"Parallel Economy"

While desperately searching through the internet to find something to rip of-IMEAN- “while looking for inspiration to put into a highly-original post”, I came across this Penny Arcade. Seeing that everyone’s talking about it, well, the bandwagon goes really fast and makes all these sweet curves, it’s quite like an awesome roller coaster. Why not ride it?

Anyways.

I’ve always considered stores like Gamestop and the like to be nothing more than parasites. Yes, I have bought games there before, I will admit. They were games that the developer no longer sells personally, though, so there really was no way to ship money over to the publisher other than mailing a check. In my defense. However, it’s hard to ignore what they do to companies as a whole.

To make a convoluted comparison, look at books of poetry released by third parties. You know what I’m talking about, the books that are 90% composed of Poe’s works, but there’s a ten-page foreword by Literary Weasel. Guess who makes most of the profit off of the sales! Literary Weasel, because he’s the one that published the book. Taking the genius of others and using it for your personal gain… parasites, all of them.

Seeing that I’m using the word “parasite” more than Andrew Ryan, let me point out the opposite view: yes, it is a legitimate business, and there’s no room for playing nice when it comes to business. They do provide a service (selling the game itself) for a price that is lower than the publishers themselves. The game is in worse condition than new, thus they are selling an inferior product for less money, as basic economic principles would tell them to do. Yes, you could drop a few more bucks on a new disk, so it’s not like they’re stealing all of the publisher’s gain.

However, games are not like other goods. You see, most long-lasting goods, like books and cars, deteriorate in a way that affects their performance. Books might lose words to smudges, or even entire pages. And anyone who has bought a well-used car can account for the effects of time. However, a videogames will retain its full value because the good isn’t the disk itself, but the info that it contains. This is why digital distribution is possible, you buy the code, not the game itself, if that makes sense.

Thus, when I say that GameStop sells an inferior product, it’s not true. They won’t buy back break in to your house and steal your game collection while leaving 5 bucks on your kitchen table if any of the games are damaged beyond reasonable playability. Thus, the real product remains as pure as the day it was printed, even if the medium itself is a little tarnished. So what GameStop does is sell the same product as the publishers, but at a reduced cost.

Many people say that the simplest solution is for the publishers to simply drop their prices to a point where they are competitive with GameStop and its brethren. However, there is a problem with that: the publishers could never be competitive. As I said before, GameStop buys back games at a price that is blatant highway robbery. How can a developer/publisher compete with a company that buys back the game for five bucks, then turns around and sells it for forty? Yes, the publisher might cut back on GameStop’s profit margins, but they could never truly compete.

Unfortunately, there’s no good way out of this. GameStop isn’t doing anything illegal or stupid, their business plans are actually quite brilliant in a slimy way. Yes, gamers might actively avoid buying from GameStop, but let’s face it, those who self-identify as “gamers” are the minority. For every heroic defender of the developer you will have three coupon-clipping cheapskates that will simply look at the price tags, not what’s behind them. The only real way to help with the problem is for the developers to push harder for “Buy new, get this in-game ____” prizes or bind-on-account games, a la Steam. Both are being implemented, although the former is being pushed hard by GameStop, a fact that I can’t understand. Why would developers agree to give special prizes to people who bought the game from the leeches at GameStop? It seems silly.

Personally, I haven’t bought a game in physical form (other than SC2) in ages, so I don’t really bother with GameStop. Steam is my wonderful library. However, I implore you CD-buying or console-gaming people, please, buy from the developers.

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