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The Courts Games Your Rights Online

GameStop Sued Over Lack of DLC For Used Games 345

Absolut187 writes "According to IGN, 'A lawsuit filed earlier this week against retailer GameStop says the company is "deceptively misleading" its customers into believing a used game purchased from the store comes with all packaged downloadable content advertised on the box. This content, however, is only made available for free to those who purchase the game new, as the code to access the content can be only used one time.' I personally don't have a problem with publishers charging for DLC. IMHO, you put in the effort to make it, you have the right to (try) to charge whatever you want. I have the right to take it or leave it if I don't find your price fair (same goes for the main game). But what about the used game market? Should publishers be allowed to destroy the used market for their games by including 'free' DLC with a one-time use code? Should the copyright doctrine of 'first-sale' have any effect here? Or is it up to the consumer (frequently children) to realize that the product will have a reduced resale value due to the one-time nature of the DLC code? Is this any different from the use of unique 'CD-Keys' that are required for online play (e.g. for Blizzard games since 1997 or earlier)?"
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GameStop Sued Over Lack of DLC For Used Games

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  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:07PM (#31628634) Homepage Journal

    /me peers into his crystal ball....

    I see game publishers starting to make complete games included on disc as DLC then make the unlock code only valid for the original purchaser. That obliterates the resale market.
  • Why not both? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by halcyon1234 ( 834388 ) <> on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:14PM (#31628748) Journal

    Honestly, I don't see why they can't get money from both the new and used market.

    Keep the "one time use" DLC code in the box. Anyone who buys it new now has a "value add" (though, they are paying a premium for the new game)

    If anyone buys that same copy used, instead of "hell no", they should get a screen that says "This code has already been claimed. But for just $2.99, you too can have this exclusive content"

    I'm sure someone can find the right price for that-- and it'd effectively be pure profit. (No, you can't call it a lost sale. Instead, think of it as getting paid twice for the same product).

    Ideally, the system should also have a "relinquish" command. If I buy a game, get the DLC, then decide to sell the game, I should be able to "deactivate" that code (assuming it's tied to my gamer id or something? Who knows.) Then the next person can download the dlc for free. GameStop might even require people to log in and deactivate their codes before trading in a game, so as not to screw over the next user.

  • by VernonNemitz ( 581327 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:15PM (#31628768) Journal
    I think the obvious solution is for the game developer to allow online sale of new codes to unlock DLC (at a low price). Then they would be improving the value of the secondhand market, AND be able to get in on that action. Hey, they might even encourage users to sell their games! After all, if a game is bought second-hand several times, and each of those buyers also pays for the DLC (because they are not the original buyers), then in the long run the resales of the game might be worth more to the game maker than the original sale.
  • Suckers. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:18PM (#31628842)

    I have no love for GameStop, but how is this deceptive? You're buying something used meaning that you're risking acquiring a compromised product. This might mean a missing manual, missing box or limited access to online content. I suppose what will come of this is that GameStop stops providing the box with the game.

    I think the most offensive thing here is that this idiot would actually buy a used game for a mere $5 discount. This is the fundamental problem I have with the likes of GameStop. They probably gave the previous owner $20 for this game and then turn around and sell it for $55. The pricing on most of their used games is quite outrageous. But really, it's the fault of the consumer who is too lazy or impatient to shop around. You could probably walk into a Target or Walmart and find that same game, brand new, for $55. In fact, you can find Dragon Age on Amazon for $45. Wait a few extra days and in addition to paying no sales tax you get free shipping.

    Keep in mind, I have no problem with selling used games. I have a problem with how GameStop screws people. But again, that's the fault of gamers and nobody else.

  • Publishers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by magisterx ( 865326 ) <> on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:20PM (#31628902)
    I agree with ggeezz. I hate the "one time use codes". If it is part of the core game, then it should be on the disc with no need for codes. If it is an add on, then sell it to everyone as a separate add on. Even when I do buy it new, the need to input that code is an annoying detraction and slowdown from what is supposed to be a pleasant experience in my very limited leisure time. I love Dragon Age Origins, best game since Planescape Torment in my opinion, but putting in the codes for shale and the armor were a royal pain on a PS3. I do not think any party has done anything ethically wrong really, but I think the publishers, not Gamestop, is taking a consumer-unfriendly and inconvient stance on this. Also, this may not apply to eveyone, but when I buy a console game new, I do so factoring in the fact I can resell it as part of the price. If I loose the ability to do that, then either a game will have to be cheaper or it will have to be so good I am convinced it is really worth the full $60. Dragon Age Origins would pass that test, but most of the other games I have purchased recently would not...
  • Re:Why not both? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:20PM (#31628910)
    Isn't that what EA is doing? As far as I know, owners of used copies of recent EA games have the option of purchasing the "free" DLC that came with the new copy. They don't offer the relinquish option, but it's EA so I doubt they ever will. :)
  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:23PM (#31628974) Homepage

    Yes, game companies should be allowed to do one-time-use codes in their games. Yes, this is going to mean the games aren't particularly attractive in the used-game market. The problem is stores like GameStop that don't clearly mark their used games clearly as to what's advertised on the packaging that isn't actually going to be available because somebody else has already used it up. And I think that should be the responsibility of the used-game sellers, not the publisher. They're the ones who know that copy's used, after all.

