you for it is hardly "greed".

  • by narcberry (1328009) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:33PM (#25260139) Journal

    What good are multiplayer maps that other players don't have access to? Isn't the point to play with others?

  • by retchdog (1319261) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:40PM (#25260201) Journal

    The chances are pretty high that by the time your computer crashes, the items will all be packaged into a bargain-priced Game of the Year edition or whatever, or even a free download. If not, you can probably get customer service to help you out once or twice if you have the serial #.

    For an mmorpg, your inventory is stored on a remote server anyway, so...

  • by narcberry (1328009) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:41PM (#25260209) Journal

    These incentives don't work.

    1. Good boys and girls get a bonus for being good.
    2. Bad boys and girls figure out how to also benefit from these bonuses.
    3. Devs panic and institute some ridiculous mechanism that typically only hinders the good boys and girls.

    Example:
    1. Everyone that purchases a new copy of a game at release will get a bonus 5 maps.
    2. These maps are quickly torrented and now everyone has them.
    3. Devs ban these 5 bonus maps from play with a game update. Only players that download and install a EULA-breaking crack will still be able to play these maps.

  • by EvilRyry (1025309) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:54PM (#25260291) Journal

    Ever pull the Atari/Vectrex/Nintendo out of the basement to relive some memories?

    Not to mention if the game happens to be for your XBox360 you could find yourself missing that first owner bonus sooner than you think!

  • by samkass (174571) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @08:20PM (#25260419) Homepage Journal

    This in not the right strategy this is greed.

    It's neither. It's business. If something costs too much to sustain it given the game turnover and the fact that the publishers only make money on the original sale, they have to find some other way to get paid for it. Subscription could work, but it's a hassle and most people won't subscribe to more than a few services. This seems like a pretty reasonable way to be compensated for valuable content to me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04, 2008 @08:22PM (#25260425)

    By your logic, if a restaurant gives free appetizers to their best customers then they're "removing value" from the meals of all of their other customers.

    Food is not resold so its hardly the same.

    If a casino comps a high roller they're "removing value" from everyone else who visits the casino.

    Again, wagers in a casino are not resold.

    It would be more like Ford selling you a car that comes with free wheels as a bonus but prevented you from selling the car with those wheels.

    Maybe if the used-game retailers want to share the money they make on used games with the publishers they can come to some sort of a deal so that used-game buyers get some bonus material, too. But not offering merchandise to people who aren't paying you for it is hardly "greed".

    Thats not a very good idea. Next Ford will want a percentage of the sale price of a used car.

    Rewarding customers who give you money is a better system than punishing all customers regardless.

    Yes the second part is right but the first part is hardly relevant. The game has been paid for, they made a sale. Nobody is not paying for the game. If the games became cheaper as a result of this then it might make a difference. They just want more money. Its pure greed.

  • by Anenome (1250374) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @08:41PM (#25260513)
    Problem with this is rooted in a basic economic error. The value of an item also, in part, is due to its resale value. The more publishers degrade the resale value the less the item is worth upfront. This is why attempts to outlaw used game sales, or demonize outlets that resale games don't have a leg to stand on. This method of devaluing only the resale value to the secondary market will still have an impact on the upfront price. Games will be worth less to buyers because of a move like this. Therefore, games will sell less than ever. Which will create a vicious cycle because publishers will likely conclude that they need to take even stricter measures against piracy, when the truth is they simply devalued their own product and would see more sales without the restrictions.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04, 2008 @08:43PM (#25260523)
    If it's tied to one console with DRM and you can't bring it to a friend's house, it takes away a lot of the fun of the game. It also takes away a lot of the value if I can't sell it used, if I don't like the game it's a lot harder for me to get rid of it because my friends would rather buy the one with the bonus content if they like it, and it's probably more of a ripoff for me if I take it to a used game store. I'd rather just have the content on the disc.
  • Re:Textbooks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by compro01 (777531) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @09:08PM (#25260643)

    If you think they're going to get rid of DRM in favour of this, I've got a bridge to sell you. Betting odds say we'll have both DRM and this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04, 2008 @09:17PM (#25260691)

    In fifteen years, if the DLC servers are still up, users get "gouged" another few dollars (saying DLC prices fall with game prices... eventually) that actually goes to the (company that purchased) the developers.

