Premium Content in Games

Image by Flickr user JBLivin
Image by Flickr user JBLivin

Day 1 DLC, online access codes, the “PSN Pass”, each of these a different version of “premium” content meant to encourage buying new. Premium content is a tough issue to take a stance on, since there is a valid argument for each side. On one hand we have the developer/ publisher essentially offering a more “complete” game by offering extra content to new game buyers, while on the other hand we have used game consumers, who are seemingly punished by the existence of that same premium content. Neither side is completely in the wrong, since the developer and/or publisher are simply trying to reduce losses due to used games, while used game buyers are simply trying to make their hobby slightly more affordable (a game is an expensive purchase after all).

So is “premium” content for new purchases completely wrong? I honestly don’t think so; I think it can be a good thing for gaming. I’ll admit that I tend to buy new, and it’s always cool to get a couple of little extras even though I was going to buy new anyway. That’s the thing though, little extras that have hardly any impact on the game itself are fine. They’re a reward for new buyers rather than a punishment for used buyers.

It’s when an integral portion of a game is held back from used game buyers that “premium” content gets a little unreasonable. Sure, a used game buyer can still by the withheld feature (usually for around $10.00) but that defeats the purpose of buying used. I mean if you by a multiplayer-centric game used, only to discover that it requires a code that only comes with new copies to use the multiplayer portion of that game, who gets punished? Not the one who sold the used game, but instead you, the consumer, the one who’s a fan of the franchise and was looking forward to playing it. However, on the developer/publisher side of things, would a person who normally buys used really consider a new copy for just a couple of minor extras? It’s a fine line to walk.

What makes this even more complicated is how premium content relates to current DRM (digital rights management) practices. Since DRM is failing its purpose as an anti-piracy measure, and punishing legitimate players in the process, we need an alternative. This alternative, ironically enough, could be even more premium content in games. It makes sense; if you can’t stop the pirates, then make it worth their while to buy instead of steal. So here’s our problem, if additional premium content becomes the new anti-piracy measure, then where will that leave the used game market?

For now premium content for used games is a fairly grey area, with several valid points for both sides. That’s my take on it, but what about yours? Where do you draw the line when it comes to “premium content?” How could this policy be changed to me fairer to both sides?