PSM to Kids: Stop Recycling!

Jul 22

PSM Masthead

The June issue (#111) of PSM featured an article titled “WARNING: Games are Under Attack!”. The article is basically an alarmist’s description of all the threats facing the game industry today. There’s really nothing wrong with that, except that amidst the commonly known problems like Piracy, Rising Costs, and Governmental Restrictions they list Used Games:

Nobody can blame you for trying to save a few bucks, but do you realize how badly used game sales hurt the game publishers? You went into the store ready to hand them $50-$60, but by buying a used copy, you gave all of your cash to the retailer instead. Publishers don’t see a dime from used sales, and when they don’t get their cut, things get bad for gamers. For starters, prices can go up, and the riskier, more innovative projects get shelved in in favor of safer, more generic games.

I find this claim to be both ridiculous and irresponsible.

First of all, I have doubts about this “trickle-down” theory of game development. Do bigger profits for game developers result in better games for the consumer? Not necessarily. Great games come from creativity and innovation, not from having a multi-million dollar campus and a gazillion employees. Granted, I’m sure it’s easier to get your games to market if you can lure the best programmers and creative minds to your company with big salaries, but it’s not quite the 1-to-1 correlation they imply in the article.

Besides, where are all these used games coming from? Clearly someone is paying full price for them. They don’t just materialize out of thin air. And in most cases the original purchaser gets money for the game that they can then use to buy (you guessed it)… more new games.

Why is the game industry any different than any other? You would laugh if someone told you not to shop in thrift stores for fear of putting GAP out of business. Or how about, “You know, Ford would be making much better cars if you’d stop buying from the used car lot.”

Imagine the impact of this position if it were to come to fruition. If no one buys used games, no one can sell used games. So what do I do with a game I don’t want anymore? Throw it away? Keep it in my apartment until it becomes obsolete? What if I have an entire system I don’t want? Not everyone can afford to buy the latest and greatest system every time something new comes out. But I’ll be damned if I’ll sell them the one I’m not using—I mean Sony needs more money!

More than just presenting a flawed argument though, this article takes an incredibly irresponsible point of view when you consider its target audience. Judging from the content of the articles, letters, and contests in the magazine I think it’s safe to say the audience is quite young. It’s dangerous for a magazine aimed at young people to be discouraging kids from finding uses for others’ unwanted things, and giving new life to the things they no longer use. Things of value are not always shiny and new.

We should be teaching young people to conserve resources, and reduce consumption, not encouraging them to just throw money at corporations merely for the sake of keeping them in business.