Selling your stuff? Oh, the horror

This is entirely unrelated to Linux or Red Hat or Fedora in any way, just so's you know.

There's three web comics I read religiously - Penny Arcade, 8-bit Theater, and xkcd. PA seems to have a sort of one-site anti-GameStop campaign going. The comics in this campaign are frequently hilarious - the latest is just brilliant, for e.g.

Despite that, though, I just don't agree with the actual point at all. The PA guys are usually pretty incisive, but I'm not buying their argument here at all. Their argument, condensed, is basically that selling stuff you previously bought is a Terrible Thing because it deprives the person or company who made that original thing of revenue.

Well, um. That's as maybe - people sell stuff they'd bought previously all the time (books, cars, private jets, underwear, anything at all you can find on eBay or Craigslist or the pages of the local buy and sell, really), and the manufacturers of Stuff In General seem to get by regardless. Sure, if you went to a publisher or a car manufacturer or a purveyor of fine underwear and asked them, if they could shut down the resale market for their stuff entirely, they would, they'd probably jump at the opportunity, but most of them are happy to accept that that horse left the stable really quite a long time ago, and no-one is being downright evil in realizing the value of that book, car, private jet or pair of boxers that they're just not really using any more.

PA's position appears to be that all consumers of video games have a Moral Duty to buy games, play them, and put them on a shelf. Should they discover in a month, year or decade that they're not really playing that game any more, they should merely leave it on the shelf and continue to admire it, because if they sell it on to someone else who might actually get some value out of it, that person will not then buy a brand new copy from the publisher, thus depriving the publisher of the revenue and leading to untold woe and misery in the households of game publishers everywhere.

I'm just not seeing the moral force of the argument. As far as I can see it, if I buy Stuff from you, it's now my Stuff. I bought it in order to use it. If I can no longer get any value from it, it's really not my moral duty to consider your interest in whether I sell it or not. That ship sailed. Even if my selling of my Stuff causes StuffCo to lose a sale of new Stuff, that's not going on my moral ledger. Here's the deal: if StuffCo wants me to hang on to the Stuff so they can sell more of it, it's their damn job to make the Stuff so useful and/or compelling that I don't want to sell on my Stuff. As applied to games, this means you make a game that's so damn good / replayable / collectible / heavy / something that I don't want to finish it and sell it on to someone else. And if you don't, then it's just too damn bad, and you have no-one to blame but yourself. It's your job to figure out your economics so that you can continue to produce Stuff at a profit, it's not my job to sacrifice my own best interests.

I also find a bit a bit perverse that PA seems to be perfectly happy to allow, or even bang in favour of, publishers attempting to resolve this little dilemma not by improving the quality / replayability / weight of their product, but by using restrictive licensing and DRM on digitally delivered games to make it impractical for people to sell on the game once they don't want to play it any more. This really just isn't the best approach to take, in the long run, for anyone's interest. If you try to use artificial restrictions to force people to keep the product, rather than make them want to, in the end you're just damaging your reputation and making people less likely to buy the stuff in the first place. They'll think twice about dropping $50 on a game they're only going to play for five hours if they know they can't sell it on for $25 afterwards, and then everyone's worse off.


Paul Frields wrote on 2009-03-13 19:50:
It's funny that you never hear this kind of argument from people who make furniture. Furniture, like a game, ostensibly can last pretty much forever in terms of functionality. And yet you never hear Broyhill complain that people sell their used sofas. And arguably each of those sales is "costing" them a lot more money than a resold computer game "costs" its maker. When I first started this reply I was going to make some fuddy-duddy point about the fleeting and questionable value of entertainment media versus the lasting value of, say, furniture. Now I'm just depressed that people who make the stuff place such a high value on it. It's much better making things of lasting value that help your fellow man, don't you agree?