Pete Davison: This Post is Preowned and Proud

Posted on October 24, 2011 by

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Fellow daily blogger and #oneaday 2010 alumnus Ian Dransfield posted a good rantabout Online Passes earlier, and I thought I’d add my two-penneth.

These arguments have been made before, and will doubtless be made again, but people need to stand up to this behaviour and stop defending it. Why? It’s quite simple.

Online passes are completely indefensible.

It really is that simple. There is no reason for a publisher to lock off sections of content from people who have purchased copies of their games legally other than the completely mercenary “to make extra money.” Sure, publishers don’t make any money from preowned game sales — the thing which systems like this have been clearly set up to combat — but let’s look back, shall we? We survived the PS2 era with a flourishing second-hand game market. Grew enormously, you might say. Even the early part of this console generation did just fine without requiring you to enter three or four codes before you can even play the fucking game you paid money for.

One frequently trotted out excuse from publishers is that online passes help pay for server space and maintenance. Again, in previous generations and on the PC, that has never been an issue, so it’s a spurious argument at best. The argument is often extended to point out that when a second-hand copy of a game is sold, some space on the server must be created for the new player when, in fact, an extra copy of the game has not been paid for. Fine, but bollocks; the previous player is no longer playing it because he traded it in, meaning their precious server space can be taken up by the new owner. Easy.

This isn’t even getting into the fact that this argument is completely destroyed by games such as Arkham City, which lock single player content behind an online pass. And exactly what, pray, are those gamers who don’t have their consoles connected to the Internet supposed to do? Just go without? Well, yes, apparently, so it seems.

It astonishes me (and Ian, for that matter) that there are people out there who will happily defend this obnoxious practice — people who are the very consumers getting bummed senseless by it. It’s unnecessary, it’s indefensible and it’s just plain rude to consumers. And it’s giving me pause when considering whether or not to purchase new games — an issue which started to grow as DLC and later Game of the Year editions started to rear their heads.

Let’s take Uncharted 3 — a game which, by all accounts so far, is likely to be pretty brilliant. The Uncharted series is known for its excellent single player campaigns with strong stories, wonderful characters and spectacular setpieces. And yet news has emerged recently that the game will be making use of both an online pass to access the multiplayer, and a Season Pass allowing people to “preorder” downloadable content. The presence of both of these rubbish things is making me not want to purchase a new copy ofUncharted 3 when it’s released. Because I’m unlikely to play the multiplayer anyway, I may as well wait a while and pick up a preowned copy for cheaper, thereby depriving Sony and Naughty Dog of the money that I actually wanted to give them for producing a spectacular game.

I’m hoping these horrific business practices will cause the “mainstream” part of the industry to implode at some point in the future, because at the moment the vast majority of the gaming population is proudly presenting its collective posterior to the likes of EA, THQ and Ubisoft and allowing itself to be repeatedly violated with a large phallus made of money. It doesn’t have to be like that. If an independently developed game such asDungeon Defenders can be one of the most-played online games on PC while costing $15 and without demanding anyone purchase any kind of pass for the privilege of playing online, then large publishers such as EA clearly don’t need any money.

The sad thing is, though, that the desire to play the latest and greatest games as soon as they’re released is a far stronger impulse than the “hang on, I’m being bum-burgled here” sensation. People want to play things day one, and by buying new copies they figure the online pass thing won’t affect them. But in doing so, they’re indirectly giving publishers the A-OK to carry on with these anti-consumer measures. And that’s not OK.

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Posted in: Pete Davison