THQ to fight pre-owned games with premium online content

By on August 10, 2010, 3:10 PM
Just like EA and possibly Ubisoft, video game developer and publisher THQ is getting ready to combat the 'threat' of pre-owned games. Speaking to investors during its recent Q1 earnings conference call, the company's CEO Brian Farrell announced plans to ramp up the output of "robust downloadable content and premium online play" in all of its major releases. The executive believes such a move will help THQ boost digital revenue, engage players with games for a longer period of time and reduce the impact of used games sales.

THQ had already trialed a form of this when it released UFC 2010 earlier this year. Similar to what EA is doing with its Online Pass feature, the game shipped with a one-time code that was required to unlock the multiplayer Fight Camp Mode option. This means users buying pre-owned versions of the game must buy access from THQ.

This is a model that several publishers have been quick to praise and looks to be the way forward for the industry, despite criticism by users. It also raises the question of how such a model would impact the value of services like Xbox Live, which unlike PSN requires a yearly subscription of around $50 to access online multiplayer functionality.




User Comments: 17

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mattfrompa mattfrompa said:

This kind of thing will only force me to buy fewer games...I may love them but there is only so much I am willing to spend and that amount is decreasing the older I get...

Zilpha Zilpha said:

Wow, these folks make money hand over fist and still complain that they don't have enough. Rather than try to shoulder the folks selling pre-loved games out of business, why not strike up a deal with them?

Just another example of dog eat dog. This will probably cause me to buy fewer games as well. I guess they don't care about us "old-timers" though. New generations coming up don't care about that shiny box and instruction packet that we all grew up on.

PanicX PanicX, TechSpot Ambassador, said:

So everytime I need to reinstall the game, or my operating system, I need to buy a new copy. Thanks but no thanks.

Guest said:

I personally would let these companies go bankrupt and ONLY support ones that do not screw their customers.

Zilliak said:

So pc games are now 60$, or becoming 60$. The content is 20$ to add on. I m starting to think that this is why pirating has become so popular, you can only charge so much before people just get tired of it, here comes to the revolution and we can thank the game company's this time.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Everyone knows how anti-pirate I am, but I feel differently about selling used games. I sell all sorts of stuff used - car's, clothing, furniture, etc. The way I see it, if I've cut a check for it, it's mine to do what I want with it.

Now technically that doesn't apply to software because if you read the EULA, you'll see that in essence you're just leasing the software not buying it. However, I think that's just a catch-all to prevent selling a used software copy that doesn't jive with any other type of purchased goods. And I don't agree with that.

But these guys are primarily talking about ways to extend the life of a product through mainly DLC. And that is fine with me. If I have a great game, I want to continue playing it anyway. I'd be playing Fallout 3 until the day I died if they had enough DLC for it.

DokkRokken said:

I think it's sports games that are probably the ones that are often sold used. If that's the case, maybe developers should sell the game cheaply, but then charge a 'seasonal' fee where player stats, engine updates and all that fun stuff are updated on a consistent basis.It doesn't seem graphics are the top priority for that genre, so they could probably get away with using the same engine for a couple years, as long as everything else that matters to gameplay is top-rate.

Guest said:

and people wonder why i quit playing console games when i finally "grew up", and pirate what i cannot get for free (open source or otherwise).

DokkRokken said:

Yeah because self-entitlement totally fixes the problems.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Not surprised another major publisher is going this route but still very disappointed in the decision. Devaluing games and subverting my right to resale wont get me or gamers on their side. I don't think any of these publishers are realizing the negative consequences of their actions. Used games are huge among console gamers mainly to sell games they finished in order to buy ANOTHER game. By making it harder to resell it's likely some gamers will buy less games. And some games don't just target multiplayer but take it into singleplayer too like Mass Effect 2 which is really irritating.

Now technically that doesn't apply to software because if you read the EULA, you'll see that in essence you're just leasing the software not buying it. However, I think that's just a catch-all to prevent selling a used software copy that doesn't jive with any other type of purchased goods. And I don't agree with that.

Thankfully real laws > EULA even if companies disagree. You might be interesting in Vernor v. Autodesk, [Link1] [Link2]. Hopefully the appeal goes in our favor too.

But these guys are primarily talking about ways to extend the life of a product through mainly DLC. And that is fine with me. If I have a great game, I want to continue playing it anyway. I'd be playing Fallout 3 until the day I died if they had enough DLC for it.

I disagree, developers/publishers over the years from what I've seen have been fading away from the idea of extending the life of a game for long periods of time. Just look at some of the recent games that came out that completely take control away from gamers. If you want to prolong a game you give the community help who will play it for many years, not remove it. And the DLC they release is stuff that was already being developed beforehand. Of course there are exceptions like Fallout 3, but I see more big franchises going the quick sequel/continuation direction.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

If people buying used games encourages gamers to purchase games, with a potential eye for resale, then why are the publishers against it.

