Well now this is an odd turn of events: the Court of Justice of the European Union (probably as important and scary as it sounds) has ruled that downloaded games are not exempt from being sold second hand. In other words: in EU countries, you as the gamer are entirely in your right to sell your Steam or Origin keys to somebody else.
According to the ruling, if a game distributor states that they hold the sole right to sell copies of that game, that right is “exhausted on its first sale”. No problem, right? I mean, that’s why publishers make you agree to End User License Agreements in the first place.
According to the court ruling, any EULA clause forbidding the resale of digital games, cannot be used to override this decision: “even if the licence agreement prohibits a further transfer, the rightholder can no longer oppose the resale of that copy”.
This has pretty big ramifications for the future of digital distribution. There’s no denying that EU territories are a big deal for publishers, so for online distribution platforms like Steam and Origin, this is a pretty serious ruling. It’s surely going to create a logistical headache for all involved. The ruling stated that if you sell your game key to somebody else, then you must relinquish any means of playing that game. The only way to do that would be by implementing something akin to Steam’s license code gifting systems, I guess.
There’s been a lot of speculation regarding the next generation of consoles preventing the use of second-hand games. While nothing has been confirmed by hardware manufacturers, game publishers are rather excited by the idea. With this new ruling in mind, it’ll be interesting to see how this speculation changes.