We are nearing a precipice in the gaming industry’s battle on used-game sales. The problem is that without a clear line of dialog to find a common-ground solution for publishers and consumers, this war will go nuclear very soon.
First, we must recognize what each side wants from one another. Publishers want money. We shouldn't deny it. They do deserve a right to make a profit and to get reimbursed for the investment in making the product that the consumer wants They see the sale of used games as lost income and are looking to find ways to recoup that (with the online pass being one of these "solutions"). Consumers of used products within the first few months of release are typically looking for the price to be reduced; they are looking for a deal. Consumers have started raising boycotts, writing articles, posting comments on message boards, and declaring one publisher the worst company in America all because they are fed up with being overcharged.
The solution to this problem lies in the way many companies are re-releasing old games digitally. Now, people have other avenues to purchase titles even after they can no longer be found in stores. However, what these publishers should do instead is release new games at a discounted rate on or near the release date of the physical copy.
Selling games digitally at a reduced rate will cut into a lot of used-game sales. Consumers who want a deal but don't care about the packaging (which is often missing with used games) can flock to the cheaper price online and not risk getting a damaged disk. Digital distribution does not carry a production cost as high as that of physical media which allows the publisher to set a reduced price online without incurring a loss in profit off of each game sale. The reason why digital distribution hasn't worked so far is because there is no financial benefit to the consumer. Most games are marked up to the MSRP when released online. They do not reflect the market conditions like used-game sales do.
This war is reminiscent of what the music industry went through when they were combating Napster and other similar music-sharing sites. The success of Napster wasn't because people wanted to get free music, it was because they wanted easy online access to it in a digital format. With services like iTunes and Amazon’s MP3 store, the music industry adapted their delivery system to prevent the piracy from happening. They didn’t put a bunch of DRM on their CDs and music players. Now the music industry is, in some ways, stronger for it.
The video game publishers need to take that lesson and adapt it to reflect that there are many customers out there that would like a cheaper price point. Do not alienate them by forcing them to pay more or insult them with lame excuses for additional charges. It makes sense that a publisher would make more money off of a $50 game sale (digitally) than a $10 "used game fee" any day of the week.
Keep the physical copies of the game and throw in those added "bonuses" like an instruction booklet, physical disk, and free DLC at retail. This will keep the retailers happy as they are getting a unique SKU and won’t be undercut by the publisher.
Give the bargain shoppers what they are looking for: a bargain.