Before I jump in here and tell you stories, I want to say a few things.

I sincerely want you to read this.

It is the official press release from the European Court. I want you to read it and form your own opinion.

I am nowhere near smart enough to say what this could mean for the future; I can only share with you my experiences as a gamer who had to rely on second hand games when she was a kid. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten any games at all. I can only share with you what was said by the courts, and I can offer you my views on what might happen in the next few years.

I do hope you read this all the way through. I hope you learn something. I hope that this ruling starts to make a difference for the development and distribution of games.

I first started gaming when I was 4 years old. My younger brother and I were given a Sega Master System II. It came pre-loaded with Alex The Kid in Miracle World. Our passion for gaming was ignited.

As the years went on, more consoles were released into the market. Bigger, badder systems with huge game libraries. We couldn’t  afford to buy a computer at the time or buy  the consoles brand new, so we’d trade in our old ones. Hand over a Super Nintendo with 20 games and get your N64 for almost half price. If game trading didn’t exist, I don’t think I would be sitting here typing this story. We were poor and I don’t think I ever played a brand new game, at least not until I was 16 or 17 and bought them on my own.

Game trading and the sale of second hand games has been a huge part of the gaming scene for decades. I like to think of it along the same line as buying used books. Done with your game and know you won’t play it again? Want something new to engage you? Take in your copy of Banjo Kazooie and trade it in for a price reduction on your new game, or take the $10-15 they give you for it and go see a movie. I hear The Blair Witch Project just came out, because it’s 1999 and movie tickets don’t cost $40million yet. I’m not gonna judge you, it’s your money.

Big publishers do not like this practice. They’ve been trying to kill it off for years. It got worse when they realised that almost everyone has the internet now. Always online DRM, limited activations/installs, DLC only being available to people who bought the game brand new.

The argument can be made that those measures are taken to fight off the terrifying internet pirates, but that is only part of the reason.

A lot of publishers see second hand game sales as lost profits. They don’t like that, not in the slightest, so cue the above mentioned protection they throw into their games and you get this almost anti-consumer mess of DRM, limited installs, and 3 guys in black suits from the publisher sitting there watching over your shoulder while you play.

This caused a lot of negative feedback from the gamer community. Yeah it could be considered the vocal minority just stomping around and being noisy, but they’re starting to have their concerns taken seriously.

On July 3rd 2012, the European Court ruled that “the exclusive right of distribution of a copy of a computer program covered by such a licence is exhausted on its first sale.” Meaning that publishers cannot fight or oppose anyone who wants to re-sell or trade games.

Once you’ve bought your game, that’s it. If you’re in Europe it is now against the law for companies to try and stop you from selling your games.

“That’s great, if you live in Europe and still buy games from brick and mortar stores, but this is the digital age. Internet dragons and digital distribution! How does this affect that?”

The most interesting part of this ruling? This new law also applies to digital copies of games.

Not only that, but the new owner of the “UsedSoft” is entitled to download the game from the publisher with all its original sale content.

“Oh!’ you say.”What about the EULA we all sign when we buy and install a game?” Oh you mean the part where it says we cannot resell or otherwise distribute this game? The part that is now in contradiction to European Law?

Well, the EU court thought of that too. Here is possibly the best quote from the ruling:

“Therefore, even if the licence agreement prohibits a further transfer, the rightholder can no longer oppose the resale of that copy. “

The way I read that says EULAs are now null and void retroactively.

This is huge. Platforms like Steam, Origin, and etc. now have to figure out a method to allow European customers to sell and trade their digital games to continue opperating in the EU.

I don’t think publishers will be terribly happy about this considering the size of the digital market these platforms have.

I would love to see this happen. The amount of games I personally have on Steam is silly. I don’t play a lot of them and know a few people who would love to receive my copies.

Let’s look at an example. I’ll use the Steam platform, because half of the infrastructure is already there:

  • Select a game from your library you no longer want. Check off a little box that now reverts it to an inventory item, like when you get a game gifted to you.
  • You can now send it to another user, maybe with a CoD option.
  • Funds would be loaded into the Steam Wallet. So if you sell a game for $10 the cash goes right into your Steam Wallet.
  • Valve may or may not charge you something like $1 for every transaction involving money.

This method is just an example, and if something like this went live it would be confined to European users at the moment. I am hoping that this really takes off and starts to change the way people and companies see digital products. This would be amazing if it made its way across the board. It may even lower the scary numbers people see of pirated game copies.

That is what I think.  What about you guys?

Do you think the European Court made the right call? Any thoughts on the re-sale and trade of digital games?