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GameStop Wants to Sell... Pre-Owned Software Keys?

While customers can already waltz into GameStop and purchase a used copy of Halo 3 or Black Ops, PC gamers are left out of the secondhand market -- they're lucky to even have a few shelves for actual new titles. But the nation's largest games retailer, which makes the bulk of its revenue from the secondhand market despite the disapproval of publishers and developers, is looking to change all that by selling used digital games, or rather, pre-owned license keys.

"It’s very interesting," said GameStop CEO Paul Raines in a recent interview. "There are some technologies out there in Europe, and we’ve looked at a couple that are involved. We’re interested; it’s not a meaningful business yet. Right now we’re not seeing that as a huge market, but I think we’re on the leading edge. There are a few companies, a few startups, out there that we’ve talked to that are doing this."

Naturally he wouldn't reveal who those outfits are, only adding that "we wouldn’t want to disclose that and have our competitors rushing in."

The move to selling previously-owned serial numbers isn't surprising as the industry is slowly shifting into a digitally-focused distribution model. Publishers will likely stick with physical media for years to come, but eventually consumers will reach a point where it's easier to purchase and download titles directly to their desktop, console or tablet. Used digital sales will also keep that aspect of GameStop's revenue flowing as physical media begins to fade away.

Earlier this month, a European court ruled that content creators cannot prohibit post-purchase redistribution of work no matter what the end-user license agreement claims (pdf). The ruling stemmed from a case between hardware and software producer Oracle and German company UsedSoft, the latter of which made a living purchasing and reselling software licenses from consumers. Obviously, UsedSoft won.

According to the court's judgment, a software author's exclusive license to distribute a given copy of its product is exhausted in the initial distribution. Thus, owners of the software can sell said copy without the author's consent. The judgment applies both to future end-user license agreements and preexisting ones.

By selling pre-owned digital games, GameStop could be entering new territory in regards to offering non-gaming software on the cheap. What that would include -- whether it's an unused Windows 8 key or a previous owned Office 2013 key -- is mere speculation at this point.

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  • DroKing
    As much as I hate gamestop but this is rather appealing =) beside their jacked up prices of course.
    Reply
  • back_by_demand
    Parasites, sucking the blood out of the gaming industry, they should be forced to give something back to the devs every time the same game is sold
    Reply
  • bigdragon
    I'd be more than happy to buy used software keys. That's the main way I discover new software that I may or may not like. This is especially true of video games. Certain titles I think are bad (Rage, Bulletstorm, etc.) and would never buy new are far more appealing at a used price point. If I like I'll probably buy the sequel at full price.
    Reply
  • assasin32
    Great we can sell Win7 pro for $3 now and Ultimate for $5, now I can afford to buy myself one more coffee from Starbucks.
    Reply
  • JDFan
    Though I don't like the trades that Gamestop makes (barely give any credit for a trade and mark it up to almopst new for resale) -- It would be great to see them wok their way through the court system to make it possible for people to resell their Steam games etc. instead of being stuck with a game you never play. And figure if they can work this out then that would also open the way for a game rental company as they could purchase and resell the keys over and over each time a game was rented\returned and open some competition to make the game companies bring down the cost of new games instead of keeping them at full price for years.
    Reply
  • jalek
    When publishers keep pushing things farther and farther, eventually there will be a push-back.
    Zynga's burned out it's game-players turned beggars, Blizzard's losing people as people aren't that interested in playing shopping mall in a fantasy RPG, and for years games have been sold as non-returnable even if the customer receives no value from it if it's unplayable.
    Reply
  • xtc28
    back_by_demandParasites, sucking the blood out of the gaming industry, they should be forced to give something back to the devs every time the same game is soldThe devs would not get said royalty payment as it would go to the publisher. The publishers are the parasites. Us consumers along with companies such as Gamestop and identify are more like symbiotes in mutually beneficial relationships. The fact that some publishers release trash and refuse to let us sell what we purchased is rediculous.
    Here is the the issue. These gaming companies are just like any other tech company, they develop a technology and then use that technology to create a product. When we buy the product it is the product that we own not the technology that was used to create it. Therefor we own the product. As with any product we purchase we own that product and have the right to sell it. In the case of licensing for use of a product......... This should not be allowed unless the purchased software is used to create another product in which the intended creation directly relies on the software licensed. Now since we are not licensing the game engine to create a new game but we are purchasing the end product we should have the right to claim ownership of our individual copy of said purchase. This is not saying that we own the technology or the game itself, but the copy we bought. Just as we purchase a flat screen TV. That individual unit becomes the purchasers property after the exchange of currency. Again we didn't purchase the patent for the technology itself but an individual unit of an end product that becomes the purchasers property, Therefore when the owner sees fit to sell the property that is owned it is legal to do so.
    Reply
  • dauntekong
    "According to the court's judgment, a software author's exclusive license to distribute a given copy of its product is exhausted in the initial distribution. >>>Thus, owners of the software can sell said copy without the author's consent.
    Reply
  • shqtth
    JDFanThough I don't like the trades that Gamestop makes (barely give any credit for a trade and mark it up to almopst new for resale) -- It would be great to see them wok their way through the court system to make it possible for people to resell their Steam games etc. instead of being stuck with a game you never play. And figure if they can work this out then that would also open the way for a game rental company as they could purchase and resell the keys over and over each time a game was rented\returned and open some competition to make the game companies bring down the cost of new games instead of keeping them at full price for years.

    games on steam go crazy cheap once in a while on steam.
    Also, its the stores that make most of the money. Best buy makes crazy markup on games. Also game prices might have to come down due to mobile game prices. How would there be a way to control digital keys? People could then just sell off pirated keys.

    THe thing about gamestop is that they sell used copies almost as much as new copies and pay next to nothing for used copies, so they are a parasite company. would be different is gamestops prices where cheaper. So gamestop is just trying to find a way to make more profits and try to cut out the game developers meanwhile screw people over buy paying them next to nothing. Why should gamestop make all the money for doing nothing?

    Less money is the hands of developers = less game content / less resources for cool games. Game companies for consoles are already starting to hurt because people are starting to get heap due to 3.99 mobile games. So you think anyone can make money selling games for $3 ? good luck with that one... at cheap prices like that you have to have a whole wave of different games and sell millions of copies and maybe you might have enough to pay your programmers unless you hire all them from india.
    Reply
  • SteelCity1981
    gamestop is a huge ripoff. They rip you off when you sell games to them and their prices for used games are unrealistic. I buy my used games off of ebay or amazon and then sell my used games on amazon or ebay and spend a lot less buying and make a lot more selling then i ever would at gamestop.
    Reply