    If the DLC servers aren't still up then there was no way to provide more than they put on the disk. Unless the next fifteen years involve the invention of some radical trick, like putting whatever content it was onto movable media or, God-forbid, putting up other download servers.

  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@NoSpaM.gmail.com> on Saturday October 04, 2008 @09:40PM (#25260825) Journal

    The more publishers degrade the resale value the less the item is worth upfront.

    Yup. This is why people are far more willing to plunk down $24,000 for a Toyota than $21,000 for a Ford 6000-SUX, because they know that in 2-3 years, the used Toyota will fetch $5000 more than the Ford.

  • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @09:48PM (#25260855) Homepage

    what you're saying makes sense, but it's more complicated than that. i mean, resale value is a huge factor when it comes to cars, homes, and other large items that people frequently resale and also put a lot more thought into purchasing (and negotiating the purchase).

    with gaming, it's almost an inelastic demand. if you want a particular game, there's only one publisher. you can't substitute a competing product for it. and all mainstream game publishers pretty much have the same general anti-consumer attitude. so it's not the same as buying an Honda/Toyota instead of a Ford/GM because imports have much higher resale values than domestics. that kind of decision-making process doesn't factor into game purchases. there's also less of a market for used games, and this is due to cultural as well as legal factors.

    think about diamonds and engagement rings. the De Beers cartel has launched one of the most successful (and insidious) marketing/advertising campaigns in the history of consumerism. not only did they inject their product into our cultural institutions and traditions (diamond engagement rings are a relatively new phenomenon in the history of human marriage), but they have also gone as far as to manipulate our cultural values to suit their business model.

    the whole "a diamond is forever" commercial campaign was tied into a much larger marketing campaign aimed at stopping the resale of diamonds. De Beers works very hard to control the global supply of diamonds to create an artificial scarcity which drives prices up, but that would be undermined if the market were flooded with second-hand diamonds. so in order to combat this, they came up with the "a diamond is forever" slogan to discourage people from buying or selling "used" diamonds. so instead of mothers passing their diamonds down to their daughter, or to their son to give to his fiancée, men and women are encouraged to purchase brand new diamonds as a symbol of their "eternal" love for one another.

    the result of this marketing campaign is that used or second-hand diamonds have very low resale value. consumers don't want to buy used rings or jewelry. because of the lack of demand for them, De Beers is able to purchase up all of these second-hand diamonds, re-polish and re-set them, and then sell them as brand new diamonds at the artificially inflated prices. so in the end, this intentionally reduction of resale value add huge profits to the cartel's monopoly.

    with games, it's not quite so extreme, but there's still a socialized reluctance to purchase used games. i mean, everyone wants the latest and greatest gaming title. no one even wants to buy a 2-year-old unused game from the bargain bin. except for legacy systems and hardcore gamers, there's very little demand for refurbished games. it's just not even a notion gamers are accustomed to. most people aren't in the habit of shopping for used games the way that people shop for used cars. so in the end, the negative impact this one-time bonus policy might have on resale value won't really make much of an impact on market demand.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04, 2008 @09:51PM (#25260869)

    Somehow, the RIAA comes up with a magic uncrackable un-analog-recordable DRM that means this bonus track never finds its way to torrent sites.

    You must be new here.

  • by TehZorroness (1104427) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @10:29PM (#25261053)

    No. There is no sence in selling already-eaten food. There is a market for used games. What game developers aught to be doing is giving their games a longer term value. I still play doom because it has no DRM which prevents me from doing so. (hey, every time I want to play I pirate it, but I had bought and lost/destroyed two copies back in the day so I beleive I am rightfully entitled) There are still all sorts of interesting single player levels being made, and there are all sorts of interesting people to meet and play against online. The game still has value. Now look at Halo 2. You are stuck with their levels, you have to pay for xbox-live (acceptable, but how long will xbox-live exist now that xbox is obsolete), and they made the game itself obsolete by releasing Halo 3. I bet many Halo 2s ended up on the used shelf when Halo 3 came out. Microsoft can't complain about this. It is their own fault.

