March 26, 2010

Are You Stupid, Deceived, or Both?

Video game companies are always trying to find ways to make money. One of the greatest difficulties for the industry is giving consumers incentive to buy new games instead of saving a few dollars and buying used. Why? Because publishers and developers don't earn a dime on used games, only the retailers do.

So the fine folks at EA put their heads together and came up with a brilliant idea: Include a code with new games that grants consumers the power to download extra content for free. The code can only be used one time, so once it's been used, that's it. Therefore, when consumers purchase a used game, they won't get this code and will have to pay for the additional content. This makes a hell of a lot of sense.

Then today I came across an article about one consumer who felt deceived by the practice. He purchased a used copy of Dragon Age: Origins from GameStop to save $5; however, the cover art advertised free additional content and characters. When he got home, he discovered that the code had been used and he would have to pay another $15 to access the downloadable content.

He has since decided to file a lawsuit against GameStop for "deceptively misleading" him to purchase the game used. By saving $5, he had to spend an additional $15 to get the DLC, and thusly spent $10 more for the same material buying it used. He could not even return the game because it was past the 7-day return limit on used items.

Okay, I understand that he feels mislead. The question here though is "who to blame?" Is it really GameStop's fault that the box art advertised free DLC? Should the employees be at fault for not making the "one time use" issue clear to him?

In this case, I'd probably have to say no. Take a look at the back of the box featured on GameStop's website. It explicitly states on the left-hand side, "Includes: downloadable character and quest/A $15 Value/One-time use code available with full retail purchase. Expires April 30, 2010." It's right there, on the box. Can he blame EA then? Well not really, because despite the small print, it's plainly there.

I suppose the only way his case could possibly hold any merit is if GameStop slapped on a sticker advertising the DLC on a used box or an employee explicitly stated that he would still get the DLC for free. That's just me guessing. I'd have to actually see the box in question.

Yes, I know I keep saying that "gamers are not stupid," but anyone can misinterpret the fine print.