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The morality of second hand games





Nameless
Allow me to begin with two obvious statements:
* Buying a copy of a game is both legal and moral, as you get the game and the developers get your money for their hard work.
* Pirating a game is illegal and immoral, as you get the game but the developers do not receive any deserved income from you.

Simple? Yes, were it not for that it logically implies:
* Buying a second hand copy of a game is legal but immoral, as you get the game but the developers still do not receive any payment from you.

Is this the case? From the perspective of the game developers, there is little difference to their company whether you download a pirated copy of a game or buy it second hand; only the practical limitation of how many times a physical CD could be swapped between buyers rather than electronically copied. Or is that limitation of legal trading an expected outcome, whereby the original price is sufficient compensation to the developers for several players; the lesser money regained from second hand sales an indirect pooling of resources between players, as it were.

What matters from the player's perspective is the number of copies of a game in existence - to sell a game to another legally means forfeiting theirs, perhaps encouraging them to purchase newer games from the developers. Yet even that difference is trivial, as most games will only be played for a certain number of hours before completion or tiring of multiplayer so whether they hold onto their copy or not will rarely affect future purchases. If anything, constantly pawning off games will reduce future sales directly from the developers as the player who might otherwise have bought new game X will be be merrily playing old game Y they didn't want to pay full price for at the time but are happy to buy second hand.

What, then, when the developers no longer sell old game Y? Is it more moral to trade the game then when there is no direct alternative, or should the player be paying money to developers who spent two years crafting both Y and its newly purchasable sequel X? If the second hand game you purchase was never played, an unwanted Christmas present say, is that where the line should be drawn as acceptable (one player for one copy of the game, regardless of hands passed through)?

Ultimately, to what extent each should players be concerned for their own enjoyment, the law, and how much money ends up in the hands of the people who continue to make it possible?

Discuss.

Disclaimer: This argument could be reworded to apply to other mediums than games. However, I use games as its basis as a) games are among those products that are most easily stolen due to their medium, as well as popularly traded second hand and b) in my experience the use or 'lifespan' of a single game for a single individual is typically more limited than eg. a single music CD, so it brings more complex arguments to the debate.
Bluedoll
This is an interesting discussion and lends it’s self to other areas. That is true. Selling something can be conducted in two ways. Selling with all rights and obligations removed (once the item is paid for it becomes the sole property of the owner, this doesn’t apply to making copies however) thereby allowing the owner of the product to do as they see fit including give away, resell with a profit or sell for less as a used product and thereby taking a loss. Selling with contract which then falls under contract law and puts the transaction into a whole new world of complicated negotiations.

As far moral obligations go a person really has to justify that for themselves and every person will have a different view and right to have a different view on any moral obligation.

Interesting to say the least.
achowles
Nameless wrote:
From the perspective of the game developers, there is little difference to their company whether you download a pirated copy of a game or buy it second hand


Because they're purely concerned with their own profit margins. They're not at all fussed about the legality of copies of their games, just whether or not they're making money from them. This is why EA is now trying to sell DLC to pirates. They're not at all fussed about the legality of pirated copies. Just whether or not they're making any money from them.

Is buying a painting second hand immoral? After all, the artist sees nothing from the sale. Yet there is no question mark hanging over the morality of the sale. None. It's the owner's property that they bought from the artist. They have full right to resale. The only difference with games is we have an industry behind them that try and warp our perspectives on morality to suit their ends. The same with the music industry. But that's far, far, far worse.

For centuries people listened unquestioningly to the word of government. Now we're moving into the 21st century and most no longer trust government but instead listen unquestioningly to the word of industry. I don't know what's worse, personally.
Nameless
achowles wrote:
Because they're purely concerned with their own profit margins. They're not at all fussed about the legality of copies of their games, just whether or not they're making money from them.

