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Letter From The Director: Used Game Mercenaries

by Neal Ronaghan - June 27, 2011, 1:25 pm PDT
Total comments: 25

Resident Evil's first 3DS game doesn't let you reset the save data. Is this a big deal?

I could spend this time talking about the excellent Operation Rainfall and their grassroots movement to get Xenoblade and The Last Story to North America. We've done that already. Instead, I'm going to talk about smaller issue related to this week's (read: the next month and a half's) big release: Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D.

In that game, which I'm currently in the process of reviewing (goes up tomorrow at 8 a.m. PDT), you can't delete your save file at all. That's correct; there is no way to reset the save data on the game cartridge at all. Now, most people's reaction to this is rage. "Crapcom's ripping us off! Screw them!"

Personally, I'm not bothered by this. The potential problems with this, from a gamer's perspective, is that the unlock system can't be reset, and the high scores are always there, meaning a previous owner could get insane scores you could never reach or something. How does this ruin the game at all? I honestly fail to see how it does, as the game experience is undeterred. The unlockables do offer a nice carrot, though, and maybe for some that is a great loss, but I don't see how it is a large problem. Also, this isn't a linear game. It is a high score-based game. It's not like there is a story to spoil.

While I don't side with publishers to the degree that I'll avoid used games (sometimes it is much cheaper and the only way to get a game), but I understand why they'd want to combat it, even if it is as passive aggressive as this. Publishers make no money on used games, so they need to incentivise consumers to buy new. It's a tricky line to tread, because you don't want to do something that will upset your fans, but at the same time, you have to make money.

If you agree or disagree with me, let me know in the Talkback below.

This week should have a bunch of reviews. J.P. and Zach are looking at some DSiWare games. Matt Blundon's Wii Play: Motion should be up soon, as well. I'll be letting you know about Mercenaries 3D, Transformers 3DS, and DualPenSports. Josh already laid out his thoughts on Mystery Case Files. He should be writing about the latest Transformers DS game soon, too. Zach's rounding out our Transformers coverage with a look at the Wii game based off of the new movie.

We'll also have constant coverage on the craziness surrounding Xenoblade, and all the news we can get up.

Also, if you made it this far, please write mailbag-at-nintendoworldreport.com and feed the 'bag so next week in this space, I can answer your questions.


I'd have to agree. If the game was story based and it didn't allow for someone to start over their progress, I could see a problem. However, if someone really wants to begin the game with fresh scores they can simply purchase the game new. Also, this certainly isn't going to be a problem the first few months after the game's release, as the difference between new and used prices barely differ during that time.

PaleMike Gamin, Contributing EditorJune 27, 2011

Re: RE

I honestly think its a pretty stupid move to try and combat used games sales if only because few people will know about it ahead of time.

This isn't going to stop people from buying the game used. It's just going to annoy people who bought the game used.  Maybe that is what they are going for with this, but I don't see how that could be a successful tactic. It's going to do more to deter people from playing the next Resident Evil game than it will deter them from buying games used.

A used market is the product of selling physical media. Honestly, developers really can't complain. It's a fact that they aren't selling consumers the game, they are selling them the license to play their piece of intellectual property. Physical media just happens to facilitate a very concrete way of transferring that license in a legal and non-copyright-infringing way.

The problem with the used game market isn't the concept of buying and selling used games. It's the fact that big national chains have the ability to manipulate the market on a massive scale, facilitating sufficient supply of used titles in all locations. Their supply essentially squashes competition and allows them to inflate prices.

To make matters worse for publishers, they are so dependent on these stores that they won't/can't punish them in any way. Surely it would only take pulling a few huge console launches and they would start to get the message. In so doing, they would also lose a bunch of sales from people that only buy their games from these stores.

The only solution to this is to embrace digital delivery as much as possible. That is why sufficient storage in a system is critical, something I hope Nintendo is starting to get right, given the 3DS.

I know, this has all been said before. Just felt like typing today I guess. :)

KDR_11kJune 27, 2011

I'm just waiting for the first guy who ends up with Gamestop's "used new" copy.

The whole selling-a-license talk does not apply to console games. That's a specific change to your purchase contract forced on you by the EULA (i.e. you buy the software and by agreeing to the EULA your purchase is turned into a license). Only games that require you to agree to a contract before you can play them can use the license excuse and I still think the whole EULA idea should be outlawed as an attempt to circumvent the law as it stands.

