I recently wrote a blog about how I thought the pre owned market should be of a bigger concern to publishers than piracy. Well it seems that at least one publisher agrees with me.
It seems that THQ aren't fond of the pre owned/rental/lending a game to a friend, and have taken to shipping their new games with an unlock code for part of their game. I have seen this in Homefront (you couldn't level a multiplayer character past level 5 without entering a code) and Red Faction Armageddon (code needed to unlocked the destruction mode Ruin). Now if you don't have a code, because you brought the game second hand or you rented it, then thq will kindly sell you one for a few pounds.
Now previously EA has attempted to get you to buy new by putting codes for exclusive content or dlc in the game boxes. However THQ has clearly taken this to the next level, and I am not really sure how I feel about it. I can understand that they are ultimately spending millions of pounds on making their games, and within weeks, or even days, people are buying their games used, and they don't see a penny of that money. So I guess when some smart executive suggested the idea, it must have seen like genius. I guess it is something of a halfway house towards free to play, as large portions of the game are still available for your pre owned /rental. I should also point out that we are not talking massive amounts here, 6 pounds for Homefront and 3 for Red Faction, and usually just after a game launches the pre owned price is only a couple of pounds less then brand new, so I assumed THQ would hope that you just buy a new copy.
Humm that was me being quite understanding, wasn't it? You see I get it entirely, hell I even sympathise with game developers, who spend years on making a game. In many cases a game is a labour of love, so when a lot of people get to enjoy your creative efforts, and give you back nothing at all in return, it must be aggravating at best. However I don't like being told what I can and can't have.
Imagine going into a library, taking out a murder mystery novel and finding that the last few pages are missing and you have to log onto the publishers website and pay a few pence to find out who did it. That doesn't happen of course, and we are perfectly free to buy previously owned books, music and films, without restrictions.
But books, films and music are all significantly cheaper too buy than games. It seems to me that the only way to make everyone happy is to make games significantly cheaper, probably to half their current costs. That way there will be a lot less incentive to buy pre owned, you would probably make so little back on trade in's that a lot off people wouldn't bother and game companies would hopefully sell a lot more games. Though that plan requires one brave publisher to step up and take that chance.
All in all, I can't bring myself to hate THQ for the steps they have taken. I think they are wrong, but a business is there to make money and grow. The games industry has a lot of money in it, but it is still a perilous environment. Hell just ask the makers of Homefront, Kaos Studios, ah right you can't because they were shut down a couple of weeks ago.