  • Re:Why not both? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Moof ( 859402 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:26PM (#31629008)

    If anyone buys that same copy used, instead of "hell no", they should get a screen that says "This code has already been claimed. But for just $2.99, you too can have this exclusive content"

    That is what happens already (EA even has a gimmicky name for it: "Project Ten Dollar"). And the basis for this lawsuit.

    The lawsuit revolves around the box art advertising something like "2 Free Exclusive Maps for Download" and don't mention anything about it only working for the first buyer. So your used game advertises 2 free maps (due to the publisher's box art), but when you go to redeem, they demand payment. Cut and dry false advertising. I can't tell you 'buy this and you get this free!' but demand cash for the free part after you purchase the original item.

    The misguided part of all this is going after Gamestop. The fault lies with the publisher advertising free dlc and requiring payment. Gamestop is just a store who sold you the used game.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:30PM (#31629088)

    Well, there's the real travesty, the Used Copy of the game is only $5 less than full retail copy. Why would you save 5 bucks in that manner on a $50-60 game?
    GameSpot is pocketing well over 50% (based on what they pay for used games and what the sell them for) of that for doing basically nothing.

  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:31PM (#31629112)

    The buyers should be demanding a lower initial purchase price due to the lower resale value.

    And if the box says there's included stuff that isn't included in the resale version the seller needs to state that. Just like that have to state that the manual is missing, etc.

  • by The MAZZTer ( 911996 ) <> on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:34PM (#31629158) Homepage
    My crystal ball says people will buy games online [] which can't be resold. Oh wait, that was my crystal ball OF THE PAST. My bad.
  • Re:You know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ircmaxell ( 1117387 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:34PM (#31629166) Homepage

    I understand that publishers don't make any money off used games sales

    Sure they do. The ability for someone to sell a game will cause some people to buy more games new. Say they buy a $60 game. Then, in a month when they are tired of it, if they can sell it for $45, the next new game will only cost them $15. The publisher got $120 in sales, but the buyer only paid $75 (well, neglecting the time-cost of money). I'd bet this is the way a lot of younger people buy brand new games. They sell one or more slightly older games to pay for the newest one... Sure, there are some like me that don't sell games unless they really suck, but then again I have the money to be able to do that. If I was pushing a strict budget, you can bet I would sell the older games to finance the newer ones (and when you're talking a 5 or 10% difference between new and used, why not go new and have a better chance of resale later)...

    Why are publishers being such dicks about used games?

    Because they can, and because we still buy their games. It's as simple as that. If we as a unit boycotted games that have these kind of stupid restrictions, I'd bet they will change their policies. But the fact of the matter is that most people don't care enough to make a boycott effective (and hence it won't work)... Does it suck? Absolutely...

  • Re:Why not both? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:46PM (#31629370)

    Indeed. This is no different than buying a used box of LEGO bricks that claims "over 543 pieces!". If you buy the box used, and find just 300 parts inside, it is not The Lego Group's fault for false advertising. It's at most misrepresentation on the part of the reseller.

    And even misrepresentation can usually be solved by a disclaimer posted at the point of sale stating that used products are sold "As Is". Missing the downloadable content advertised on the box is little different than missing the free stickers and included manual advertised on the box.

  • by __aamnbm3774 ( 989827 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:58PM (#31629578)
    you are talking about computer software.
    I think the parent was talking about consoles.

    Unfortunately, with the 'installable' nature of PC software, I do understand the difference, especially since you cannot play burned CDs in consoles.
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:59PM (#31629594) Journal

    I think the obvious solution is for the game developer to allow online sale of new codes to unlock DLC (at a low price).

    You are assuming that the entire purpose of DLC is not to obliterate the secondary market for games. There's no reason to release DLC except to ruin the used game market. We now have the DLC already finished when the game is released and even included on the disk with the original game. How much more obvious can it be?

    The real lawsuit should be by Gamestop against the game publishers. The people who now keep companies like Gamestop in business will just start getting their games from scene releases and keep the money in their pockets. I'm not saying this is right, but we've seen it happen time and time again. I'm continually shocked at how there are scene cracks of games and DLC within a day of the release date. Of course, I wouldn't download cracked games via bittorrent because that would be wrong, but I have no doubt that every time the game industry comes out with one of these brilliant schemes to squeeze an extra few dollars out of consumers it really just serves to create more people who are willing to violate the law.

    "DLC" is just a gimmick, and something of an insulting one at that.

  • Re:What is DLC? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by beakerMeep ( 716990 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:03PM (#31629676)
    No no, it's "Content we want to charge you extra for" as sometimes those (ever helpful) game publishers include it on the CD.
  • Re:CD-Key (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:21PM (#31629998)

    No, it's not the same at all. The StarCraft second-hand purchaser is only denied his online play if the seller commits fraud. The XBox 360 second-hand purchaser cannot, under any circumstances, get online play without paying the game publisher a second time for the same thing. Those are two completely different situations.

