On Buying Video Games Used

When did crippling products become acceptable?

An anonymous video game dev (second down) wrote in to Penny Arcade to discuss buying video games used. They say:

What other customers expect a used product be be identical to a new product? Buying a used car comes with increased wear (and thus decreased function). Buying a used book means you are risking page damage or a broken binding. Buying anything used means that you get a cheaper price for decreased function or increased risk. It also requires a little more awareness on the part of the customer to make sunre they are aware of what they are getting. In the video game case, if you know the game wont have multi-player used, you can adjust what you are willing to spend on it, the same way you might offer a few hundred dollar less for a used motorcycle due to rust."

Those aren't the same things at all.

Shit, my copy of Fallout 3 rusted.

In the used car and book example, you're buying a used physical product which (may) suffer from wear and tear during usage. You adjust your price based on how much different the item is from the unused new item.

In the used video game case, you're really buying two things:

  1. The physical medium the game code is stored on, which usually also suffers from some physical wear, like scratches, missing manuals, etc.
  2. The game executables, which do not suffer from wear.

Look, programmers joke about "bit rot", but in reality video game code doesn't wear down with use. The executables don't become any less executable. Left on its own, that game will run just fine for the first, second, and 100th owner without fail.

Unless you build artificial wear into your products, which makes you scum. If your product is engineered to fail, you're selling shoddy merchandise, full stop.