Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
October 20, 2014
arrowPress Releases
October 20, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


Opinion: I feel used
Opinion: I feel used
February 6, 2012 | By Jameson Durall

February 6, 2012 | By Jameson Durall
Comments
    115 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



[In this reprinted #altdevblogaday opinion piece, Volition Inc. design director Jameson Durall looks at the used games market from a developer's perspective, and examines current and future ways companies are fighting it.]

Most game developers will agree that the Used Games market is significantly impacting the revenue we receive. I think what most consumers don't realize is that every time they buy a used game, there is ZERO money making it back to the game developers. All of those profits are going directly to the re-seller and making it more and more difficult for us to continue making higher quality products.

The question is, what can we do about it?

Game developers have recently been trying to figure out ways to address this on our own over the last few years and have come up with some ideas that I'm actually beginning to like!

Supporting the game with downloadable content is always a good idea since it not only encourages the buyer to keep the game longer, but that content is also tied to their account when purchased.

It's a great idea as long as your DLC is compelling and a good enough value to bring in plenty of consumers. It seems to be working since this article says DLC generated over one billion dollars as of May last year.

One of the newer ideas cropping up is including a unique code in the box that gives you access to certain parts of the game… like co-op or multiplayer. Buyers who do not purchase new, will have the opportunity to pay around $10 to get access to that part of the game just like everyone else.

Some consumers complain about this method because the precedent has always been that it's included in the price and should come with it. It did for the person who actually bought it first… so was saving that $5 at GameStop worth it for you?

These methods are doing a little bit to help offset the loss in income for game developers, but it's really just a band-aid on a large wound. So that's where we are currently, where do we need to go?

I saw a report today that the PS Vita is going to have a lower price point for digital editions of their games compared to the retail versions. I like this idea a lot, and the price reduction COULD be significant if you consider the simple cost of production as well as the cut that retailers take. Sony says it's just a 10 percent price reduction (meaning higher profit margins for them), but at least this could reduce the amount of used games out there.

There's another big rumor about the next Xbox console that could really start to shake things up… it won't play used games at all! Personally I think this would be a fantastic change for our business, and even though the consumers would be up in arms about it at first… they will grow to understand why and that it won't kill them.

The system is already there for Microsoft, all they'd have to do is use the DLC and codes model they have to tie a game to your Xbox live account. Each retail disc would likely need that unique key somewhere in the code so the account would be able to link it properly. Ideally it would tie a full version to the console it is registered on so family members can play even if the main account isn't signed in, but this is exactly how their model works now anyway.

It does have its faults that would have to ironed out… like game rental. I'm a fan of rental companies because they have to buy copies of the game to be able to rent them out, and if someone likes the game, there is a chance they would purchase it for themselves.

I could see Microsoft implementing their own rental service, which would maybe give them a code that activates the game for X days and they are charged a small amount. This could work when you borrow the disc from someone or even with digital download of the full version. It would also send a percentage of the rental to the developer with each rental… likely improving the overall revenue we would receive from it.

Another issue would be with simply lending the game to a friend, but maybe they could implement something similar to what Amazon is doing with their Kindle Books lending policy. The license of the game could be transferred for a set time to another Gamer Tag, and the original owner won't be able to play during that time. Seems like it could work.

In the end, I fully believe that we have to do something about these issues or our industry is going to fall apart. People often don't understand the cost that goes into creating these huge experiences that we put on the shelves for only $60. They also don't seem to realize how much they are hurting us when they buy a used game and how pirating a copy is just plain stealing. Maybe something as simple as educating them could help solve the problem…

I know that some will say I'm not considering the retail games stores and the impact something like this would have on them… but remember they were doing fine well before the Used Games market became such a staple of their business.

The truth is, they aren't concerned with how this business is affecting us, so why should I care how these changes will affect them? Every game I buy is NEW from Amazon.com, and it arrives at my door on or close to release day, shipped free with no tax. The proper revenue also gets to the developer that created it… how could a retail store ever get more convenient than that?

[This piece was reprinted from #AltDevBlogADay, a shared blog initiative started by @mike_acton devoted to giving game developers of all disciplines a place to motivate each other to write regularly about their personal game development passions.]


