Slashdot has a posting about a new study showing how the used game market is harming the new game industry. I don’t need a study to know with absolute certainty that the gaming industry is not being harmed by used game sales. Through the magic of a priori reasoning, I know that you cannot be harmed merely because you’re not getting what you are not entitled.
Let me explain. Wouldn’t it be awesome if your coworkers gave you a cut of their salary, for no reason whatsoever? Wouldn’t it be great if you walked into a bank one day and the teller decided to give you a portion of the bank’s holdings, for no reason whatsoever?
Yep, that would be awesome, no doubt about it. But are you being harmed because your coworkers and bank are not giving you money you don’t deserve? Nope.
That’s what’s going on with the new game and used game markets. The new game industry somehow feels entitled to profits from the used game market. Despite having absolutely no legal basis for such entitlement. In the United States we have the right of first sale. What that means is that we can sell what we bought, even if what we bought was copyrighted material. So we have a right to sell our DVDs, CD, and used games.
Of course someone will say that my coworker/bank analogies fail because they don’t take into consideration that the game industry created the games that the used game market is selling. If you think that, you’re completely missing the point.
The fact that the game industry originally created the game is completely irrelevant to whether it is entitled to any profits from secondary or tertiary sales. It does not have such a right to profits. None whatsoever. No more than General Motors has a right to profit from the sale of the used Chevy truck you just sold. GM created the truck, does it deserve a cut from every sale? What about your house, should the contractor get a cut when you sell it, when it’s sold 100 years from now? (I live in a house originally built in 1856, exactly who am I supposed to pay when I resell and move out?)
My point is, much like how you have no rights to your coworkers pay, and much like how you have no rights to your bank’s holdings, the new game industry has no right to profits from the used game market. None whatsoever.
Of course the new game industry outright lies and claims that the used game market “Is profiting from the sale of our games.” It’s a lie because once the new game industry sells a particular copy of the game; it is no longer their game. They have absolutely no ownership right in that particular copy. So to accuse the used game market of taking or stealing their property is an outright lie.
I have no doubt that someone will argue that the new game industry is being harmed because of lost sales. I.e., consumers are buying from the used game market rather than from the new game industry which is causing the new game industry to lose money.
Let’s get one thing straight: Losing sales to a competitor is not harm. It’s competition.
The new game industry’s claim that it’s being harmed from the used game market is as asinine as McDonalds claiming it is being harmed by Burger King.
Now certainly if Burger King was unfairly or illegally competing, for example, if Burger King ignored health and safety laws to keep their prices lower, in that circumstance one could argue that McDonalds would be harmed by the unfair and illegal competition.
But in this instance there is no illegality or unfairness in the used game market. It’s not illegal for consumers to resell their games. It’s not unfair to price those used games lower because the products are necessarily inferior to the new ones.
If your industry is somehow being harmed by perfectly legal and fair competition, then it’s about time change careers because you have a complete misunderstanding about how capitalism is supposed to work. You are not entitled to someone else’s profits, merely because you want them. Get over it.
Unfortunately, this is exactly why the new game industry is having laws passed to make it more difficult to sell used games. Despite what corporations say, they don’t really want to compete in a free market, they want the government to bend over and protect them from legal competition.
Update – 9/10/09:
My post used a priori arguments. Christian Ward over at Escapist Magazine wrote an a posteriori editorial on how the used game market is not harming the new game market. I love this quote the best:
In these belt-tightening times, attempts to squash the used games industry could actually have a negative affect on the sales of new games. If we cannot find a way to make what the consumer wants at a price they are willing to pay, then we deserve to fail. That’s capitalism for you. And the market clearly shows – if you are not smart enough to do it, someone else is.