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Rental of computer software other than video games is illegal in many places because too many people were using it as a means of making pirate copies of the software But rental of video game CDs is quite common, and a good way to let a customer get a taste of a game without having to pay for the whole thing On the whole, the industry doesn t like rentals much Just as the public library lets dozens of people read a single copy of a book, the rental store lets dozens of people play a single copy of a video game Since games have a limited life anyway few people really want to keep and play a video game for the rest of their lives there isn t a lot of point in owning one if you can just rent it until you ve played it all the way through The publishers, however, would much rather that you bought it
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When you buy a new piece of computer hardware, especially a video card or sound card, it s common to get a free copy of a game bundled in with the hardware It usually doesn t have the nice manual and box that you would get if you bought it at retail, and often it s not one of the very latest games, but it s still a free game Hardware manufacturers like to make bundling deals with publishers because it helps them sell their gear Sometimes the hardware manufacturers will even help fund the development of a game if the publisher will make sure it runs well on their particular piece of equipment Bundling deals are also a good way for a publisher to continue to make some money out of a game that isn t selling well any more They don t make as much money selling it to the hardware manufacturer as they would selling it at retail, but on the other hand they get a large volume sale at one time, and they don t have to do any marketing
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It used to be that if a game didn t sell well, the retailer was stuck with all of the unsold copies But after a while the big retail chains got enough clout that they began to insist on the right to get a refund from the publisher for any games they couldn t sell These unsold copies are called returns, and the publisher can either pay to have them shipped back, or allow the retailer to destroy them (Remember, the cost of goods is only $3 4, so it s seldom worth the publisher s trouble to have them shipped back again) Since the publisher can no longer count on a sale being final, it has to keep a fund of money, called a reserve, around to pay the retailers back with Part of this money has to come out of the developer s royalties, because the developer shouldn t receive royalties for games that the retailer has returned for a refund So, even though
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G A M E
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the developer is supposed to get, say, 15 percent of the wholesale price of every copy sold, the publisher hangs on to as much as a fourth of that, keeping that money (along with more of the publisher s own money) in the reserve fund to repay retailers for returned copies There s nothing wrong with this system if nobody buys the games and the retailer really does destroy the unsold copies The problem is with the definition of that little word destroy Most wholesale contracts don t actually state how the game is to be destroyed, and the publishers don t have the time and energy to enforce it anyway Unfortunately, a few unscrupulous retailers have been known to get their money back on a return, then mark the game down and stick it in a bargain bin instead of destroying it The retailer gets the game for free, the customer gets a bargain, and neither the publisher nor the developer sees a penny for it
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