On the assumption that President-elect Obama is indeed interested enough in these issues - and with Detroit and Wall Street cratering, that's a Hulk-sized leap - an editorialist at Kombo has appealed for aggressive, White House-led regulation of the games industry once the new administration takes over. [Update] While the writer stands by his call for the Obama administration to take some sort of leadership role in giving games developers some investment and advantages, he's disowning his paragraph regarding regulation of the used games markets. I've been in this boat a few times so I'll allow his response, but I'm keeping the original post in place because, lacking context, any response is hard to follow. It's on the jump.This guy made his case, and I'm not going to gratuitously flame it, but if video games aren't recession proof they're still taking nowhere near the beating of other staple industries in the United States. Just a week ago at the BMO Capital Markets conference, all three console makers expressed some form of qualified optimism about the coming year, even in a fragile global economy. That said, this editorial wants Obama action on a number of points, and I'm betting the biggie would really set your teeth on edge: • Rein in the used games market. "It is fundamentally unfair that developers are being robbed of profits for work that they've done." says the writer, Nick Michetti. I see his point but I can't work up much sympathy for it. Especially when I just lost my job and made $185 on Half.com selling old video games, money that's going to put food on my table. He goes on: "Publishers and developers should be entitled to at least half of the price from the sale of every used game. However, we need for there to be caps on used game prices and a Blue Book system for video games to prevent price gouging." Can this possibly be serious? The creation of a Kelly blue book for video games? Does the used comics market - which sometimes sells items at four-figure prices - require or rely on transparent, government regulated appraisal? Does Marvel get half every time Amazing Fantasy #15 changes hands? Used cars get regulated by a blue book because, I'm assuming, vehicle licensing and sales are the provenance of state departments of motor vehicles, which gives them the infrastructure to regulate such things. It's also in the public interest not to get hosed on lemons, which is how regulations get passed. Not the case with video games. To be fair, he goes on to say that developers should observe a mandate that DRM can't be used to inhibit game sales. But that's a regulation with such a pointilistic purpose it beggars the imagination that the federal government would impose it. Secondly, DRM is meant to prevent copying and distribution, and if it represses sales, it's usually because enough would-be customers have an ideological opposition to it. Maybe he means DLC, but then again, Harmonix, and many others, could easily argue that value-added DLC has grown sales for their titles. What constitutes a complete game anyway, just the retail title? Everything available for it online? Some of it? • Government help to fund research and development for "affordable discs that all home console platforms should be forced to support in order to aid smaller or more multiplatform-focused developers." In a word, no. Stem-cell research is going to get government help first. I'm not sure owning a patent on video game media is something the government's going to plow a lot of money into right now. • A package of tax cuts for middleware developers and smaller studios, to help them build technology that powers AAA titles, and cope with developing on expensive formats. I'm not opposed to these per se, but even if President-elect Obama plunked $40,000 down to buy ads in video games, it doesn't mean he's going to put his political capital in a sinking economy on the line for this special interest. Besides, we all know Obama's top R&D priority. Getting Sega to make a new console.
Response from Nick Michetti: It is true that enclosed in my editorial is a single paragraph dedicated to "reining in the used games market." It is also true that this paragraph was shortsighted and not anywhere near as well as thought out as it could've been, especially with implications for the market and government control. I will freely admit of my own volition that I did not fully grasp the implications of what I had written until some of the comments had come in. I admit this because I have realized that the full implications of the paragraph in question are the polar opposite of my beliefs. I do not support government control of our industry, nor is government control involved in any of my political beliefs. I'm an independent and a moderate who supported Obama through the primaries and the general election. I just happened to come up with a poor idea, is all. How did the paragraph come about in the first place, then? Just an admittedly poorly thought-out ideological notion that if developers got a small bit of cash back from the used games market, it would provide them with less of an impetus to include DRM. That's it. No government control undertones or anything of the sort meant to be implied. To reiterate: it was a bad idea conjured up by a limited understanding of the scope of the implications of the idea, which never should've been written in the first place. If you were offended by this paragraph in any way, I apologize. Rest assured that if I could go back in time and rewrite the piece, I would eliminate that point entirely, for it doesn't accurately reflect my intent in any way, period. So, I ask all of you: take a Sharpie marker in your mind and blot out that paragraph [on regulating used game sales] and the one other mentioning of that point, then re-read the piece, for those are the ideas that I stand by. Those are the ideas that are supposed to comprise and be the crux of my editorial, not that single paragraph. After all, if I had intended for that paragraph to be the crux of my editorial, I would've written an editorial about that, not as a single paragraph in passing.