Why should that be a bad thing? They've invested time and money into a (let's assume for the sake of this argument) good game, it's only fair that they be rewarded for that; decry the methods if you will, but the blame for them falls squarely on the players who continually steal their games. A high profit margin is ultimately the goal of almost any industry, so I don't think video game companies should be painted in a bad light for being in a bad position that's largely not their fault.
QrafTee
I think in a way reselling old games (and pushing them over new games for just $5 less than MSRP) is worse than pirating. I mean then another company profits from something the developer's can't cash in on. And since companies like Gamestop push their employees to sell used games over new games, that's a double whammy over pirating.

I, for the most part, just buy new games unless my friend (who works at Gamestop) gives me an offer I cannot refuse.
achowles
Nameless wrote:
Why should that be a bad thing?


It's not necessarily condemnable (although it does seem to have resulted in NPCs trying to sell you DLC in the "full" game you paid for). It's their game. If they're not concerned with those who steal it, but instead want to sell to those people then that's their right. After all, no legal action can be taken against pirates unless EA pursue it at their expense. Infringement is not a criminal matter and therefore not illegal unless they say it is.

But what it does mean is that they are not in any position to dictate morality if they're not willing to distinguish between legal and illegal in their pursuit of profit. It's not a moral position. It's one that has blinded itself to morality in the name of continued profits.

Oh and one more thing. If piracy is such a problem, why do they only concern themselves with piracy on the PC? Why not the millions of pirates who were on the Xbox 360 alone? Who only need one alteration to their console to pirate every game on there. Sure, most of them don't have Live accounts anymore, but I doubt that stops them playing pirated games offline. Yet publishers won't do a damn thing about that.
QrafTee
achowles wrote:
Nameless wrote:
Why should that be a bad thing?


It's not necessarily condemnable (although it does seem to have resulted in NPCs trying to sell you DLC in the "full" game you paid for). It's their game. If they're not concerned with those who steal it, but instead want to sell to those people then that's their right. After all, no legal action can be taken against pirates unless EA pursue it at their expense. Infringement is not a criminal matter and therefore not illegal unless they say it is.

But what it does mean is that they are not in any position to dictate morality if they're not willing to distinguish between legal and illegal in their pursuit of profit. It's not a moral position. It's one that has blinded itself to morality in the name of continued profits.

Oh and one more thing. If piracy is such a problem, why do they only concern themselves with piracy on the PC? Why not the millions of pirates who were on the Xbox 360 alone? Who only need one alteration to their console to pirate every game on there. Sure, most of them don't have Live accounts anymore, but I doubt that stops them playing pirated games offline. Yet publishers won't do a damn thing about that.
Isn't it weird that even with the blatant pirates on the Xbox 360 many multiplatform titles still outsell the PS3 equivalent?
microkosm
Nameless wrote:
achowles wrote:
Because they're purely concerned with their own profit margins. They're not at all fussed about the legality of copies of their games, just whether or not they're making money from them.

Why should that be a bad thing? They've invested time and money into a (let's assume for the sake of this argument) good game, it's only fair that they be rewarded for that; decry the methods if you will, but the blame for them falls squarely on the players who continually steal their games. A high profit margin is ultimately the goal of almost any industry, so I don't think video game companies should be painted in a bad light for being in a bad position that's largely not their fault.


This is a capitalistic society. Just because you pour resources into making a game doesn't mean I have to go buy it directly or at all for that matter. All sorts of things are bought secondhand. Everyone doesn't have the money to buy sh*t brand new nor is everyone brainwashed by consumerism.

In the final analysis, if the company doesn't sell more units they're potentially losing money. THEY need to get more creative in terms of selling their game. Unfortunately the gaming industry today is coping by pushing out mediocre clones of successful games and backing in-game advertising as opposed to creating original games.
Nameless
Microkosm, how much more creative can a company get in selling copies of their games? By your own logic merely increasing the quality of the game won't work; the extra effort would increase the number of players who can't afford it new, and sacrificing quality for quantity is the only thing keeping some companies afloat. Include feelies? Most player won't care for them and they'll bump up the costs further. More advertising? More cost, and it's unlikely to increase the percentage of players who purchase it new in any case.

