What’s Your Opinion: Electronic Arts and Bioware Raising the Stakes on Used Games

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About a month or two ago, I decided to start catching up on all my gaming. Being out of it for a while, I had not been paying attention to some of the great storylines and games I had been missing out on. I had an old copy of Mass Effect collecting dust, decided to give it a whirl. It took me about a month to beat it, but I was hooked on the epic of Commander Shepard. The game was incredible, and the downloadable content was reasonably priced and a lot of fun.

I waltzed into my local GameStop and asked for the newly released Mass Effect 2. As per the usual long list of questions that every GameStop consultant must ask you (seriously, you can’t even cut them off—say “no” before they’re done, and they talk right over you until they’re done asking you to reserve a game), I was asked if I wanted to save five bucks on a used copy of the game. Throw in my discount membership, and that’s another five bucks off the used copy. A sixty dollar game for fifty bucks? Duh!

I returned home, viciously removed all of the packaging, and popped the game into the system.

Hmm. Says there’s a code in the packaging to unlock the downloadable content.

However, upon reviewing the packaging, there was no such code to be found. Did the previous owner not leave it in the case? Then, I came to a mind-shattering, earth-moving, playing-field-changing conclusion.

Whoever had this game before me used the code already!

masseffect2Why is that such a big deal? Because without the code that comes with new copies of the game, it costs fifteen dollars to access the channel through which all the downloadable content is available. You read that right: paying $15 dollars gains you access in Mass Effect 2 to their IN-GAME store, the “Cerberus Network.” Continuing the formula, Dragon Age: Origins did exactly the same thing, providing $15 of DLC for free with a purchase of a new game. It is safe to say that this is a business model that will likely continue.

Ignoring the “releasing DLC alongside a newly-released game makes you wonder just how much they kept out of the core game to milk you for more” argument for just a moment, that golden ten-dollar discount was just eaten up by this additional fee, plus another five bucks on top of it. It is a sinister plot worthy of [insert your favorite scheming villain here].

…or is it?

You see, ladies and gentlemen, at that moment, I had a crisis of thought. I had a very important decision to make. And only then did I realize just how game-changing that decision really was. Do I keep the game as is and pay the $15 fee? Or do I return the game for a new one to save myself five dollars? In question-mark1504x_gamestop_strikes_backthe first situation, GameStop is who earns pure profit on the sale of that game; the game publisher gets nothing for the resale of the used item. In the second situation, GameStop earns just whatever profits selling a new game nets them (not a whole lot, admittedly, licensing and development costs take a huge chunk of that sixty bucks), and the company gets reimbursed for its hard work. Which, in Mass Effect’s case, I wholeheartedly wanted to do.

The Bottom Line: EA and Bioware are charging an additional fee for anyone who does not have a code to access the downloadable content. Strictly translated, this is aimed at used game purchases, as it affects no one else.

Opinion A: By basically giving away (some) free content with the purchase of a new game, the game companies reward those who incur revenue for the company by buying new while still getting some reimbursement from gamers who deny them said revenue buying used but still appreciate the DLC.

Opinion B: Buying used is its own industry, where individual people have the right to resell their own licenses for the games they themselves purchased. By taking a reduced cost on the game when selling it or trading back, they take a financial loss, but come off with the experience of having played the game. It is unfair to force someone to sell only a portion of the software paid for, requiring a new copy or license to be purchased by the next person in the chain.

Opinion C: This is all a moot point because DLC content itself is a rip-off and encourages programmers to release incomplete products. It should be a part of the game, or at least provided for free afterwards.

What’s Your Opinion?

Author’s Slightly Biased Side Note: While I wrote this up, PartTimeDruid of The Invisible Eyeball wrote up a report on gaming system Goozex, a point-based system that allows gamers to trade games back and forth without money actually swapping hands. Imagine using this system to obtain a copy of Mass Effect 2, and then still need to pay EA for the DLC on top of that, even though the last three people who handled the disc already paid for it over and over. Just sayin’.

Dan Hughes is the author of SPHERIC: Landing, an on-going online science fiction novel, and an avid game enthusiast. 

Any opinions expressed in posts on Polygamerous are not necessarily the opinions of Polygamerous or the other Authors/Editors/Podcasters of Polygamerous.

About Cerberus

Dan Hughes has been a gaming enthusiast since he first got his grubby mitts on a Nintendo paddle in 1987. (Yes, he calls it a paddle.) Following the gaming scene, business, and technology, he’ll blog for just about anyone who’ll let him stir up a good controversy. His favorites include every Final Fantasy, the Tales series of games, the Halo series, and Mass Effect, and owns nearly every game console save for PS3–by choice, so he says. In his spare time, he writes short stories for publication in various outlets, and is in the midst of writing a novel online. You can hit him up on Xbox Live as CerbStarraiser.