THQ's Cory Ledesma has delivered a blunt message to consumers buying used copies of his company's games: they're cheating the publisher out of money.
When THQ (and EA, etc) make an end run around first sale doctrine, disallowing their customers to sell used games feature-complete, THQ is cheating the customer out of value.
It would probably be worth rereading "Jeff Bezos' open letter on used book sales" from 2002, where he responds to the Authors' Guild suit against Amazon's practice of selling used books on the same page as the new ones.
And let's also add that the folks who published the used games and books are the same companies that published the originals. Publishers are competing against themselves. If they don't want to compete against used games, make fewer prints of the original. And make games good enough over a long period of time that gamers don't want to sell them!
Now admittedly, there are all sorts of ways that the game/printed book analogy is already well past its prime, as I've written about a bit under the trope of the virtual rare book room. Steam, the Wii store, and (ironically) even the Kindle have all killed the concept of game/book-as-encapsulated-commodity, and all shift power and value from consumer to producer just as THQ is doing here.
As Matt's pointed out about the Wii virtual store, "If our Wii dies, I'll have to buy it all over again or hassle customer support to move our games over in some way." Steam's not as bad in a sense, and I can always lend my Kindle library to someone else just by loaning them my Kindle (in some ways more useful than loaning a single book), but the point is clear. Commodities have changed in ways that the producer has designed to increase their hold on copyright.
Embarrassingly, I've purchased at least twice from each of those three outlets. At least Matt has started voting with dollars. "Until there is some sort of portability for these purchases -- at least to the same hardware or new Nintendo systems -- we're not buying anything else in Nintendo's virtual storefront." I'm still trading my rights for convenience. Well, starting now, I'll never buy another THQ wrestling game new! I wish the other compromises were as easily avoided.
I believe THQ sees it as selling two things in one box:
1) Game with single-player and local multiplayer.
2) A subscription to the online multiplayer (i.e. access to a service).
The former costs practically nothing to THQ after the transaction while the latter may have ongoing maintenance costs. It's a one-time subscription fee, good until THQ shuts down its servers (which it has hopefully outlined in the end-user agreement).
That they sell these two in one box and don't distinguish between them could be problematic for consumers, but this is an education problem.
And while it might be nice to transfer subscriptions or services (which is what the online access most closely resembles, to me) there are legitimate reasons companies might not want to do that. So the game is a physical product subject to the first-sale doctrine. The subscription/service ... I don't believe it has to be. I'm open to evidence to the contrary.
And THQ has fulfilled their obligation. They sold a product and a service to the consumer buying it new. The people buying a THQ game used are not customers of THQ, they are customers of that person or business selling it second-hand.
The real issue isn't whether "legitimate reasons" exist for treating networked portions of the game differently than the single-player. What we see in the THQ case is that the game publishers are using a new vs. used distinction, not the distinction of single-player vs. networked. There's a lesson for us in their word choice.
My post tried to make clear that there's nothing inherently new about this conversation; EA and Rockstar have long since separated out networking from single-player gameplay. What's being pushed forward with the THQ incident is that publishers don't like new, and that pushing network into the "two in one box" is pretty clearly another foray into, as Steam and Wii do much more gracefully, removing the connection between box and first sale completely.
Call me arbitrary but somehow when it is a fight between publishers getting more money and GameStop, Wal-Mart or Target I'm on the side of the publishers.
It is the American way to buy low and sell high, Americans are always for the quick buck. But what the game resellers are only buying un-naturally low and selling un-naturally high... that chafes me.
Again, I'm not saying my point of view is correct it is merely how I feel. I feel deep down that GameStop is slimey, they remind me of what Jimmy Stewart said in 'It's a Wonderful Life': " When there is a bank run only Jimmy can see that "Potters not selling - Potters buying!"