I don't think that publishers have ANY right to reduce used sales. It's a part of any market that your goods can be resold. That people are willing to pay only five Euros less for a used copy than a brand new one shows that something is seriously wrong with the way games are sold.

And as always, the number of used sales cannot be higher than the number of copies that got traded in. Why would someone trade a game in during the first few weeks (the hot time sales-wise)? It must have lost a LOT of value to the customer to get traded in for the pittance Gamestop is notorious for paying. Capcom likely knows that and they know that RE:M is going to lose value in the eye of the customer very quickly. They know people won't want to keep this game. It's an admission of failure.

Also let's not forget that Capcom previously added extra DRM to PSN titles, which made them unplayable during the PSN outage...

CericJune 27, 2011

I'm going to imagine a big bucket hat burst forth slowly from the ground delivering Pale to deliver that message.  With that Pale steps back in and resend to his underground Beer Cave.

To tell you the truth I wouldn't be surprised if Nintendo has considered linking games to their DS.  They could do it.  Wouldn't be hard but, that would make a serious gap between them and their customers. (Though if it was up to NoA that wouldn't stop them.)

Ian SaneJune 27, 2011

I don't like it but that's because I don't like the concept that buying used games is somehow wrong and that this is some big problem that needs to be addressed.  Every single product sold in stores can be purchased used and yet the videogame industry is the only one that make a big stink about it, comparing it to software piracy.  Every other industry has found some way to continue to make money without being ruined by the used market.  Used book stores are everywhere but I don't hear publishing companies and authors going on and on about how they don't get money from it.  If not enough people are buying new games then your business model is wrong and sabotaging used games should not be the solution.

Make games that have enough replay value that people actually want to play them multiple times, instead of trading them in once they beat them once.  I myself find I go back to old NES and SNES games all the time but virtually no games from 2000 onwards have I played beyond my initial playthrough.  The older games are short enough to be completed in a few hours and based on gameplay so they are easy to go back to.  Modern games tend to have very long lengths and rely a lot on the story to push the player forward.  This can greatly affect replay value.  Compare an old NES game to a movie and the typical modern game is a mini-series in comparison.  You are more likely to go back and watch an old movie then to watch an old mini-series due to the time commitment for each.  And with videogames, it is worse because there is EFFORT involved.  You not only need to have the time but you have to work through it.  Do you want to risk getting stuck at that boss 30 hours in that you only beat by fluke last time?  With older games I find I rarely dread old hard parts but I do with modern games.  When I think about how much work is involved to go through the entire game again it doesn't actually sound very fun.  Modern games are designed for a single long playthrough, which encourages trade-ins.

Meanwhile people are willing to buy used to save $5.  Frankly I think those people are dumbasses as I usually need at least a $15 difference, unless the game has become hard to find.  That suggests to me that videogames are expensive so being able to save the slightest amount is a big deal to most.  The price point is likely too high.

But the funny thing is that the solution is right in the industry's face and yet they focus on ideas like this one and blocking online access.  You can't buy used downloadable games.  The industry is going to move more and more in this direction.  The younger generations that have grown up in the era of MP3s lack any real attachment to physical media.  Us dinosaurs that remember when all there was was books, LPs, VHS tapes and videogame cartridges are becoming the minority.  All entertainment that can be distributed digitally will gradually move to that model and physical media will disappear.  At this point there is no such thing as a used copy because there is no physical copy to transfer between owners.  The "problem" is going to go away.  Of course then piracy will be an issue but that's an issue NOW and it is unrelated to used sales.

CericJune 27, 2011

I've heard plenty of authors belly ache about the books but, unlike Videogames, books have had many many many years to get over it.  I mean we are talking longer then the US has even been around.

Though the Collector in me loves my media.  I can't seem to part with my cases even though I don't use them for anything anymore except shelf lining...
I kept my NES boxes for goodness sakes...

Making money means taking more and more rights away from the gamer these days?

This is Capcom we're talking about, who's released 7+ RE games + a dozen spinoffs on a dozen different platforms over the last 15 years, multiple movies i'm not talking about cutscenes... Anyone think they're hurting for cash?

All you keyboard monkeys up in arms over a gat dang RPG should have at least as much outrage over this. If it doesn't end here, who knows where it'll go next.