    Also, game developers don't diserve shit from used game dealers. The game was already paid for. Lets not start acting like the EULA has any legal standing whatsoever. The courts have already decided that EULAs don't stand up against the first sale doctrine. The game is YOURS. You can do whatever you want to it. This is capitalism. Businesses are supposed to cater to their customers, not the other way around.

  • by WiiVault (1039946) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @11:12PM (#25261307)
    It is kind of funny to me that with our tech prowess we have somehow figured out a way to create products that will be lost to the sands of time long before they become useless. I can still enjoy my 80's NES games. What about my Gears of War 2 "bonus" maps? Or my DRMed music tracks? Nope those will be gone in 10 years. This is not progression folks! In 500 years our ancestors will have quite a job cut out for them figuring out how we ticked, based solely on the greed of some companies. Art will be lost in a way that is inexcusable in our modern world. Fuck you greedy bastards.
  • by Dahamma (304068) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @11:49PM (#25261509)

    How is this an insightful post? Honestly it would have ALMOST had a point if the examples weren't COMPLETELY incorrect.

    1) the used game market is about 98% used CONSOLE games. The only way that they can even enforce this on a console game is when the console has an online component like XBox Live. XBox Live stores your account information on their servers, so if your XBox dies, you can restore your bonus "stuff" on the new console.

    2) MMORPGs are an even worse example. Both of your points are wrong. a) Everything is server-based, so there is no issue with duping limited items for players who reinstall on a new computer and log into their existing account. b) Sure, you may be able to get the game free and sign up for a monthly subscription. Which is the whole point of this article - if you pay for the game/expansion/whatever when it comes out, they give you a one-time activation code for the bonus "stuff".

  • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Sunday October 05, 2008 @02:58AM (#25262039) Journal

    Remember, we're talking almost entirely about console games here. PC games have a long tradition of free downloadable post-release content (I remember waiting for my weekly Total Annihilation unit to be released) and it's never really been seen as an anti-piracy or anti-resale measure there. To be blunt, PC piracy is so wide-spread that something like this as an anti-piracy measure would feature pretty highly on the King Canute scale of futility.

    Over on the consoles (where around 99% of used-games sales take place), downloadable content is still a newer phenomenon are it's clear that developers are still playing around with how to use it and what the terms and conditions could be. In addition, outside of China, piracy of games for the current generation of consoles is not really a particularly huge issue. Even back in the last generation, when everybody knew that most PS2's could be fairly easily "chipped" to run pirated games, it was too much hassle for all but a small minority of users, unlike the "download, apply crack and run" model of PC games piracy. I suspect PS2 piracy has taken off more since the console "retired", to be honest, as emulation (which allows you to achieve similar results to a chipped PS2 on a reasonably mid or high end PC, without any messing around with solder) has really taken off since then.

    No, this is, as TFA says, aimed at reducing second-hand games sales. Of course, consumers should always have the right to sell on their games at will. This should go without saying. Plenty of places enshrine this in their consumer law and it makes me wonder whether these limited-install DRM systems we're seeing on the PC will stand the legal test over time. However, from the point of view of a game developer, a second-hand game sale is as bad as a pirated game, in some ways - they don't see any money from it. In fact, in some ways it's worse. Your average pirate has given no indication that he would have bought the game anyway. The average second-hand buyer has probably spent at least 75% of the retail price of the game (and in many cases more) if he has bought it in a high-street shop. In other words, this is somebody who came very close to giving the developers money.

    Now, while I live in the UK, I do go over to the US around twice a year and while I'm there, I generally stock up on PC, PS2 and PS3 games (I have an imported PS3 and like to pick up the obscure Japanese PS2 RPGs that never make it to Europe). It always amazes me in US game shops how hard the staff will push me to take a used copy of a game, when I walk up to the counter with a new copy. Generally, the difference in price is no greater than $5 (in fact it's often less) and as I'll be carrying the game 4,000 miles or so before actually playing it, I will always default to buying a new copy in the absence of any other options, as it's kinda hard for me to return a game that turns out to be defective. Nevertheless, despite explaining this at the counter, I've had to listen to several minutes of cajoling on occasion. The reason why is pretty clear, the shop will make a couple of dollars on a new-game sale, but with the ridiculously low payouts it gives to the people trading in their games, it could make ten times that profit in some cases on the used game. While UK game shops have used-game sections, they aren't as huge as in the States and I've never had any pressure from the staff to buy one instead. I don't know whether it's the economics or the staff training that is different.

