By Stewart Berg, Guest Writer
Imagine writing a novel. One person buys a copy, then loans it out to every other interested reader. Now, imagine buying a novel and being told you couldn’t lend it to your friends.
This issue - the relationship between creative and consumer rights - has become increasingly relevant in the video game industry.
Like in other similar media, the video game industry has a tradition of recycling its product. Players who have beaten games are naturally driven to sell them, while players wishing to avoid high prices tend to buy used games. And middlemen such as GameStop have sprung up to facilitate this wholly-beneficial system.
However, in this system, the game creators are apparently left without their due, only receiving the money from the initial purchase of the game. Successive swaps see no monetary compensation trickling to the creators of the game, and as Toy Head-Quarters creative director Cory Ledesma has said, “When [a] game’s bought used we get cheated.”
Strides in technology have seen an increase in the number of games purchased digitally. Digitally purchased games don’t exist as hard copies, meaning the buyer is usually the only one who can enjoy it.
The lack of a disc, while increasing the simplicity of purchasing for the player, ensures the player cannot lend or sell the game to anyone else. The majority of games are still released in hard copy form as well, giving the player a choice of buying the game digitally or purchasing a disc. However, game developers and publishers have begun to take further steps towards limiting a game’s ownership.
Game creators have recently begun attempting to limit the used market for their games by releasing games with unique codes that limit some of the game’s content to the initial buyer. While this practice is cumbersome to players, it has so far been limited to particular games.
As reported by Kotaku, Microsoft might release the next generation of the Xbox with a feature that limits the use of a purchased game to the initial buyer. While it is currently unclear how this would work, it would effectively destroy the used game market since use of each disc would become restricted to the original buyer. Players could no longer buy used games to save money, and a buyer of a new copy of a game likely wouldn’t even be able to let a friend freely borrow it.
Such a rumor raises questions of ownership, and, more specifically, of how long a creator retains ownership of his or her product. It can be argued that the product becomes the sole property of the buyer upon purchase, but it also seems somewhat unfair that a user can fully experience a product without the product’s creator receiving any compensation.
There’s no easy answer in this situation, where the freedom of the user conflicts with the dues of the creator. While it may seem initially preposterous that such a limitation of ownership is able to happen in the video game industry, the next logical step would be a producer such as Honda taking full payment for each used Accord sold.
Despite the worries of game creators, any inequality must be in favor of the consumer as purchased games must be seen as the sole property of the buyers.