It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the All-Digital future that gaming publishers are pushing us into. It’s not just a question of having a display case or the feeling of having something physical, but rather one of ownership. When someone buys a game they might not own the Intellectual Property of the game, but they own that specific copy of the game. If laws regarding other media are anything to go by, just as a person is able to pick up a book and read it and write on it whenever they feel like it, people should be able to play (or mod) a game whenever they feel like it. And yet, it seems that now game publishers are eager to (once again) take away that freedom.
Kotaku recently reported that “in a few weeks, Minecraft: Story Mode will be impossible to download.” In our All Digital Present, this means that if someone paid for a STEAM copy of the game, they will no longer have access to that game. The publisher is essentially breaking into your home and stealing your copy of the book; except that because it’s just your STEAM account and it’s just a game it’s somehow ok.
In the past months there has been somewhat of an uproar from the gaming community as many of its members express disdain and hatred towards Gamestop and some of the store’s practices. The communities from Kotaku and The Escapist are especially lively and vibrant in their discussion of Gamestop’s evils and the virtues of the future of gaming. Much of this conversation revolves around how Gamestop is “killing the gaming business” with its used games program and how many players can’t wait for the day when Gamestop goes out of business and publishers and developers can go back to making money on the games they make. Certainly, game developers should make money off the games they create and publishers should receive royalties because of their work distributing the product. However, much of this conversation takes place in a “Gamestop versus publishers” battlefield while completely ignoring the customer. If one takes into consideration the customer, then perhaps one would not be as critical towards Gamestop’s practices as Daniel Floyd in his (delightfully written and amazingly witty) Extra Credits videos. Certainly, some of Gamestop’s practices deserve harsh criticism – and I will start with those policies and practices first – but to demonize all of Gamestop and labeling them as the enemy of gaming is a bit of an exaggeration.
In his Kotaku article “GameStop Sells Played Games As New, Sources Say, Practice Could Be Illegal”, Brian Crecente sheds light on a Gamestop policy where the store allows employees to “borrow” new games, return them to the store, and sell them as new. I, as should all people of any reasonable intellect, agree with this article and be against this particular Gamestop policy. Selling used stuff as new is, literally, fraud. When Gamestop does this the customer is being ripped off, they are paying full price for a second hand item, and if any fines are warranted then they should be imposed. But this is not the Gamestop policy that gamers hate – Gamestop’s most hated policy is their used games policy.