If high quality games are not purchased new in significant quantities, then the developers have no incentive to produce further high quality games. If the income from game purchases alone does not cover the costs, the developers have no choice but to rely on product placement, DLC, cheap sequels or otherwise. In a capitalistic society they would be reasonable choices, and ones whose fault lies in the consumer for rendering them necessary and more profitable.

Buying directly from a company allows it to grow. Buying second hand games will allow the second hand game market to grow, but it leaves the game developers only with less desirable methods of covering their costs. Even if you, as a player, don't care about the game developers, there's an element of self interest in paying the extra cost now and avoiding the inevitable decline in quality later.
Bluedoll
achowles wrote:
Nameless wrote:
From the perspective of the game developers, there is little difference to their company whether you download a pirated copy of a game or buy it second hand


Because they're purely concerned with their own profit margins. They're not at all fussed about the legality of copies of their games, just whether or not they're making money from them. This is why EA is now trying to sell DLC to pirates. They're not at all fussed about the legality of pirated copies. Just whether or not they're making any money from them.

Is buying a painting second hand immoral? After all, the artist sees nothing from the sale. Yet there is no question mark hanging over the morality of the sale. None. It's the owner's property that they bought from the artist. They have full right to resale. The only difference with games is we have an industry behind them that try and warp our perspectives on morality to suit their ends. The same with the music industry. But that's far, far, far worse.

For centuries people listened unquestioningly to the word of government. Now we're moving into the 21st century and most no longer trust government but instead listen unquestioningly to the word of industry. I don't know what's worse, personally.
Wow, this has opened my eyes to something, that the question of morality is thrown around for other reasons than just morality. I guess it is yeah!
I can understand the reasoning of looking for incentives. People want developers interested in what they do so they produce a better game (thats what a lot of people want) and I suppose money is a big incentive but computer games to me have always been produced in a transitory way. I just wasn't sure about the dynamics of what did that but then what do I do I know? I thought hacking a game, messing with how a game is distributed was just part of what gamers did – part of the computer gaming industry itself and pirating was a popular game like windows or mac is to os’s.Razz

Idea How about some company producing a new game called Gamers Monopoly where $ = computer code

nahhhh too boring and too expensive?

besides another company would bring out another new version of pong and the main stream users would get stuck with the old second hand games that no elite gamer would be caught dead with.
microkosm
Nameless wrote:
how much more creative can a company get in selling copies of their games?


Exactly. The gaming industry is suffering from a lack of fresh thinking. Which is why I think the infusion of services such as wiiware, psn store, xbox live 360 store, and the casual gaming movement which is introducing the public to indie developers is integral to shaping the future success of the industry.

Nameless wrote:
the extra effort would increase the number of players who can't afford it new, and sacrificing quality for quantity is the only thing keeping some companies afloat.


The fact that the public en masse buys crappy clones/sequels keeps the industry lazy and in part prevents innovation. Why try something new when you can rake in profits with the same old thing? If people stopped buying crap from EA it would get their attention.

Nameless wrote:
Include feelies? Most player won't care for them and they'll bump up the costs further. More advertising? More cost, and it's unlikely to increase the percentage of players who purchase it new in any case.


So that's what they call those things Surprised Nah, you're right, fcuk feelies. They're only for the hardcore nerds so the companies don't make any substantial profits from these sales. On the other hand these might be smart for smaller indie/cottage game developers. See the success of Trent Reznor with the most recent NiN release with feelies. I guess you have to have an extremely loyal fanbase.

Nameless wrote:
If high quality games are not purchased new in significant quantities, then the developers have no incentive to produce further high quality games. If the income from game purchases alone does not cover the costs, the developers have no choice but to rely on product placement, DLC, cheap sequels or otherwise. In a capitalistic society they would be reasonable choices, and ones whose fault lies in the consumer for rendering them necessary and more profitable.


