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How Politics Interacts With Games 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-well dept.
Crispy Gamer sat down with Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumer Association, and had him explain how the games industry interacts with various aspects of the government, such as lobbying efforts, the supreme court, and particular politicians. A related editorial suggests some things President Elect Obama can do to bring change to the industry. "We also need to rein in the used games market and not with DRM. It is fundamentally unfair that developers are being robbed of profits for work that they've done. If the ESA will not offer a mandate, then we'll need the government to do so. Publishers and developers should be entitled to at least half of the price from the sale of every used game." Kotaku has a response which points out flaws in the author's arguments.
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How Politics Interacts With Games

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  • by Derekloffin (741455) on Monday November 24, 2008 @05:48AM (#25871057)
    I really have to say it, that's a darn tunnel visioned statement. I don't know a single creative work where the resulting work cannot be resold legally, and the original work's creator gets even a dime off that used sale. So, what exactly makes games the special case?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thiez (1281866)

      > So, what exactly makes games the special case?

      They might get away with it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ifandbut (1328775)

      I have no idea what makes games a special case. If we need to rein in the used games industry then we also need to rein in used DVDs, used computers, used books, used VHS because the publishers/makers of those products are not seeing any money from the resale.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by 91degrees (207121)
        And used clothing, used furniture, used power tools...
        • by grcumb (781340) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:47AM (#25871495) Homepage Journal

          And used clothing, used furniture, used power tools...

          Not to mention houses and cars. Poor, starving architects and designers, working for nothing but commissions.

        • don't forget used food, used condoms, and used needles!

          those damn heroin-addicted family-planning-conscious hobos!

          • by HTH NE1 (675604)

            don't forget used food, used condoms, and used needles!

            You're joking, but you hit on it that they want games as produce or, more generally, single-use consumable games, but with the additional restriction that you can never use their product as an ingredient of another dish. A classic example of a consumable game was Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord [wikipedia.org] where killing most monsters actually deleted them from the original disk.

            Eventually they'll get there with on-line sales (nothing physical to resell), but in the meantime they'll make it so that your ga

            • by Denjiro (55957)

              Not sure where you got this information on Wizardry. But I put a few hundred hours into the game back in the early to mid 80s on my Apple IIc and never experienced anything like you describe. The wiki entries for it also make no mention, care to site a source?

      • by w0mprat (1317953)

        I have no idea what makes games a special case. If we need to rein in the used games industry then we also need to rein in used DVDs, used computers, used books, used VHS because the publishers/makers of those products are not seeing any money from the resale.

        Well then we should also close down libraries and burn all the books and have everyone use a DRM'd digital reader. Since one single book can be read by hundreds even thousands of people without the publisher and author ever seeing a penny.

        I certainly make use of my local government run library, I'm a shameless pirate!

    • by DrEldarion (114072) on Monday November 24, 2008 @06:06AM (#25871127)

      He admits himself that it was a dumb idea. From the Kotaku article:

      It is true that enclosed in my editorial is a single paragraph dedicated to "reining in the used games market." It is also true that this paragraph was shortsighted and not anywhere near as well as thought out as it could've been, especially with implications for the market and government control. I will freely admit of my own volition that I did not fully grasp the implications of what I had written until some of the comments had come in. I admit this because I have realized that the full implications of the paragraph in question are the polar opposite of my beliefs.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I think he's lying to avoid getting lynched by pissed-off customers.

      • In other words, to summarize: high ranking lobby group leader (i.e., practically a politician) tries to please both sides of the fence, and does an 180 degree turn when his comment turns out hideously unpopular. Of course, he'll still try to sell the original story to the politicians.

        • No no, he realized the "full implications of the paragraph in question are the polar opposite of [his] beliefs."

          His beliefs being "I should get lots of money" and the full implications of this being "I get less money because I'll be fired."

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In parts of Europe, artists are entitled to a share in any profit made on the resale of their work (look up "droit de suite"). However, the operative term here is "profit"; they don't get paid simply for resale.

