Video Games: Where Loyalty is Useless

I got really interested in a debate fostered by the guys at Penny Arcade recently.  They started a conversation on their blog and later on Twitter that revolved around the discussion of used games verses new games.  If you’ve not followed this, game developers and publishers have gotten frustrated with the sales of their games in used markets like in Amazon or Gamestop.  In retaliation, they’ve provided single use redemption codes with new games that won’t transfer on a second sale.  This has brought the ire of gamers looking to save a buck, as well as some frank discussion from developers to those gamers.

I’m one of those guys who goes out of my way to buy games used instead of new.  At a time where new games are $50 to $60 each, it’s an expensive hobby to have.  Instead, I typically buy games that are a year or two old for just around ten bucks through third party retailers on Amazon.  Rarely, I do buy a game new if it’s something I’m a huge fan of.  For example, I love Zelda games, and will undoubtively buy the new one when it’s first available next year.  I also love LucasArts developed Star Wars games, and had bought The Force Unleashed as soon as it was available.

Within that used game argument, it seemed that the developers constantly brought up the idea that they and the publishers would have to see profit in order to keep their jobs or create sequels.  I found this claim to be somewhat without credence at the time, as The Force Unleashed sold well and yet much of it’s development team was laid off following the release of that game.  Additionally, now that The Force Unleashed II has been more or less completed, LucasArts has made substantial staff cuts again.  That’s precisely why I don’t feel that argument has much merit.  Video game creators in this day and age don’t enjoy long term job security.  In fact, it seems that the companies they work for treat them more or less like temps or mercenaries much like the movie industry does.

It certainly appears that these companies have no loyalty when it comes to the people who slave over games prior to their release.  As soon as these guys remove themselves from the rest of their lives in “crunch mode“, their employer throws them to the wayside in thanks.  Why exactly should I reward that company with loyalty when they have no real appreciation of that concept themselves?  I’m someone who really appreciates the hard work that someone puts into arts and entertainment, not necessarily the corporate business plans looking to make a quick profit off of that.

If my buying a new game clearly does nothing for the developer actually making it, I fail to see the moral high ground that buying a new game produces.  If this was within some system in which the sale of a game directly put income into the hands of a developer, I’d be far more understanding and willing to do just that.  It is clear that some newer and fairer system is needed and that more ethical understanding within the EA’s, LucasArts and Activisions are imperative.

Until then, I’ll stick with saving $40 on every game I want to play.


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