Related Jobs

Vicarious Visions / Activision
Vicarious Visions / Activision — Albany, New York, United States
[10.20.14]

Human Resources Manager
Monochrome LLC
Monochrome LLC — Aptos, California, United States
[10.19.14]

Senior Programmer
Digital Extremes
Digital Extremes — London, Ontario, Canada
[10.18.14]

Character Artist
Digital Extremes
Digital Extremes — London, Ontario, Canada
[10.18.14]

Sound Designer










Comments


Pablo Simbana
profile image
I disagree with the DLC part... Right now, DLC in most cases are just a way to get as much as possible from the loyal user and completionist. I refuse to spend 60USD and then probably 30USD in DLC that is required to complete the experience that should have been there in the first place.

August Junkala
profile image
The issue I have with statements like:

"In the end, I fully believe that we have to do something about these issues or our industry is going to fall apart."



Is when comparing the claim to pretty much every other product out there. For example, automobiles. The automobile industry has never collapsed due to the sale of used cars. If one wishes to argue that it nearly did collapse, then one should evaluate the reason for that, such as over-dependency on a single product (i.e. expensive SUVs).



What makes the video game industry so special that it will collapse if there are used games? Someone still has to buy a game in order for there to exist a used game. Not only that, a substantial number of people have to buy a game new in order for there to exist a significant used market.

Jordan Lynn
profile image
Videogames are Not Cars: A love song.



I walk into a dealership, and see two cars, one used, one new.

I walk into a game store, and see two games, one used, one new.



I buy the used car:

BAD THING: I risk getting a lemon.

BAD THING: I don't get the warranty that the new one does.

BAD THING: The vehicle may be significantly worn down, which could increase repair costs later.

All the money goes right back to the dealer, who made the car in the first place, increasing their sales. Profit: Maker.

The dealer also receives repair and service fees as a very profitable side business. Profit: Maker

The dealer is owned by the same company that manufactures the product, so all profits go right back into the company. Profit: Maker

(sidepoint)Cars cannot be stolen and easily distributed over the internet.



I buy the used game:

It costs $5 less.

The used game will be identical to the new one (scratched discs don't count, since GameStop won't sell them scratched).



The maker receives 0% of the profits. Profit: Distributor

The maker does not own the reseller. Profit: Distributor

The maker does not sell services for that product (well, except maybe DLC). Profit: Maker, if you count DLC

(sidepoint)Videogames can easily be stolen and downloaded off of the internet.



In summary: I will not argue with you about whether used games are good, bad, or neither. But stop comparing them to cars.

Franck C
profile image
It's interesting that you take the car market as an example.

The big difference between the car markets and the game market is that the majority of used car sales are actually done by car dealerships owned or financially related to the car markers.

So the car makers actually make money in a way on used car sales ( especially with the leasing market which is just a way for the car makers to sell a car new and then used and make money twice on it).

Things are totally different in the game market because publishers do not own the retailers that are selling the games......

Mike Dobs
profile image
I'd be interested to hear that guy sing a song about the differences between the used game and the used book market

Joe McGinn
profile image
>> What makes the video game industry so special that it will collapse if there are used games? <<



Oh I don't know. Maybe the fact that Gamestop in the USA alone has extracted half a billion dollars of money from game sales in 2011, that game developers didn't see one penny of. That can't possibly have an effect on the profitability of the business of game production now, can it?

Dorica Prostel
profile image
So then start selling your own used games... it's not like the car makers needed to make cars implode when you sell them again in order to profit from used car sales...

August Junkala
profile image
Excellent, attack the analogy and miss the point. How about books? Couches? Here, let me just pull up Craigslist and go through the list of used products being sold and we'll see how many industries have collapsed due to used sales.

Jordan Lynn
profile image
@ Mike Dobs: Again, my point is not that used games will kill the industry. I'm just tired of hearing analogies that are fundamentally flawed. So, may I present:



Videogames are Not Books: A fan request.



--I walk into a major, multinational chain of game stores where I can buy and sell used games easily and conveniently.

