Outrage Over Kingdoms of Amalur Content Lock Brings Studio Head Out To Debate

Studios and publishers are fighting back hard against the used game market, with the upcoming title Kingdoms of Amular, the latest to declare it'll use a content lock. In this case, KoA ups the ante by locking out part of the game that's normally available in single-player mode. Game reviewers found the following inside their copies.

The text reads: "Online pass gives you access to the House of Valor faction quest, featuring seven additional single-player quests" It then gives instructions on how to activate the additional content.

Gamers exploded, with many angry that game content that had shipped on the physical disc was locked away and missing, as well as being angry at the fact that content was withheld from used players. One forum thread asking if the studio fought back against allowing EA to lock the content went on for 49 pages before Curt Shilling, the head of 38 Studios, took to the forums himself. His commentary on the situation is blunt and to the point. (All emphasis and use of capital letters is original)

DAY 1 DLC, to be extremely and VIVIDLY clear, is FREE, 100% totally FREE, to anyone that buys a new copy of Reckoning, ANYONE. If you don't buy new games you buy them used, and in that case you will have to pay for the Day 1 free DLC content the new copy buyers got for free.

It's clear the intent right? To promote early adopters and MUCH MORE IMPORTANT TO ME, REWARD fans and gamers who commit to us with their time and money when it benefits the company... This is not 38 trying to take more of your money, or EA in this case, this is us REWARDING people for HELPING US! If you disagree due to methodology, ok, but that is our intent... companies are still trying to figure out how to receive dollars spent on games they make, when they are bought. Is that wrong? if so please tell me how.
Obviously no one likes being told that buying a game used means not getting access to the full content, but there are several facets to consider.

The Bigger Picture:

In the past, companies like EA have justified an additional charge for multiplayer as a means of recouping money they lose in used game sales as well as covering cost of operating servers. KoA's single-player-only status means this argument isn't applicable.

A number of people have declared this to be simple greed, but the situation isn't that simple. Consider this:  When you buy a used game from Gamestop, the studio gets nothing. Buying a used game and pirating the game outright are identical as far as their impact on the studio's revenue. That's inherently frustrating for developers, and the problem is made substantially worse by Gamestop itself.

The problem, after all, isn't the fact that a used games market exists, but that the used games market is dominated by a single enormous company. Gamestop's monopoly on the used game market gives it the ability to set prices on what a used game should sell for, and the resulting sale is 100% profit for the company. Unlike the MPAA, which prohibits selling new and used games side-by-side, there's no such restriction at GS.

If your idea of "used game sales" means checking Ebay for old copies of hard-to-find titles, it's easy to get upset when companies make this sort of move. It's something altogether different to realize that the "Used" game market is controlled by a company that creates scenarios like the above (a screenshot from Gamestop's own website, taken today).

The current price Gamestop pays for a copy of MW3 is $23. The remaining $31.99? Pure profit -- and that's what's so upsetting. In the eyes of game creators, Gamestop isn't a noble company keeping prices low for users -- it's a leech that controls the market to fatten its own wallet and pays gamers a pittance.

We're with the developers on this one. It would be one thing if GS actually kept its used prices even modestly in line with what it pays for the games in question, but the company exploits its market position to a huge degree. One of the more popular counter-claims is that Ford, for example, doesn't make any money on a used car sale either -- but this ignores the fact that Ford, GM, and other manufacturers earn residual income through manufacturing replacement parts and, in some cases, licensing other companies to do the same.

We dislike the fact that gamers are caught between studios and Gamestop, but the retailer would be wise to see the writing on the wall. Such efforts to entice gamers to buy new are only going to ramp up in the years to come; the company could save itself significant grief by agreeing to pay studios a percentage of profit on its used products. With $3 billion in sales during just this past holiday season,  they can certainly afford it.