      • i'm cool with that. when a consumer sells their game to a second-hand buyer or to a video game store, they usually don't make any profit from it. but the game store usually resells it at a huge markup from what they paid the original game owner. the same is true with used textbooks and used CDs & records.

        the latter in particular usually get totally reamed when they sell their used record collection to a record shop. this girl i work with is also a manager at a local record store, and even she admits tha

        • For some people it's just a hassle to resell it themselves. For others they simply don't know the value of their used stuff.

          For example, I'll sell used games on eBay if they're valuable enough for me to spend the (admittedly minimal) time to list it, but I won't sell much of anything on Craigslist because I don't want to put up with all of the people hassling me trying to arrange pickups and giving me offers at 25% of the posted price. If the game isn't valuable enough to sell on eBay, and I can't bundle it

          • by neomunk (913773)

            Actually, a couple months ago I got $22 for last years Madden for the Wii at a retail game store. Nice for me because I didn't like the controls, really nice for me because I had bought it for $20 on sale somewhere else.

    • So, what exactly makes games the special case?

      Nothing. Absolutely nothing makes them a special case and this idiot knows it. He's dancing as fast as he can to try and get special privileges, which will then be extended to other things. This isn't exactly why Jefferson was afraid of Copyright, but it's close enough. Screw'em all. Reset the system to 14+14 plus continued protection of the character should they make new product with the character.

      e.g.

      Steamboat Willie (Mickey Mouse's first cartoon) wou
  • I Hate This (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Hasney (980180)
    Money grabbing bastards. If it wasn't for trade-ins and 2nd-hand game sales a lot of people wouldn't be able to afford games and with this mandate, prices of used games would go up and the value of trade-ins would go down. If they want more people buying new games, how about not making them cost £50 a pop for a new next-gen game?

    If they want to make money off of used games, sell some worthwhile DLC. By that, I don't mean CliffyB's idea of selling the final boss to 2nd hand buyers, I mean add-ons to
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nursie (632944)

      IMHO, I should (easily and without any charge) be able to sell my add-ons too.

      Sure they only exist in electronic form, but when I'm finished with them and finished with the game, I should be able to sell all of it.

      Otherwise we get back to the situation of publishers selling half a game and then loads of DLC.

  • Market Forces (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Forrest Kyle (955623) on Monday November 24, 2008 @06:42AM (#25871255) Homepage
    No one is "robbed" of profits by used game sales.

    The number of new copies sold of a game is a complex function of popularity, marketing, and quality. The number of used copies on the market is a function of the game's longevity, popularity, and quality. If the demand for the game is high, the number of used copies will be low. If the demand for the game is low, the number of used copies will be high.

    If you don't believe me, go to the local used games store and ask for a used copy of Chrono Trigger for the SNES. There might be one. It will be like $100. Now ask for a used copy of Madden 08. There are five of them for $9 each. The author is arguing that game developers should be rewarded extra money for producing games that are less desirable than successful games. If you produce a horrible game, and then have EA market the bajeezus out of it, you will find that in three months the bargain bins will be full of this game. Should we now reward the bad quality of this game by forcing retailers to pay out of pocket? It is some sort of "mediocrity tax" that goes against everything that is good about free market economics.

    Not only that, but the entire idea stinks of government directing the flow of the economy, something the Soviet Union discovered does not work so well. If I purchase something, I become the owner. Part of my rights of "life, liberty, and property" include "property", which means I own things that I buy and can in turn sell them to someone else. The author is, in a sense, arguing against the idea of ownership. You don't really own anything. You are just paying EA a fee to use it, and when you are done using it, you have to give it back.

    If game developers want to stop being "robbed of profits", they should stop making boring games that I can beat in a week, which have no further interest to me. People are bored of spending $60 on a game that has $3 million worth of graphics content and $.35 worth of game. You know what games I sell used? Crappy ones with no replay value. You know what games I still own? Kick ass games that I still play from time to time, even though they may be old. Games that I enjoyed so much that, even though I don't play them anymore, I just love having them.

