Sunday, June 27, 2010

When did the Used PC game market die, and why?

I've been mostly a console gamer for the past few years, but have recently thought about getting back into PC gaming. The graphics, frame rates, and online play tend to be considerably better on the PC versions of games than on the console ones. Plus, PC games tend to be cheaper than console games. The recent Transformers: War for Cybertron game, for example, is $20 cheaper on the PC than for the 360 or PS3. Cheaper prices, better performance, what's not to like, right? And powerful video cards, ones that far outpace the video performance of the 360 or PS3, are relatively cheap, too. A PC video card that is double or triple the power of a 360's video card is around $100.

One disadvantage, though, is that PC games are difficult to resell. In some cases, it's even forbidden by the End User License Agreements that come with the software. Typically, PC games require the user register the game to account account. At which point, the only way for another person to install and play the game on their computer is to have them log into that same account as well. Because of all these complications, you can't resell PC games at places like Gamestop, and you don't see any "used PC games" sections at these stores, either.

So I'm hesitant to jump back into the PC gaming scene. The graphics will be much better, and the prices are cheaper, sure, but the long-term costs of gaming on the PC seem much higher since every title I purchase can't be resold.

Not being able to resell a PC game also means I am much more conservative about what games I will consider buying. On a console, I'm much more willing to buy games on impulse because I know that no matter how much I might not like a game, or how quickly I bore of the game, I can just sell it off and get a big chunk of my money back (Ebay and Craigslist are great for this). It's basically an alternative way of renting games. But on the PC, I feel like I can't buy a PC game unless I feel absolutely sure that I will want to keep the game for the rest of my life, that I'll want to keep coming back to it. It's rare that any game meets such a high standard. For example, despite having owned probably more than 10 PS3 games so far, I only currently own a single PS3 game (Metal Gear Solid 4). Everything else has been played through, enjoyed or hated, then sold off.

I hope that some day the used PC games market will resurface. Better graphics, nicer controls for shooters and online gaming. I miss these things.

Many PC gamers complain about the Digital Rights Management systems that have come about with PC games, but I sometimes hope that these DRM systems somehow bring about the same used games market we see on the consoles. A DRM system that can accurately determine that the player has a legitimate copy of the game in their DVD drive would be a system that could do away with burdensome CD key registration systems, and return our ability to resell PC games.