They may certainly be reasonable choices but the fault doesn't lie with the consumer. In fact, I don't think "fault" is the appropriate descriptor here. It's all about supply and demand. Demand may be low for high priced games so the market equilibrates around lower priced used games. (I don't think this is actually the case but is an extreme example). Also capitalistic theory parallels evolutionary theory: survival of the fittest. If a gaming firm can't sell their stuff they go out of business. Fact of life. The developers move on to other endeavors.

Nameless wrote:
Buying directly from a company allows it to grow. Buying second hand games will allow the second hand game market to grow, but it leaves the game developers only with less desirable methods of covering their costs. Even if you, as a player, don't care about the game developers, there's an element of self interest in paying the extra cost now and avoiding the inevitable decline in quality later.


Absolutely. This is why the big companies are freaking out about chains like gamestop/eb games. On the other hand there is a sizable market for gamestop.

Overall, you have good points and I was acting as devil's advocate. I don't think piracy and the second-hand market are going away any time soon and the industry has to stay one or two steps ahead. The industry may be in a bit of a slump right now but ultimately the shift towards digital distribution and incorporation of independent developers will save the day.
eday2010
This is a pretty pointless discussion. Buying a second hand game is not immoral. Just like buying a used music CD or movie is not immoral. You are not breaking the law, you are not stealing a copy or pirating one. You do not owe the developers or publishers anything. They already made money off that copy of the game. And if they made a good game and marketed it properly, then they should have already made a nice sized profit on the game.

How much profit do the developers and publishers make when you buy the game on sale, or when you buy it a year later at a much reduced price? Probably nothing or very little. So is that immoral too? It's such a ridiculous discussion, because tit basically says that if you are not buying games at full retail price, it's immoral to buy them.
Nameless
I don't work in the industry so I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that when you buy a game through a retailer the developers have already been paid their full share when the retailer bought the copies in the first place. The retailer might lose out and stop buying copies to sell, but they might also make more money from everything else you buy more expensively after being attracted to their store. So no, that's not basically what I'm saying.

You can say the developers already made the money off the copy of the game you're buying second hand, but that's not necessarily a fair way to look at things; a more realistic one is that they already made money off the previous player, but not from you.

You also say the developers should have made a profit if they made a good game and marketed it properly. This prompts the obvious question, would YOU buy a game new if it were good and marketed well, or would you still leech off second hand copies?

EDIT: Also, buying second hand movies is a largely different discussion since much of their income comes from it showing in the theaters first, as well as largely accepted product placement and the like.
weableandbob
I don't see it as immoral. From my point of view, once you buy something, you can do anything with it as long as it is not illegal.
driftingfe3s
QrafTee wrote:
I think in a way reselling old games (and pushing them over new games for just $5 less than MSRP) is worse than pirating. I mean then another company profits from something the developer's can't cash in on. And since companies like Gamestop push their employees to sell used games over new games, that's a double whammy over pirating.

I, for the most part, just buy new games unless my friend (who works at Gamestop) gives me an offer I cannot refuse.


Yeah it sucks, they buy your game for $20 bucks and then sell it with a $30 profit. But if I could buy people's old crap and push it out with that much profit, I'd do it too.
QrafTee
driftingfe3s wrote:
QrafTee wrote:
I think in a way reselling old games (and pushing them over new games for just $5 less than MSRP) is worse than pirating. I mean then another company profits from something the developer's can't cash in on. And since companies like Gamestop push their employees to sell used games over new games, that's a double whammy over pirating.

I, for the most part, just buy new games unless my friend (who works at Gamestop) gives me an offer I cannot refuse.


Yeah it sucks, they buy your game for $20 bucks and then sell it with a $30 profit. But if I could buy people's old crap and push it out with that much profit, I'd do it too.
Yeah, I know. We live in a capitalist society where we strive to make a profit and that's a good way to do it. Too bad they can't work up some deal where the original developers get a percentage of used game profits from large companies like Best Buy (I think Best Buy is buying and selling used games now) and Gamestop.
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