Should pre-owned gamers pay extra for online?

The case for and against extra charges for second-hand customers

The issue of pre-owned and the second-hand games market is a hot topic at the moment in the industry.

As increasing numbers retailers expand their video game offerings to encompass used games, publishers and developers have spoken out about the damaging effects of the second-hand market.

Activision and THQ are just two of many publishers taking steps to combat the increase in pre-owned sales.

One of the methods being discussed is to charge those who buy used extra for online features. PSM3 makes the case for - and against - this method.


If extra payments remain limited to multi-player, and fees become standard - say, a £5 flat rate on any game - few could seriously complain. Multi-player's a continuing service, with running costs attached.

But it won't stop there. Some major figures have spoken of their desire to destroy the second hand market.

While last year EA boss John Riccitello equated used sales to piracy - propaganda designed to soften up opposition, seeding the idea that used game sales, uniquely in our capitalist, consumer society, are immoral.

This goes against notions of property accepted for thousands of years. It's breathtakingly cynical.

One-use codes are far too tempting to waste on additional services. EA's Project $10, for instance, is less about adding value than controlling it.

Publishers can't control discs once they're out, but they can control downloads. Download-only gaming isn't quite here yet. So in the meantime, why not make discs worthless? Hobble the game, then ask buyers to download the balance as 'extras'. For a fee.

So thin out the 'extra' enemies, remove the 'extra' guns and chop 'extra' levels from Future Shooter X and you've shifted the value from the physical property to a download code.

Publishers get to sell discs and we get to buy them, but not own them or sell them or anything annoying like that. Ace. - Steve Williams


It's an unpopular view, but I genuinely believe games are fairly priced. Yes, I know £50 is a substantial outlay, even if you're reasonably well-off, but for the amount of effort that goes into games (well, the ones that are actually worth buying) it's a fair deal.

And, the longer you own a game, the more value you get from it. £50 for Battlefield Bad Company 2 is more reasonable if - like me - you bought on day one.

Why? It costs EA money to support the game online, and it costs DICE time and effort (so, money again) to develop the VIP map packs we've all enjoyed for free.

So, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask anyone who paid less for Battlefield because they picked up a pre-owned copy, to pay the extra money. After all, they're enjoying the same services as everyone else.

EA (or indeed any publisher) is perfectly entitled to charge a fee for anyone buying pre-owned, because they don't see a penny of the money from when that person actually buys the game. Why?

That cash is in the retailer's pocket, and I don't see them offering to help EA support their servers. And if you don't want to pay for an 'online pass' or any other locked out services - well, that is your choice.

You can still play the majority of the game without worrying yourself about how the publishers and developers are going to recoup their costs for support or future sequels. - Andy Hartup

Order PSM3 here and have it delivered straight to your door.