They really think that piracy is THAT difficult of an alternative. Any semi intelligent person with a modicum of net savvy (or a good AV program) can download and run fully functional, virus free versions of games. Do they think that a person who doesn't want to pay 40 bucks for a game, and is now prevented from buying it at 15 bucks used, is really going to give up and pay full price? They'll probably download. And the thwarted seller of games will be discouraged and feel animosity towards a company. And anyone who figures they'll buy legal version, play it and sell it, and make most of their money back will be completely alienated.

yukka, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I dont see the problem myself. If a company creates a great game and only sells half the copies it would expect because half the buyers wait for it to be available preowned, the publisher loses the money from the sales of half the copies of the game and the games shops pocket more than their fair share without giving anything back to the publishers.

They should either impose a preowned tax for shops to pay publishers per sale or only give one access code for the online portion of the game. I don't see the problem personally. Another alternative could be publishers reducing the cost of their games after 6 months so they still see a return but the shops get to sell to people who want to wait out for the cheaper price.

Thanks for the "return to your previous page" link when you sign in btw. Very handy.

casperinmd said:

I don't mind paying a small fee for DLC. Keep it small, no NOT $20. $5-$7 maybe depending on the size.

However, I am most afraid that developers will only put 70% game into the initial product b/c they know they will release the other 30% in 3-6 months and charge even more for it.

So the developer/publisher gets more money than the $50 game (or $60 which is where things are going) and the consumer gets...well only a complete game which they should have gotten when they first purchased it.

Guest said:

Games publishers need to grow up and realise this is a fact of life for every consumer industry ever, basically. You don't see car manufacturers crying their eyes out about used car sales (which outnumber new car sales), or clothing and furniture manufacturers complaining about charity shops and eBay sales of second-hand goods. Measures like this are just going to give pirates further justification for their actions (who no doubt will find workarounds and cracks for the activation codes and whatnot) and alienate legitimate consumers.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Guest said:

You don't see car manufacturers crying their eyes out about used car sales (which outnumber new car sales), or clothing and furniture manufacturers complaining about charity shops and eBay sales of second-hand goods.

That's true, but with digital media you don't deal with the product physically deteriorating, as it does with cars, clothes and furniture. In those cases, used means older, more likely to be worn out or break.

You don't get that with software. Barring physical damage to the disk, you'd expect to receive the same product today or ten years from now. Not the same can be true for a 10 year old car.

I think a better analogy would be used movies. You are allowed to sell those (last time I checked). MGM is not up in arms about how many people watch a single DVD. So if you're able to sell a used movie or record, you should be able to sell a piece of software.

For media the cost only goes down when the desire for something ceases. I'd have no trouble finding Poison's Flesh and Blood for 99 cents today, but this was not the case twenty years ago.

Guest said:

You don't lease games as you are purchasing the rights and title without the intention to return them. There is also nothing the the T&Cs saying that the game is to be returned after a period of time.

Under the "Exhaustion Rule" is a limitation on 'copyright' that was first recognised by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1908 and subsequently codified in 'Copyright Acts' throughout the world. 'Copyright' is the right to copy a work of some form. If one resells or gives as a gift a software licence or CD or DVD etc that one has lawfully purchased, a new copy has not been made and therefore, it is legal to resell under the respective county's copyright law. The "Exhaustion Rule" allows the purchaser to transfer, sell or give away a particular lawfully made copy of the copyrighted work without permission from the manufacturer once it has been obtained / purchased. This means that the copyright holder's rights to control the change of ownership of a product ends once that copy is sold, as long as no additional unlawful copies are made / sold. Note that the "Exhaustion Rule" is otherwise known as "first sale rule" or "first-sale doctrine".

For years there has been a perfectly acceptable 2nd hand trade in books and records, why do software developers think they are special. They are just a bunch of greedy.......

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

For years there has been a perfectly acceptable 2nd hand trade in books and records, why do software developers think they are special. They are just a bunch of greedy.......

First, your first sale doctrine issues are good stuff. I'm sure the software house's lawyers aren't exactly thrilled to have that sprayed information around much, if at all.

But as to them being greedy, well that's true also, but every other business organization is greedy as well. Have you seen the prices the doctors and hospitals are "forced" to charge. Their greed is immoral, all inclusive, and unrepentant.

At the end of the day, gamers are being bled due to their own addiction. So, if you don't have the strength of character to say "enough" as a group, and get with working a little boycott action, then maybe you should start either hooking, or break into houses to support your habits as individuals. You know, like a common crack head.

I find myself constantly amazed at the way you allow yourselves to be led to the internet for all things entertainment. It's like watching lambs being led to the slaughter.

Best behave yourselves, or Big Brother will pull the plug on you!

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