Quote from: Zap

Anyone think they're hurting for cash?

Yes, especially after they potentially lost a ton of money during the PSN outage. I'm pretty sure Capcom is a delicately balanced company. Remember, they are somewhat similar to Nintendo in that they are solely a games company. They need to be profitable or else they cease to be.

broodwarsJune 27, 2011

IMO, Capcom's decision here is a bit of a (if you'll excuse the expression) "dick move", but compared to some other things that companies have done to deter used game sales I can't sale it's that major.  I am concerned about where this goes from here, considering that Sony did something similar with DC Universe Online (the disc is locked to your particular PS3, so you couldn't sell it if you wanted to).

UltimatePartyBearJune 27, 2011

Since when has it been standard for games to have a way to reset the save data?  And not holding in the reset button while you turn the power off doesn't count.

broodwarsJune 27, 2011

Quote from: UltimatePartyBear

Since when has it been standard for games to have a way to reset the save data?  And not holding in the reset button while you turn the power off doesn't count.

I think it's less a problem that you can't reset the save data, so much as there's data on the cartridge that you can't overwrite.

UrkelJune 27, 2011


"The games industry um... ah... uh... finds a way. To rape you."

AdrockJune 27, 2011

This is pretty crummy. I typically don't buy used games unless I can't find the game anywhere, like A Boy and his Blob. I'm currently waiting for The Crystal Bearers and Lost in Shadow to drop in price before picking them up. I admit that's part of the problem. These are games I want but I don't want to pay even $30 for them. If I wait too long (and I probably will), they might be hard to find new so at that point I'd buy them used because that's the only way I can get them.

I'm not too worried about Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D though. It's a big enough title that by the time I pick it up when I eventually get a 3DS, it should still be widely available.

KDR_11kJune 28, 2011

Quote from: UltimatePartyBear

Since when has it been standard for games to have a way to reset the save data?  And not holding in the reset button while you turn the power off doesn't count.

Since battery saves were introduced. Most cartridge games have some button combo detailed in the manual for resetting the save data.

OblivionJune 28, 2011

This sucks.

AlexofxenJune 29, 2011

Hi, I'm new-ish here, one of those long time reader/lurker first time poster types.  Which makes me sound like I'm made of poster board, which I assure everyone I'm not.  Poster board would've never been able to identify all of those cats when I registered.

In response to the comment that the print industry doesn't complain about used bookstores is actually quite inaccurate.  I have worked with a few different authors now whom have let it be known that they don't receive any royalties from used sales, nor from library rentals (where apparently in the UK their libraries will actually mail out small royalty checks to frequently checked out authors), and aren't necessarily too thrilled about it (most authors don't make a great living just writing, it's only the hundreds of thousands of copies sold per book, or alternatively the frequently licensed out to Hollywood, authors that make a killing).  Furthermore, print is hardly the best example of an industry "making due" as they are barely able to be solvent for the most part.  However, that does raise an excellent point.  Even most authors agree that there is a significant audience being served by their presence, and that is because books eventually go out of print.  And even those that don't still have collectors interested in searching down those rarer, older prints.  However, Gamestop and their ilk largely refuse to buy or sell older than last gen games, meaning their only real interest in selling used games is in pushing out legitimate first copies sold to make maximum profit. 

Also the assertion that many gamers don't replay modern (or last gen) games seems to largely be unique to Mr. Sane.  Although I'll be honest I don't have the time anymore to do that frequently I know that many of my younger colleagues (including my cousin whom plays most every game he gets at least twice) do play through their games multiple times (not even including multiplayer content) and myself recently played through both No More Heroes and Fallout: New Vegas for a third time each.  I also usually dread the harder sections of older games because of lack of checkpoints/save games that many older NES and SNES games don't have.  That and the quarter munching difficulty.

Well that was longer first post than I meant to do, especially on an article that is already a few days old.

A lot of the assertions Ian makes are unique just to him.

oohhboyHong Hang Ho, Staff AlumnusJune 30, 2011

If this game was entirely a high score attack like an old school R-Type game, then I wouldn't have an issue with this. But this game isn't. That RPG "Carrot" is part of the experience of this game and therefore used up as the player reaches 100% completion. By locking the save, it robs subsequent users and the initial user should they wish to "Do over", whether they be a stranger, siblings or a friend you lend the game to, of the same experience of a first time user.