    If they stamp out the buying and selling of used games, they will discover something interesting: The sales of good games will not increase, and the sales of bad games will actually decrease, because people are risk averse to something they can't sell once they've ripped through the 9 hours of expensive art content with no challenge or depth whatsoever.
    • Re:Market Forces (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak AT eircom DOT net> on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:55AM (#25871543) Homepage Journal

      People are bored of spending $60 on a game that has $3 million worth of graphics content and $.35 worth of game. You know what games I sell used? Crappy ones with no replay value. You know what games I still own? Kick ass games that I still play from time to time, even though they may be old.

      Absolutely. I will gladly pay +$60 dollars for a quality title and will be proud to have it in my collection till the day I die. I never sell games, just like I never sell books. It's just not worth it to lose an item of such high quality. It's practically blasphemous.

      True AAA games rarely get sold, and when they do, it's for a premium. The original God of War still sells for $30 on the second hand market. Titles like these are the reason things like the sony platinium series were created, so that developers could still make money off quality titles long after the initial release. And it works! The original Starcraft is still for sale [amazon.com], 10 years after it was released.

      Video games, despite popular opinion, do not become outdated. True classics shine through time and pixelation. Frankly, the danm things age like wine in many instances. But of course, to become a classic, you actually need to be a very good game, which brings us to our original point. Developers want a quick buck through marketing tripe rather than long term revenue from brilliant titles. Naturally, my heart bleeds for them.

      • by jabithew (1340853)

        I may be killed for asking this, nevertheless...

        Does anyone know whether the original Starcraft will run on Vista?

        (I also have an Ubuntu partition, so could use Wine if that works better...)

        • My games partition is still XP so I can't speak for vista. I can, however, confirm that Starcraft does, indeed, run under Wine on Ubuntu (at least as of Gutsy)

        • Geez, I've got a stack of old classics that I can't play on vista, for various reasons. Some are 32-bit that just don't work for unknown reasons. Some are 16-bit. Some are DOS, some are windows. Just about none of them work in vista.

          Except Atomic Bomberman... One of my favorites. Atomic Bomberman actually runs in vista, for reasons unknown... Except the whole fun of Atomic Bomberman is the multiplayer, which you need the IPX protocol for, and guess what they left out of vista?? DAMN!

          The point is- stick
          • by LazyBoot (756150)
            isn't that one of the main uses of dosbox?
          • Have you tried the compatibility mode?

            Right click, properties, compatibility tab... It did pretty well for my customers when I was in cellular support.

            I'm going to try to run my new computer linux only, but I may have to give in and run an XP partition for gaming.

            And like LazyBoot says, dosbox.
            • I've tried every type of compatibility mode, and running as administrator, and all the good stuff. Some games will blank the screen and freeze, some games plainly won't work. I've had a helluva time trying them all. Overall, I don't care. I upgraded back to xp, and life is good again. I like it when things just work, ya know?
              • i don't use vista personally, have only supported certain apps with it. none were games..

                You might try turning off User Access Control, reinstalling with it turned off. You using vista basic? Most compatibility issues get worse with basic.

                XP isn't broken. :D
          • I love that game (and Bomberman in general. Still looking for a nice OSS version). I used to play it on Kali, which to my surprise is still in business. IPX might not be required for Kali, I am not sure it's been so long. Where do you find your opponents?
            • I usually play friends, but I'm not picky. I just hate FPS's and find older games focus more on fun and playability than any of that crap that's out these days.
        • Yes, Starcraft and the Blizzard-backed expansion work fine on Vista. You shouldn't even need to do anything special to get it running, just install it and connect to battle.net to patch it.

          I installed it recently because I thought I'd like to play it again, and did for a while. I do have some issues with textures not showing up properly, but I think it's just the crappy Intel video card in my laptop rather than a specific Vista issue.

      • Frankly, the danm things age like wine in many instances.

