An interesting thing is happening in the PC game market: consumers are losing the ability to resell their games.

For the past few years a new PC game has cost $50–$60. You play it for a few weeks, then store it or sell it. Game stores will buy a recent used game for $20 and resell it for $40–$50. Naturally, game publishers hate the used game market; they get no revenue from the second sale.

Massively multiplayer MMOs like World of Warcraft made a big market shift a few years back; consumers buy a non-transferrable account for $15/month, no possibility of a used copy. And recent single players games like Dragon Age have been limiting the used games market by including a one-time use code for extra content. Used copies are still playable without the extra stuff, or you can buy the rest for $10 or $15.

Then Starcraft 2 came out and blew the market entirely apart. There's no such thing as a used copy of Starcraft 2. You must have an online account to play, even the single player game. But unlike an MMO there's no technical necessity for the account, Blizzard just did it that way because they could. Suprisingly few people have complained and the new business model hasn't harmed Starcraft's sales noticeably. Consumers seem entirely willing to give up their first-sale rights for PC games.

A similar transition is happening in the electronic book world. You can't resell or gift a Kindle book, it's forever bound to the account of whoever bought it. No first-sale rights. The Kindle edition is often more expensive, too. It's pretty alarming, particularly if you love used bookstores. It's not clear which way movie streaming will go. Netflix' $10 for all the movies you can watch is so cheap right now, but expect that to change as the market matures.

  2010-08-30 21:21 Z