Opinion: Was Capcom really to blame for Resident Evil 3D save data outcry?

Retailers pushing second-hand games - and the gamers who buy them - shouldn't get off scot-free

Opinion: Was Capcom really to blame for Resident Evil 3D save data outcry?

Let's be honest - the launch of Capcom's Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D on Nintendo 3DS could have gone a whole lot better.

Following on from the save data controversy - your in-game saved game cannot be deleted, and therefore cannot be replayed by either yourself or a potential second-hand buyer - the title only managed to reach number 21 in the UK game retail charts.

There was anger from both gamers and the press alike, as many suggested that Capcom had put this 'feature' into the game as a form of DRM, stopping gamers from buying the game preowned.

Now that the dust has settled, it's worth looking at the whole ordeal from Capcom's perspective. Was the company really being that malicious, or was it simply a big misunderstanding?

Evil intentions

Capcom responded to the outcry with an outright denial.

"There was no intention of lessening the experience of the game," said a Capcom spokesperson. "Anyone purchasing a copy of the game secondhand would have access to all the missions and skills that the original owner unlocked, in addition to the content that was available to the original user."

Whether the company was being truthful or not, what it needed to realise was that this sorry excuse for a response simply wasn't enough.

Denying vicious claims is all well and good, but the company also needed to give its own explanation for why this system was put in place. No such explanation was forthcoming, and so angry gamers were left to their own conspiracy theories.

Even later, when Capcom noted that it wouldn't be making the same mistake again, it still failed to explain why the system was in place, instead throwing more wood on the fire: "I think it's fair to say there was never quite the malicious intent that the conspiracy theorists out there would have you believe."

Sloppy seconds

Let's imagine for a moment, then, that the save data system in Resi Evil 3D was indeed intended to slow second-hand sales.

Would that really be the travesty that so many people are making it out to be?

Preowned game sales are constantly on the rise, as this is the area where retailers make the most dosh - in fact, some retailers will try to sell a second-hand copy of a game over a brand new copy if they have one in stock.

Publishers, however, make absolutely no money from a second-hand sale whatsoever. Not a penny. So clearly it's in their best interests to make sure consumers want to buy a new copy over a preowned copy.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds - retailers choose to make as much money as possible from second-hand sales rather than supporting the industry to which they owe their livelihoods.

Is it really so awful that Capcom is trying to secure its future by restricting the second-hand market?

Of course, destroying replayability for every customer probably isn't the best way to go about it.

But if retailers had done more to support publishers, this situation may not have arisen. Shouldn't we be angry at our high street stores instead?

At least Capcom had the decency to point it out - Sega released Super Monkey Ball 3D with an identical system, but didn't mention it anywhere on the product.

A troubling future

This move from Capcom perhaps signals the beginning of a series of attempts to kill the second-hand market in the near future.

Sony announced that its upcoming first-party titles for PS3 and PS Vita will come with 'PSN Pass' installed. This new system will provide a code with new copies of games that players must enter if they want to get online.

Any copies bought second-hand won't allow their owners to play online without buying a PSN Pass code from the online store.

While retailers continue to push second-hand sales, publishers will continue to find new ways around the problem at the expense of gamers.

We all like to get cheap games, but this sends revenue from video games in the wrong direction. Publishers need to find strategies to claw it back, and some of these strategies will inevitably be to the detriment of our gaming experience. Not every game can be freemium or subscription-based.

We can rail against the publishers for this, sure. That's our prerogative as consumers. But it's worth saving some ire for those gamers who contribute to an obviously unsustainable economic model by refusing to pay full price.