    Additional downloadable content like this might push a few people over from buying a used copy to a new one. As I say, we're generally talking about a very small price gap here. Extra content is more likely to appeal to the fairly hardcore gamer market (I include myself in that group) and the less salubrious members of said market, who nevertheless buy a lot of games, might in some cases be tempted by that small price difference between a new and a used game. This could cause them to think again. However, I suspect that there are two possib

  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @04:22AM (#25262305)

    2 is bullshit, the games are not priced according to the cost to make them but the price they're expected to fetch. It won't ever cost you more because if they think they can get away with a higher price they'd increase the price, new songs or not so the new songs don't matter at all. Also keep in mind that higher price does not equal higher profit, there's an optimum price where any increases end up decreasing profits because noone will buy the product and something like software has a fixed optimum price as the per-unit production costs are near zero.

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @04:24AM (#25262317)

    Problem with this is rooted in a basic economic error. The value of an item also, in part, is due to its resale value. The more publishers degrade the resale value the less the item is worth upfront. This is why attempts to outlaw used game sales, or demonize outlets that resale games don't have a leg to stand on. This method of devaluing only the resale value to the secondary market will still have an impact on the upfront price. Games will be worth less to buyers because of a move like this. Therefore, games will sell less than ever. Which will create a vicious cycle because publishers will likely conclude that they need to take even stricter measures against piracy, when the truth is they simply devalued their own product and would see more sales without the restrictions.

    I've said before that EA's making a bad move in forcing their potential customers to look more carefully at what you are and aren't allowed to do with your purchase. Games are impulse purchases. Take away the impulse, and just like you're saying, they'll eat away at their own market. You'd think Nintendo's "it prints money!!11!" successes with the DS and the Wii would have hit that point home already.

  • by Artifakt (700173) on Sunday October 05, 2008 @11:18AM (#25264629)

    I don't think we are really to zero just yet. I'm even a little piqued at all the people who are arguing that most people will pirate because the goods are effectively free, and free always beats any other price. What I'm seeing is people buying 500 Gb. hard drives to hold that 'free' content, plus commercial disk burning and processing software, tons of blank DVDs, monthly paid Usenet access, and other costs for this 'free' stuff. I'm also seeing people spend a lot of time learning esoteric software just to handle obstacles such as RAR'ed and PAR'ed files or y-enc encoding, and sometimes buying commercial software for such tasks. Even if there was no risk from the RIAA to getting caught torrenting, the user has to provide drivespace and bandwidth to maintain a good ratio. Even once users have paid the one-time costs to own and learn software, there seems to be a lot of checking copies to make sure they are good enough, hand editing and even repairing going on.
            I'm not saying that pirating can't save money, or that people are necessarily being illogical if that's their sole motivation. I'm also not saying that there aren't people who value their spare time at a pretty low rate, or people who don't care about the difference between a commercial CD quality track and a 128 K MP3. But the more I look at it, the more it looks like most pirates just about have to have other motives drawing them in than just to get stuff free. A lot of them have to be going after stuff they can't get legitimately at any normal price, like porn in some jurisdictions (i.e. Saudi Arabia), or their favorite old TV series that's never made it to DVD.
            Once those people get the things they want most, they've bought the extra-sized drives, DVD-burners, and such, and they've paid the time costs to learn to do some non-mainstream-windows XP stuff on their PCs, so at that point pirating just because it's 'free' (really meaning comparatively very cheap, but not quite free), probably makes economic sense.
            If the __AA's and such are just trying to deter piracy based on the idea all pirates are cheapskates, they aren't addressing the causes that get neo-pirates over the initial hump. I for one, wouldn't expect much success at getting the consumers back into line after they have already rebelled for other reasons, instead of before they stray. But if the industries don't know those other reason exist, or can't acknowledge it publicly, their chance of success must be miniscule.

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