The used game industry has taken some heavy hits recently. After EA announced that it would start charging second-hand users a $10 fee to play online, in the form of an online pass, gamers were wary. When Ubisoft and THQ jumped on EA"s bandwagon, THQ releasing a game to feature the charge even earlier than EA, gamers who depend on used games to scratch their gaming itch were none too happy with the publishers. You would think that Gamestop and other game retailers would be on the gamers" side this time around, being that the whole used game deal is a win-win for gamers and retailers; publishers don"t get a penny from those sales. Furthermore, according to the Wall Street Journal, Gamestop"s used game revenue accounted for a whopping 42% of total gross profit in 2008. A hit to that market is a big hit to Gamestop.
Nevertheless, Gamestop seems pretty gung-ho about the whole idea. According to Joystiq, COO J. Paul Raines likens the idea of the Online Pass, and its ensuing controversy, to the first growing pains of DLC (downloadable content). When the idea of DLC, in which gamers had to pay above and beyond the already steep price of a new game, came to market, people were wary of the pricing. Eventually, the prices settled at a point where both publisher and consumer were happy, and the DLC market continues to thrive. Raines says that the Online Pass situation will be very similar. At first, people will balk at the price of a feature that used to be free. However, as long as Gamestop can establish itself as the place where these Online Passes can be easily and conveniently bought, gamers will learn to live with the added cost after the price adjusts itself to a satisfactory level. he also emphasizes that the price of used games may have to decrease to allow Online Pass to be a viable strategy. He isn"t worried about the consequences of that, as long as Gamestop is able to sell the passes, and the publishers would obviously be happy with that outcome as well.
Whether or not you agree with the sentiment that gamers will learn to live with the cost, the fact that Gamestop is willing to put its immense retail weight behind Online Pass is one less hurdle the publishers have to clear to begin their campaign anew against used gaming.