Specialty gaming retailer GameStop is on an impressive run, stringing together quarter after quarter of massive revenues and company-best profits. The retailer has attributed a large part of that success to the booming second-hand market, where gamers can purchase preowned copies of games at a discount rate over new copies of the same title.
The practice has drawn withering criticism from within the industry, however. Many gamemakers have expressed outrage at GameStop's practice of aggressively pushing used game sales, the proceeds of which go entirely to GameStop. Sales of new games also benefit GameStop, but also remunerate the people who actually developed and published the game.
Escalating beyond hollow saber-rattling, Electronic Arts has begun to take a stand against the resale market. Last week, the publishing giant took one of its boldest steps toward cutting out the brick-and-mortar middlemen, releasing Criterion Games' well-received racer Burnout Paradise as a digital download through Sony's online PlayStation Network store at a budget $29.99 price point.
EA Publishing partner Epic Games has plans of its own to counteract the resale market. Speaking at an event promoting Gears of War 2 yesterday, Epic design director Cliff Bleszinski said that all new copies of the upcoming Xbox 360-exclusive shooter will include a free voucher to download the Flashback Map Pack. The map pack includes five online battlegrounds from the 2006 original Gears of War: Canals, Gridlock, Mansion, Subway, and the Tyro railway station.
Epic also plans on awarding those who pick up a new version of the game during midnight launch events at participating retailers. Those who pick up the game in the wee hours of November 7 will receive a redeemable token for a special-edition in-game gold-plated Hammerburst assault rifle, which can be used in the online portion of Gears 2. The eminent designer noted that both the map pack and the gold-plated Hammerburst assault rifle will not be available for download as DLC at a later time through Xbox Live.
Epic's move is just one more example of EA's push back against the resale retail sector. Shacknews noted the publisher launched a similar initiative with NBA Live, where gamers can redeem a code for free access to the 365 real-time update (otherwise available as a $19.99 download). The EA-distributed Rock Band 2 sports a one-use code found on the game's manual for 20 free downloadable tracks, and the newly announced Rock Band AC/DC Track Pack comes with single-use code to transfer its 18 songs into Rock Band and its sequel. Then there's Dead Space, which EA will upgrade with a free downloadable space suit with in-game benefits to those who purchase the sci-fi horror game within two weeks of its October 14 release.