GameStop’s Precedent

Recently we learned that the much touted Catwoman levels that were to be included in Batman: Arkham City, were to be walled off behind a single-use, online activated code. This content was set to reward new purchasers of the game and stave off used purchases, not unlike Mass Effect 2’s Cerberus Network, Dragon Age: Origin’s Stone Prisoner, and some of RAGE’s extra content. In fact, this has kind of been status quo for a while, as publishers try to reward new game purchases. Others have decided to straight cripple their title, blocking off any online gaming at all. But I’m not focusing on that half.

By all accounts, Batman: Arkham City appears to be a phenomenal game with almost half of the currently tracked Metacritic reviews giving it a perfect score, and you don’t exactly need the Catwoman content to get full enjoyment. Today however, GameStop has taken it upon themselves to include an online pass in any used copy of Batman: Arkham City, making the entire process of code entry completely pointless.

This seems to be setting one crazy precedent and shows just how much power GameStop has over the console makers. We already knew they held their position like the sword of Damocles over publishers, but they’ll be giving this code on a customer’s receipt at point of sale. This ability means they’ve got some sort of direct hooks into Microsoft and Sony allowing them to generate and print codes carte blanche. That shit is crazy, bro.

What makes Batman: Arkham City so special? Yes, it’s the highest profile single-player focused title this year…. wait. What about Uncharted 3 (online pass!)? What about RAGE (online pass!)? What about Battlefield 3 (online pass!)? Yes, I know that last one wasn’t single player focused, but if GameStop is allowed to print codes for Batman, why not every game with a single use code? More importantly, how will GameStop decide which games get one? It’d be totally cool to go and buy a used copy of Dragon Age: Origins, and get all the same content I’d get if it were new.

With this move, GameStop is nullifying the one device publishers were using to fight used game sales. There’s no word as to if WB approves, but I highly doubt it. If GameStop is able to print codes for everything, then they should print codes for everything and not on select titles. And if this is the case, what’s a pub to do? I’d hope that companies like Warner Bros. and Electronic Arts would quickly realize that their efforts are in vain and get rid of the annoying serial number entry. Of course, if that takes place, it’s just a matter of time until they come up with another way. No codes at all perhaps, and just have some sort of low-level copy protection indicate what’s new and what’s used.

I never really had a problem with the codes personally as I’ve typically purchased new, but from a conceptual approach have felt that rewarding new purchases instead of crippling core features is the way to go. It will certainly be interesting to see how Warner Bros. reacts, and where we go from here.

About Jim Hunter

Jim Hunter is Editor-in-Chief of Splitkick and host of the Rocket Jump podcast. He has three kids and is constantly cranky, but also highly awesome.
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