--I look for a specific game. I find new and used copies.

--Since the new copy and used copy are identical, the choice is simple: I buy the cheaper one.



--I walk into a major, multinational chain of book stores where I can buy and sell used books easily and con...wait, what do you mean there isn't a single major used book reseller in the US? Oh, all of the major chains ONLY sell new? Oh, okay, I'll go through my phone book searching for one. Ah! Madge's Used Book Emporium. Got it.

--I look for a specific book. I have a 1 in 20 chance that they will have it in stock.

--I find a copy. Now I have to assess the wear and tear; writing inside the cover, cracked spines, torn/dogeared pages, and weigh how much those issues bother me versus the price savings over a new copy.



In summary: I will not argue with you about whether used games are good, bad, or neither. But stop comparing them to books. Gamestop is a multibillion dollar industry built solely on the distribution of specific used goods, and has very few real-world parallels.

Joe McGinn
profile image
Sorry August but the analogy is moronic. You really don't see the difference between a user physical product and a used digital [and therefore identical to new] product? Esp in the context of Gamestop so aggressively pushing used that you can't buy a new game there without a staff member telling you not to do it? Seriously?

Dorica Prostel
profile image
I don't know, a week old book really shouldn't be all that worn out...



But then again books don't get returned after a week...

Mike Dobs
profile image
@Jordan Lynn

Maybe you haven't heard of ebay. Or Amazon. Both of those sell used books, and I'm pretty sure they're just a little bigger than gamestop.

And I'm sorry that you live in the US where no major retailers buy/sell used books, but here in the UK they do. And, shockingly! people are still writing books. And nobody (authors, publishers etc.) is complaining. Imagine that. So what exactly is your point about how used books are different to used games again..?

William Barnes
profile image
I have to say something about the car analogy.



1.) Most dealerships are offering decent warranties on used car sales, even the more reputable small dealers that have nothing to do with new sales.

2.) Just because you buy a used car at a dealer doesn't mean they'll get it serviced at the dealership, or used manufacturer replacement parts/accessories.



@Jordan Lynn

You can also risk getting a lemon with a new car purchase, although you have more laws on your side if you do a new car versus used.



While maybe not the best analogy, it isn't irreconcilably unusable with adjustments (same with books and other goods, although they are all physical items, vs something used in a digital medium, and this sees no physical wear except, if any, on the media holding it.)



@Joe McGinn

On that half billion in sales you refer to, you don't say if that used sales, new sales, or both combined. It would be helpful to know, unless you're hiding that new is involved in the total.



@Mike Dobs,

We in the United States also suffer from policies (and sometimes laws) that give the consumer no recourse, if they are buying new, open the package and realize they already have it after the fact, come to the conclusion their hardware is inadequate (in the case of PC games), or find out that in their opinion the game/movie/music just plain sucks, other than attempt to recoup SOME of their losses selling themselves... All in the name of a customer might have just taken the opportunity to illegally copy before returning looking for a full refund. (Then again it's one of the biggest arguments media cartels have against rentals, although the rental market flourishes.)

Jameson Durall
profile image
I want to clarify a few things here since this post caused a lot of...discussion before :) I wrote this with a purposeful view of a developer only and wanted to get across some of the frustrations we face along with some thoughts for how things might change in the future.



The main issue I am speaking to is the retail games market selling used games and the business they have turned it into. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a game you've worked on being sold used in the first week for $55. I have no issue with people selling their games to get part of their investment back...especially since that usually means buying new games. My issue is with the retailer that makes the profit twice and leaves the developer out of the equation.

Hakim Boukellif
profile image
In that case it's a conflict of interests between developers and retailers and the problem should be resolved between them, ideally without involving the consumer. Of course, ideals can't always be achieved, but at the very least the consumer shouldn't be the one to suffer the most from whatever compromise is made, especially since the only say they get is deciding whether to buy a product or not.



That aside, I think your article is missing the bigger problems with hard-handed measures like preventing used copies from being playable at all: what if the game is out of print and the developer/publisher/IP-owner shows no intent of re-releasing it any time soon (or doesn't exist any more)?

