Can I Sell Downloaded Games?

I’m not the biggest advocate of the downloadable games industry – call me old-fashioned, but I like to have something to hold in my hands, once I’ve paid around the £40 mark for a newly released game.

But there’s been the odd late weekend evening when I’ve been bored, with no missions taking my fancy on my existing games, and thought – hey, why not? I’ll buy a new game as a digital download.

The principle behind doing so is fine, and I have no objection to anyone who finds the convenience of paid downloadable games so compelling that they no longer buy any on disc.

However, when you come to getting rid of your console, there’s a bit of a dilemma – is it legal to sell it on with all of those games still installed on it?

The answer may depend on where you are, the prevailing laws in your jurisdiction, and where you are selling the console, but in many cases you might be surprised to learn that yes, selling digital downloads on to a new owner should be legal.

It might sound sensible that, if you’ve paid for content in the first place, you should be entitled to sell it on when you want to; however, the games studios would argue that each person who wants to play their titles should pay for the right to access the intellectual property.

This came to a head in 2012, when an EU judge ruled that games download sites like Steam should permit users to sell the license to each game on to third parties – provided only one person had access to play the game at any one time.

In terms of Steam, and platforms like it, this is difficult to achieve, partly because the option to sell license keys onwards was not included in the software, and partly because if it was, there would need to be a way to block access to the existing downloaded version of the relevant game on the seller’s computer.

With consoles, though, you tend to sell the downloaded games bundled with the console itself, and that means that there will still only be one person with primary access to the games – which should be enough to satisfy the legal side of things.

In particular, the judge in the EU ruling said that licence agreements that ban buyers from selling the software on only apply to the initial purchase transaction – meaning that there is no legal reason not to do so at a later date anyway.

As with any legal issue, this is subject to change and still up for debate, so tread carefully – but the precedent has been set for the resale of digitally downloaded games on a single-user basis, which may provide some peace of mind when it comes to selling your old console.

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