Friday, September 26, 2008

Halo Developer Wants To Profit From Sales of Used Games

Clothing manufacturers don't get royalties from sales of used clothing, and record labels certainly don't get paid for sales of used music. It's just a happy side effect of the fact that we live in a free market society; people are free to trade and sell objects that they own without getting corporations involved.

But due to some outrageous legislation and licensing we don't actually own the music, movies and electronic games that we buy - we license them from the folks that make them. This means that hundreds, thousand of dollars of the stuff we have worked and paid for are not really ours, but subject to the whims and conditions of ever more powerful corporate firms whose technology and resources show no signs of wavering either. Ridiculous license agreements restrict how individuals can use their own software, their own music. Can resale regulation be far off?

Marty O'Donnell, a developer for Bungie (the makers of the ever-so-popular Halo series) thinks that the rules of resale should be different for gaming:

"It's hard to gauge the effect of used game sales on Halo, but I'm sure it's big," O'Donnell commented. "Complaining about sales when you have a multi-million seller is somewhat difficult to justify, but it seems to me that the folks who create and publish a game shouldn't stop receiving income from further sales."

"It will be harder for smaller titles to be successful in the future if they can't fully realise [sic] a return on investment," [Marty] explained.

Whaddya think? It seems to me that the give-and-take of the market takes care of any issues that secondhand sales create. For example, if Halo was only worth $30 to a consumer but retails for $50, then that individual might buy it and later resell it after getting their money's worth of playtime. The buyer understands that the game is a used copy and pays less than they might for one from the factory. It's a central principle of capitalism.

And do I have to mention that every used copy that somebody buys creates one less used copy, forcing somebody who might have bought a used copy to buy the game new?

But that's not even the main issue at hand: Mere "lost sales" (of new products) cannot be equivocated with theft or ripping off creators. Whenever an individual buys something other than Halo, they're spending money that might have been given to Bungie's developers. That doesn't mean that anything needs to change. Every time something perfectly natural happens that's good for consumers but less-than-optimal for creators and publishers of material, industry heads bitch and whine about lost profits. Who cares? Why must the advantage fall by default to suppliers and not consumers? Maximizing profits by butting into the rights of others is inexcusable. I hope that for every higher-up who sweats over every lost opportunity there's somebody who respects consumer rights. Go ahead - legislate and DRM me to death. I'll switch to word searches or something.

( via Kotaku)


  1. This seems to me rather bizarre; your example of the 'used clothing' trade puts the developer's argument in its proper and silly place.

  2. It's not a perfect comparison, mainly because it isn't strong enough - the fact that digital media is an infinitely duplicable public good at this point in history makes it even more childish and ridiculous to restrict it.

    I'm going to enjoy in fear over the next few years, watching technology butt heads against the information bourgeois trying to profit from the spread of information.


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