  • First Digital Sale (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CopaceticOpus ( 965603 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:30PM (#31630130)

    These restrictions, gimmicks, and weird clauses tied to the purchase of a game are probably legal. However, they are clearly an attempt to damage a product's resale value, and they are in spirit a violation of the first sale doctrine.

    We need strong laws to protect the right to resell digital content, just as the first sale doctrine protects our rights to resell our physical property as we choose. Such a law would clearly be fair and in the best interest of the consumer.

  • I got news for you.

    Any sale is a retail sale unless you have a reseller license.

    Check your local state laws on sales tax - it explicitly defines a retail sale.

  • by NotBornYesterday ( 1093817 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:50PM (#31630450) Journal

    You are assuming that the entire purpose of DLC is not to obliterate the secondary market for games

    That's what kills me. You would think that the game companies would want a robust secondary market.

    (Sorry in advance) A quick car analogy - High expected resale value on a car makes a high initial purchase price more justifiable. It also makes the consumer more likely to buy another new car sooner, rather than wait until he/she can afford another steep investment with no resale value. Buyers in the secondary market are often buyers that would not or cannot participate in the primary market. A good used car is a good way to get someone to try your product who otherwise would never would have been exposed to it, and may get them to buy a new one next.

    Here's a perfect real-life example. My teenage son borrowed Mass Effect from a friend and liked it. Eventually he bought a used copy of it. When Mass Effect 2 came out, he was already in line for a new copy. That new sale would likely never have happened if he hadn't experienced the first game free, then cheap. If he can't sell one game to make cash for the next one, he will buy fewer games, and do so less often. Game designers are shooting themselves in the foot by reducing the value of their games on the secondary market. In the long run it will hurt them and the overall industry. Of course, they won't see it that way. If their sales drop because fewer people will pony up $60 - $80 for a game that is worth $0 in resale, they will find some way to blame it on someone or something else ... downloaders ... used games ... anyone but themselves and their policies.

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:17PM (#31630838) Homepage Journal

    The problem is that content creators think that their works are somehow "special" and unlike physical objects. As long as we as a society continue to play into that delusion, they will continue to believe this, will continue to believe that their efforts to undermine the resale market are productive, and will continue to believe that any loss in sales due to those efforts are caused by piracy. Until they hit rock bottom, they will have no reason to question their delusion.

    When you deal with delusional people, there is no reasoning with them; they are well beyond that point. All you can really do is isolate them where they can do no harm. Stop buying products that try to restrict resale, then write them a letter to tell them why you decided not to buy their products. Then wait for those companies to die off and for new companies run by saner people to emerge from the ashes. Buy their products instead.

    Now you might be asking yourself why you wrote the letter if the companies won't change. Well, a few of them might, but that's not the reason for the letter; the people reading your letters likely have no say in the matter, or else the policies would change. The reason for the letter is that the people who read your letter are the ones who are still going to be out there on the ground and in the trenches starting up the new companies that replace these companies, giving advice about what works and what doesn't, being the voices of reason. So at least in the long term, the letters help, albeit not with the products and companies currently out there.

    It may be a long painful journey, but the only way to fix most companies is to run them out of business and start over. Just say no to single-use downloadable content.

  • by SleazyRidr ( 1563649 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:44PM (#31631256)

    Simple arithmatic shows that at 25 cents a pop, the 5 dollars will buy 20 packets of ramen. Given the statement that this is enough for two days I would conclude that he eats 10 packets of ramen a day.

  • by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @03:58PM (#31631442) Homepage Journal

    You are assuming that the entire purpose of DLC is not to obliterate the secondary market for games. There's no reason to release DLC except to ruin the used game market.

    Not really true. It's also a great way to jack up the price of games without it being obvious on the sticker.

    For example, you buy the latest online FPS, and find that there's a map pack ($15) and a weapons pack ($15) available as DLC. You have to buy them, or you can't find anyone else to play multiplayer with. Hey presto, the $60 sticker price is actually $90.

    Then after a few months when you've moved on to the next game, you go to sell your game used. Except the Game Of The Year edition is now out, with the DLC included, for $30. Which means your used copy without any DLC is worth practically nothing, rather than $25.

    I noticed this trend a while back. Ultimately, I think the game publishers are playing a very dangerous game [] jacking up prices this way, because there are people like me who would have paid $50-60 for a new game, but will instead wait and buy the cheap copy a year later rather than be doubly screwed over by DLC.

    It's possible that the extra money they make from suckers who still buy games brand new will more than offset what they lose from people like me no longer buying anything at first release, but I'm doubtful.

  • Resale Market (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Friday March 26, 2010 @04:56PM (#31632320) Homepage

    To developers the resale market is akin to the piracy market, the people stealing money from them.
    Of course they will try to destroy it.

    They even have more reasons to hate the resale market since not only does it remove game sales, people are making money off it their loss in sales.

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