Pre-owned games, what happened?

As console gaming gets bigger better and more enjoyable, are we being spoiled rotten by the big games publishers? The answer is no. Well – not if you’re buying pre-owned games anyway.

I remember when, as a young boy, I didn’t have enough money to buy many of the games I wanted so desperately to play. So, I would sit and wait a month and would buy the game pre-owned. At a third off the retail price – sometimes half – it was a bargain. I could afford it, and the person who traded the game in was rewarded with cash or store credit to use towards a new game. Rather than having games sit on a shelf collecting dust never to be played again, the pre-owned games market was breathing new life into old games.

Recently this hasn’t sat well with some game publishers. Why shouldn’t they get a cut of this? I mean they have already sold each unit for £40, admittedly they don’t see this entire figure, as the retailer takes a cut and many more down the chain of a sale. But when you own the rights to every major sports brand in the world, do you really need to start charging for the ability to play online? With jobs in the UK being at a low point, maybe they should be grateful for any sales at all, especially as the consumer has less money to play with during these times.

This brilliant new idea is the addition of a specific code to each copy of every game, tying one console to one copy of that game. This means that buying that game second-hand makes a trauma of playing online. As only the original owner is allowed to play online, upon buying the game pre-owned, the new user has to purchase a new console-specific code, so the cycle begins again.

The pre-owner club is a big one, and rather than enjoying a game as it should be, we seem to be restricted – and charged extra, just to play a friend online.

Most games now are rife with downloadable content (DLC) which is great for the publisher; the game that keeps on earning. No-one has any quarrels with that. You want more maps, you buy new maps. You want new weapons, you buy new weapons. You want a new golf course on Tiger Woods 11 you – hang on, there were eight-odd courses ready for DLC on release date? That’s a bit naughty – why weren’t they in the game to begin with? At least have the decency to hold them for a month or two so we don’t realise we are being made clowns of. And what about Marvel Vs Capcom 3? There was character content on the disc that had to be unlocked by purchasing online! It’s a separate issue admittedly, but still – who’s idea was it to rip every penny out of the consumer instead of delivering 100% of a game in the first place?

Most games have a tiny instruction manual now too – clever as the tutorial is in the game proper and cuts costs. This is not an inconvenience to anyone, if anything it’s better as you don’t have to root through the packaging mid-game to find what the melee button is.

Sadly as the months roll on more and more publishers are following suit. Gears of War 3 has an online code, F1 2011 has an online code, and I’m guessing many more will too. Aren’t games supposed to be fun? A place where you and your friends can come together to have a good time? Instead they seem to be becoming a leech that will drain you dry when they don’t need to be.

Greed before need.