        You're right, they DO age just like wine! The tannins in my old sega tapes are quite mellow by now. PS1 games are losing their acidic taste as well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ed Avis (5917)

      More importantly, part of the value of a game is its resale value. When people buy a car they take into account how much it's likely to be worth in three, five, ten years' time when they want to sell it. You'd be much more likely to stump up $50 for a game if you were pretty sure you could sell it for $30 on Ebay or Amazon a few months later. The game publishers should be encouraging this secondary market.

      I suppose one difference is that there is no piracy of cars; you can sell it to another person and t

  • Dairy cattle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tfmachad (1386141) on Monday November 24, 2008 @06:45AM (#25871265)
    "developers are being robbed of profits for work that they've done" This is absolutely brilliant. [/sarcasm] How about developers come up with content that will hold users' attention long enough so used games won't directly compete with their new counterparts? A lot of people I know hold on to the good games they get because they might want to play again in the future. By the way, can I return a game after I have installed it because I'm not satisfied with its features? Like, when I don't like how the game responds, or because it has below standard artistic value, or simply because the game isn't nearly as fun as it was advertised to be? The game industry gets away with too much bullshit already. I'm not about to have them milk me for money like I'm some dairy cattle.
  • Rubbish. Every other industry can survive and thrive with the existance of used goods. On top of that, taking a cut of the sales is a major violation of our property rights.

    • On top of that, taking a cut of the sales is a major violation of our property rights.

      You have no rights consumer! The copyright holder can, and will, revoke your ability to play at their whim. You don't think you really own the product, do you? Didn't you read the 350 page "license agreement" at all? Why, our team of lawyers worked months to come up with that obtuse document that's unreadable by anyone not in the legal profession, and it's copyrighted too! By the way we're suing you for talking about ou
  • I know what you're thinking: How can Obama help us, though? He doesn't have the best track record when it comes to video games, especially with his infamous "put the video games away" comment. He has also stated that he would like to examine in greater depth the impact of video games on the development of children -- studies that usually never favor the industry and are peppered with errors.

    Here's an idea: Why doesn't the game industry do its own studies? Tobacco does their own. Alcohol does their own. Sure we don't kill or cause long-term damage, but why is it only the peaceful industries don't do studies? There's certainly enough money in games to fund one.

    • Now that I think of it, the government should fund this, too. Private sector funding too often leads to private sector bias.
  • Online content. Online distribution.
    The second-hand game game isn't going to be a problem much longer. There won't be a retail box - at least not with a game that is playable out of the box.
  • if you write a song

    or a book

    or a movie

    or a game

    guess what: no, you are not allowed to sit on your ass for the rest of your life and derive profit for that

    what you are entitled to is to work, like the rest of us, for a some return on some daily effort

    of course, the sit on your ass for the rest of your life bullshit is exactly what current law dictates. andd current law is fundamentally broken. its unenforceable

    creators, you need to get over that misconception right now, because regardless of whatever the law

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by damburger (981828)

      Let me go ever further. Creators don't have a 'right' to make a living at all.

      Free association is essential. Free speech is essential. Individual industries are not. There is nothing to say that an artist of any kind is owed a living, if that living requires fundamental rights to be curtailed. If we have to choose between Holywood and free speech, it isn't any kind of choice at all.

      If you want to make money as a musician, you will have to do it the old fashioned way and actually perform, instead of charging

      • absolutely right

        except: no need for actors to go back to the theatre. movie houses are doing bang up business. the death of the movie house was predicted because of tv, and the business still grew. vcr, dvd, internet: it was all supposed to kill movie houses. every year the business does bigger business. i think its psychological. why do people go to church instead of receive spiritual enlightenment at home by themselves? despite babies and cell phones, i think people actually like the laughs and oohs fo th

  • Surely the way they interact with Games is to complain about Sex/Drugs/Violence in games as being the root of all evil and the cause of all society's ills. Stuff around copyright (and the insane idea of a sell-on tax) is how companies interact with politicians rather than anything to do with the games themselves.

    The politicians screaming "think of the children" around games like GTA is, and will remain, the norm. Given that most politicians are well over game playing age this is hardly surprising and I ca

    • Thank you, finally, for some commentary NOT on the reselling idea.

