Something to think about: if we had a perfectly efficient secondary market that allowed users to “buy”, loan, or check out a game when they are playing it, and immediately resell or return it when we aren’t playing it, then developers only sell a number of copies equal to the all-time max concurrent players.
Let’s take BATTLETECH and use it as an example. They have sold nearly a million copies of the base game on Steam, so even if the devs only averaged $30/sale, after Steam’s 30% cut they still are getting $21 or so, x1,000,000, so $21,000,000. That goes a long way towards more updates, patches, expansions, future sequels or other games, etc.
Now the same game has 35,767 concurrent all-time max players. This means, at no time were more than 35,767 licenses for their game in use, so in a theoretically perfectly efficient secondary marketplace gamers would just buy/borrow a cheaper copy of BATTLETECH from other gamers instead of buying a new copy from the developer. Even if the developer raised his prices to $100/ea AND never discounted the game, that still means they would only bring in $3,576,700…if Steam doesn’t take any cut. With the standard 30% cut, the price for BATTLETECH would need to be $838.76/copy just for the devs to breakeven with what they had sold under the old system. So we all lose. Us as gamers would pay more, the devs would make less, and Steam would have higher overhead and more systems to manage with less of a cut.
Of course, that’s with perfect efficiency, some gamers like to collect games on a digital shelf so they would refuse to lend out the game sometimes, or maybe someone forgets to mark their copy as available after they finish playing it, etc. Those instances make it even worse for gamers since less copies would be available floating around in the secondary marketplace, but the devs might get slightly higher sales, so a mixed bag.
Just something to ponder, not trying to rain on the discussion here (lots of great points on either side). Thought that example would help some that didn’t understand or couldn’t relate translate it into real numbers so everyone can see the reality of what we would be striving towards if reselling became the de facto standard.
To those saying “Steam would never create a perfectly efficient secondary market”, true, probably that would be hard. However, if Steam didn’t make it hyper efficient, another site would (because there is money in reselling, so even with a 1% cut, if another site was 10% better at efficiently matching players, they would get more business — all other things being equal). It would become an efficiency race to minimize the total number of copies needed to be sold, which in the long run decimates indie developers, and massively takes a chunk out of AA and AAA sales.