Not only have they done this, but Capcom had the gall to to give such a bare faced lie to such a farce. There are other games out there that allow you to reset progress and high score separately, if they were so "concerned" for the end user, they could have simply locked just the high scores. It is not a technical feat to do such a save system.

To paraphase, like Broodwars said, it's a "Dick move" and there wouldn't be such a fuss if there wasn't something wrong happening here. They will get punished for it.

Older games can be found and played in other secondary markets besides EB and Gamestop. Neither are they the only game in town. Rarely do I ever buy from them simply they are not cost effective to buy from compared to other shops and second hand direct from other gamers

I would have to agree mostly with what Ian said, to a certain extent. Game length and replayability variability are greater now than 20 years ago now saves and checkpoints are universal. But they aren't really any longer or shorter. Games have increasingly become commodities. FPS have shown massive signs of this. If given a whole lot of screen shots and you didn't know the unique specifics like weapon models and HUD elements, you would have no hope of telling one from another. Because they are so interchangeable there is no reason to replay the one you have especially there is ALWAYS, the next one around the corner that has a different shade of brown and yellow. So why not treat it like a rental and trade the game in. Now the price of said trade is a topic of another discussion, but publishers are just as complicit as EB with the yearly sequels, the lack of incentive to keep, abandoning buggy games without a single patch(Deadspace, looking at you) and bringing punishment to those who buy second hand as if a crime with project $10?

Here is the kicker, even if Valve didn't have Steam, the updates they provide for free that not only fix bugs, but add new content and features means that if you sold your game, you would miss these future upgrades. The things they add isn't just cut content or a release and patch later till it's playable, but completely new. You now have every incentive to keep your game well until the resale value is dead for a large number of people.

Simply, it better to use flowers to attract hepful bees than garbage and get only flies.

CericJune 30, 2011

You know the only other game I know of that can't reset is Super Monkey Ball and I was looking at my 3DS and it doesn't have a system save associated with and I know it saves data.  Anyone have any other games that don't have save data on the system beside these two?

KDR_11kJune 30, 2011

Doesn't this basically mean used copies get boring faster, i.e. traded in faster, i.e. available to the market again faster?

CericJune 30, 2011

Quote from: KDR_11k

Doesn't this basically mean used copies get boring faster, i.e. traded in faster, i.e. available to the market again faster?

But that inflates the availability and lowers the resale value.

AlexofxenJuly 01, 2011

To say that all FPSs have become strictly a yearly commodity and have no discernible difference from one another is a disservice to the genre (unfortunately Activision in their infinite wisdom have very nearly done that with the annual CoD releases) and I myself have played several such as Bioshock and Crysis recently a few times.  Not to entirely deny your point though, as I already mentioned with the ever shifting player base on the CoD and Halo franchises. 

Also, their are several alternatives to Gamestop (no use distinguishing between them and EB anymore) such as local used electronic stores, and far more importantly as far as Gamestop is concerned Ebay and Amazon.  However, as far as mass market and mall location visibility goes no one beats Gamestop.  None of which excuses Capcom's behavior however.  Also this is the last time I'm going to commence in comments thread necromancy twice. 

ymeegodJuly 02, 2011

Well the problem lies with costs.  Video games cost more than books so people are more incline to resell them.  For example I buy alot of novels but I don't bother with reselling them because the value is so low it's not worth my time. 

What we need something that works a bit better--maybe a limit on how many times a product can resell.  Namely if I purchase a game and it turned out to be a lemon I think I should be able to get something out of it at least.  The sap that buys used will get stuck with it but at least he bought it at a discount to begin with so he/she can't complain.

broodwarsJuly 02, 2011

Quote from: ymeegod

What we need something that works a bit better--maybe a limit on how many times a product can resold.  Namely if I purchase a game and it turned out to be a lemon I think I should be able to get something out of it at least.  The sap that buys used with get stuck with it but at least he bought it at a discount to begin with so he/she can't complain.

We already have something like that on PC, and it hasn't been well-received.  Some PC games have had limited-use Activation Keys, so you can only install the game on a finite number of machines over the course of its lifetime.  Needless to say, that's caused quite an outcry from time to time.

ymeegodJuly 03, 2011

That activation key was tied into your account, meaning just like steam if you wanted to sell it you'll have to give up your account which isn't to bad but if they catch you doing it you'll end up getting it banned.

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