      Meh. An argument I hear a lot is how the game industry right now is like the movie and TV industry over 50 years ago. Eventually, they were able to say the word "crap" on TV. Eventually, understanding will come, but you're right. Our lawmakers are too old. The law makers twenty years from now will have grown up with games and won't view them so badly.

      If I keep saying that, it'll come true, right?...true...it's ...true...has to be..true.
  • Give game stores a reason to do so. Maybe decent profit margins on new games would be a good start? They're not going to throw their money away just so you can make money, no money for the store means other means of getting moeny or simply no store at all.

  • Projection (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:54AM (#25871535) Homepage Journal

    Reigning in the used game market is obviously a stupdid statement. First sale doctrine, etc., etc.

    I'm more concerned about the number of times I've heard variations of this statement made by otherwise intelligent people:
    "There is no better opportunity than now to try to engage Obama in open dialogue about our industry and correct some of these mistruths. I implore ECA President Hal Halpin, ESRB President Patricia Vance, head of EA Sports/industry veteran
    Peter Moore and a journalist of proper caliber (Geoff Keighley, Rob Fahey and Dan Hsu all come to mind) to approach President-Elect Obama about having an open dialogue with the industry
    "

    The problem (if you can call it that) with charismatic people is that we tend to project our own desires onto them. Hence all the ninnies saying that Obama will pay for their gas, and everything else under the sun, and the people (some of my friends included) sending in their resumes for positions in his administration. Because he's listening.

    Even though Obama is inexperienced, per se, he's shown himself to be an experienced politician, and the best politicians are capable of making it sound like they're listening to you and even agreeing with you while politely shooing you out the back door.

    • In addition to all that, where on earth did people get the idea that it's the job of the President to mess with the game industry? I don't consider it to be the job of government to do any such thing, but if you do you should be looking to Congress...

    • Even though Obama is inexperienced, per se, he's shown himself to be an experienced politician, and the best politicians are capable of making it sound like they're listening to you and even agreeing with you while politely shooing you out the back door.

      Well, given that we're talking about videogames and Obama is hopefully concerning himself with foreign affairs and, you know, bigger matters, I'm not sure he would bother even making it sound like he's listening. Not returning their phone calls would be about as polite as he should be. Maybe not outright laughing at them on the phone and hanging up, but it wouldn't be out of line.

  • The original writer posted their with the conclusion that much of what he said wasn't well thought out, he wouldn't suggest the same thing now, and that his whole point was that if the original developers made a few cents on the dollar it might stop DRM from encroaching on the games market.

    Thing is, how do you implement even that idea without running up huge infrastructure costs. And when do the royalties stop, or who do they go to if the game company goes --fffffttt-- ??

    Certainly the idea of supporting ga

  • Wait till they're in the bargain bin at three for £10. I'm surprised how quickly they arrive there nowadays.

  • Nick Michetti that is. Hal Halpin has some decent points.

    Michetti seems to have thrown out a load of random ideas which basically amount to "give the games industry lots of tax breaks because I like it like it is".

    Obama doesn't care about games. He advertised in games because the campaign had lots of money and the ads were cheap enough to justify. The campaign advertised just about everywhere else too, even places that traditionally are seen as pointless for political ads.

    Companies get a fair
  • Under Bush, the Federal Trade Commission, like many of the other regulatory agencies, has been more or less out to lunch. Obama is probably going to put someone more consumer-oriented in charge there. That's bad news for companies shipping intrusive DRM systems that damage computers, are hard to uninstall, or come with deceptive EULAs.

  • "Have you ever heard of the Doctrine of First Sale?!"

    "Err, I don't listen to hip-hop."

    Meh, I've never been much of a gamer ayway, especially not in the past 10 years. But the best old games will never die *hugs her SNES and Lufia cartridges*

  • The name suggests that this is a consumer organization, but all I see is an industry backed troll... Why would any consumer advocate *against* used game sales?

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