In the war against used game sales, publisher EA appears to be favouring one tactic: Adding value for those who purchase the company's games new. The publisher announced such a tactic today for Mass Effect 2.
With Mass Effect 2, as with last fall's Dragon Age: Origins and The Saboteur, EA will reward "original purchasers" of the game - those who buy a game new rather than paying for it used from a game shop and therefore sending no money from said purchase in EA's direction. As with those other EA games, new copies of Mass Effect 2 will come packed, physically and/or digitally, with a single-use unlock code. The code will add "The Cerberus Network", an in-game portal that will funnel Mass Effect 2 daily messages, downloadable content and news about such DLC to players.
Those who purchase Mass Effect 2 used or for some other reason don't have the single-use unlock code, will have to pay for the Cerberus Network for an unspecified amount.
The "original purchasers" reward for November's Dragon Age: Origins was a DLC pack called The Stone Prisoner. The pack contained a new party member, plus "new environments, items and hours of additional gameplay that adds to the Dragon Age: Origins campaign," according to the game's official site. For used-game purchasers, it cost $US15.
The Saboteur's "original purchasers" reward was optional female toplessness, added hiding locations in the game's World War II–era France and the option to watch topless dances. For used-game purchasers, it cost $US3.
Mass Effect 2's "original purchasers" incentive, according to an EA press release today, contains the following day-one offerings: "New missions and in-game items. Included in this pack is a mission that introduces Zaeed, a rugged and deadly gun-for-hire who is recruited to join Commander Shepard's mission to save mankind." (Note: That's Zaeed poking his finger at Shepard in the image above.)
EA's announcement today also mentioned post-launch DLC that will include a new hover tank called The Hammerhead, new missions, shield/health/heavy-ammo-boosting Cerberus Assault armour and an M-22 Eviscerator Shotgun. A spokesperson for the game was unable to tell Kotaku whether these items will be free or for pay.
Game publishers have long complained that sales of used games cost them revenue, but gamers on a budget have found irresistible used games that are $US5-10 less than the new copies of the games shelved near it.
Adding bonuses to games in order to reward new-game purchasers seems like a savvy way to discourage the purchase of used games, though it will likely also raise the common questions about how content is doled out - or locked off - from those who buy and play games.