Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wow, WhistleBlowerZero was actually right.

I normally like to focus my ramblings on MMOs, but every once and awhile I'll dig into an issue that I think will have a broad effect on the entire gaming market. Notice my obsessive following of the DRM debacle for Spore. Still I try to limit myself from doing these kind of posts too often and boring everyone. If you follow any of the regular gaming news sites then you probably remember the story about the disgruntled ex-GameStop employee. After getting a new job he decided to make a series of YouTube videos which highlight the way GameStop stores are run. It's a fascinating series of videos that grabs the attention in much the same way as a brutal car accident. Several practices he described were downright immoral and a couple were probably illegal in some states.

The videos are done in the same style as Zero Punctuation and used photoshop images to successfully be entertaining while highlighting questionable GameStop practices. The one that most stuck in my mind was that employees were encouraged not to ask questions when people came in with multiple sealed copies of a new game. It was obvious that they were stolen, but the store made a huge profit reselling them since the "sellers" always wanted cash. You see GameStop buys games at two different price points. You get a bad deal if you just want store credit, but you get a really horrible deal if you actually want cash. Some of the descriptions of these "sellers" from the ex-GameStop employee were quite vivid. I especially like the point where he said there was just something wrong about a crackhead selling stolen goods in a store filled with 14 year old kids.

Anyways either someone was watching those videos or the world just loves big coincidences. By way of Kotaku I came across a story about a police sting on GameStop stores in Memphis. Undercover officers had no problems selling video games to clerks even after they made it clear they were stolen. It apparently happened enough that the police arrested eight different clerks. The regional GameStop VP had to suspend the practice of buying used games in Memphis area stores and I wouldn't be surprised if there was some sort of investigation. Still if the videos of WhistleBlowerZero are to believed then dealing in stolen property is only the tip of the iceberg.

So how does this affect MMOs in any way whatsoever? Well it's a long convoluted chain of thought but the basic premise is that MMOs alone can't keep the PC market afloat. It's great news that MMOs are immune to piracy and a company will never try to slap restrictive DRM on one. However, the massive amounts of money that used game stores make are the main driving factor for invasive DRM schemes. It's not that piracy is an issue as much as sharing and trading software. Companies like EA hate the used game market in a manner very similar to how MMO publishers hate gold farmers. They both see the practice as someone making a lot of easy money off a product they developed. Stories like the one about the GameStop sting operation probably encourage tougher and more draconian types of DRM for both console and PC games.


Update: WhistleBlowerZero's account has since been suspended by YouTube and all 9 videos he made removed. Will look for another place where they are linked. Copyright is not an issue here, though a defamation lawsuit by GameStop could be.

4 comments:

Pidge said...

>> However, the massive amounts of money that used game stores make are the main driving factor for invasive DRM schemes. It's not that piracy is an issue as much as sharing and trading software. Companies like EA hate the used game market in a manner very similar to how MMO publishers hate gold farmers. They both see the practice as someone making a lot of easy money off a product they developed.<<

I think you're right about the hate, but I have zero sympathy for the game companies.

We're not talking about piracy, we're talking about erosion of the doctrine of first sale, which is the right for a buyer to give away or resell something he or she purchased as long as no additional copies are made.

A car company can't keep people from reselling their old cars. A clothes store can't keep you from donating your old clothes to Good Will. A bookstore can't stop you from loaning a book you read to a friend. A music store can't keep you from selling your old CDs at a swap meet.

Why should game companies get any special protection when we're talking about the boxed physical products?

Sorry, I just don't buy that.

And, while the WhistleBlowerZero thing is certainly interesting, it's just another form of receiving stolen goods. Deplorable, but legally nothing new.

Relmstein said...

There were some other interesting things from the WhistleBlowerZero videos that seemed to be in a legal gray area.

Employee statistics that prevented raises if they sold too many new games instead of pushing used copies.

Employees only having access to their pay through a GameStop partner bank. Managers losing or ignoring paperwork for direct deposit to different banks.

Being punished for reminding customers that they had already payed to reserve or pre-ordered the game they were buying.

Constantly putting broken mechandise up for sale.

Capn John said...

I still enjoy browsing at Gamestop but I rarely buy there any longer. I fail to see the reasoning behind selling a new game for $40 and a used copy of the exact same game for $35.

Apparently in this case most people buy the $35 used game.

Me? I'd rather pay $5 more and get the brand new copy. Gamestop & their employees probably don't like me.

Anonymous said...

new link as of 10/08/08 http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/263260.html