Another game, another used-game penalty

SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALS lets new buyers access free downloadable content via SOCOM Pro, but those who buy a used copy will need to dole out $15 for access to that content.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALS launched yesterday with free downloadable content to first-time buyers. But those who plan to buy a used version of the game will need to dole out extra cash to access it.

The title, which is published by Sony and developed by Zipper Interactive, places gamers into the familiar modern-combat scenario. Gamers can choose to play through the single player campaign or try their luck with squad-based multiplayer. The game also supports 3D.

When people buy a new copy of SOCOM 4, they will also receive free access to SOCOM Pro. Upon loading the game, owners need to input a voucher code, which turns their PlayStation Network IDs into SOCOM Pro accounts. According to Sony, by becoming Pro members, gamers have access to "downloadable content, including custom game queues, weapons packs, and bi-weekly custom co-op challenges." In addition, Zipper Interactive noted on Sony's official blog last week that Pro members will soon have access to two guns, the M-16 and the AK-47.

However, there is a catch. Those who buy the game used won't have access to SOCOM Pro out of the box. Instead, those folks will need to pay a one-time fee of $14.99 to access it.

Sony's move to charge used-game buyers extra for access to better downloadable content isn't much of a surprise. Over the past couple years, an increasing number of game companies have been taking aim at the used marketplace, saying that it is damaging to the industry because all revenue generated through pre-owned sales go to the retailer and not to the game's developer.

"The way it's structured today is destructive, and it's negative to creativity and innovation," Codemasters CEO Rod Cousens said about the used-game market in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz in November. "I believe it has to be managed. There's an element of it which is acceptable, and there's an element that isn't."

Several developers agree with that sentiment. Sony isn't alone in its move with SOCOM 4.

Last year, THQ offered a one-time-use code to new buyers of Smackdown Vs. Raw 2011 to play the game online. THQ creative director Cory Ledesma told CVG at the time that he didn't "have much sympathy" for used-game buyers who wanted the "online feature set."

Electronic Arts is perhaps best known for charging used-game buyers for online content. The publisher currently has a service called Online Pass that gives new buyers access to online features for EA Sports titles, including Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters, Madden NFL 11, and Fight Night Champion.

"With your Online Pass, you'll have access to multiplayer online play, group features like online dynasty and leagues, user created content, and bonus downloadable content for your game including, for example, a new driver in Tiger," the company said on its Online Pass page.

In order for used-game buyers to access all those features, however, they will need to buy an Online Pass for $10.

Even with all these tactics in place to discourage gamers from buying used games, retailer GameStop has seen no slowdown in sales of used products. In fact, the company reported last month that its used sales topped $2.4 billion during its last fiscal year, up from the $2.39 billion in generated in its previous year. It generated a profit of $1.14 billion on used games.

Used sales accounted for 26.1 percent of GameStop's revenue last year and a whopping 46.2 percent of its profit.