Worse yet, measures like that rely on the existence of some kind of centralised service in order to link a specific copy to a specific user, but what if that service is no longer around?

Tom Baird
profile image
@Hakim

I think a good example of it being resolved between retailers and developers in a beneficial way is Batman: Arkham City used copies at GameStop coming with the included first day DLC codes. This way RockSteady/Warner can get a small cut off used sales, GameStop can still just slightly undercut the new copies, and retailers who don't want to work with RockSteady/Warner are stuck having to lower their used prices to reasonable levels, rather than just slightly under new prices (due to having to compensate for missing content).



So far I think this is a good system to help balance out the new vs. used prices and to prevent retailers from overcharging you for used copies (as they can pocket a much higher percentage off those). It also incentives buying new, or buying from retailers who work with publishers, while not being overly harmful to the customer (you get 3 options rather than 2: New, Used + DLC, and Used without DLC if you don't feel the DLC is valuable).

Jorge Gonzalez Sanchez
profile image
If someone is selling the game you made on the first week, they clearly didn't like it. And no amount of DLC will change a crap game into a good one.



If you see people doing that and still think it's their fault then you are a dick.

Joe McGinn
profile image
Good article Jameson. Of course the #1 thing we can do is move as quickly as possible to full digital distribution. Sony is taking a small step with the Vita ... surely the same could be done with Xbox/PS3 games, 10% cheaper for digital download?

Dorica Prostel
profile image
"My issue is with the retailer that makes the profit twice and leaves the developer out of the equation. "



Hey look, a smart business decision that doesn't affect the customer... i wonder why it turned into such a big market.



I'll also leave this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand_curve



As long as the retailers have so much power over you that you have to inconvenience your customer you'll never win...

Dorica Prostel
profile image
2x post

Joe McGinn
profile image
Dorica - how does driving half the game developers on the planet out of business "not affect the customer"? Gamestop and the like has turned cannibal, with a short-sighted business model that will only hasten their demise. And good riddance.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
@Joe McGinn



Companies going out of business is the normal way capitalism works in the first place... so from the customer's perspective little changes... especially since IP's getting acquired by another company afterwards was pretty common even before used games became a thing...

William Barnes
profile image
Wrote it as a developer, or.... as a controlling Publisher?



It's hard to do anything without a publisher. They have their hands in almost everything, except the actual hands-on building, and control the money. We already know the take on the greedy ones... to control any and all sales, to get their cut, deserved or not, even if it means spreading lies like the music industry has to bands, to developers. Independents know the heartache and trials of self-publishing... and the risks and damages if another, larger publisher decides to be evil and nasty. (I not saying that this always happens or happens half the time, but it is always a risk for the little guy, in ANY market.)



Yes, these places are making a killing on used sales, they pay the customer back as little as they feel they can get away with, and sell it just under the price of new, whether or not you have the original case and/or manuals.



A happy medium has to be somewhere where developer sees some money (and not just a paltry amount of what the publisher collects on it, as is customary in certain entertainment industries) and doesn't get lazy about making games and relying on that used market income, the stores get some money for the shelf space, and the customer gets a good deal and less of a loss, if not less risk, if they think the game sucks.



The fact that if a customer buys a used game, and thinks it sucks big time, they can get their money back is a driving force for some consumers. (SOME customers will just focus on the game for that week and move on to the next, practically free, admittedly.) You must admit that some games out there, and history shows this to be true overall, that appear to be great games, but when you play them, they just suck.

Harry Debelius
profile image
I understand what you're saying; retail stores selling 2nd hand need to be controlled as they are obtaining a very large benefit with each game. Before I explain why I disagree, I'll state that I buy all my games new and I very rarely sell any as I want to be sure some of the revenue returns to the devs, but how can you really pull through something like that?

All media industries have a large 2nd hand market, video games being the only one that highly complains about this; is it not fair that a game you have bought is, after all, yours?

I never buy DLC for the simple fact that I am already paying for the game when I buy it, and for me it's not a deciding factor towards keeping a game... it just displeases me as I believe I am being cheated with not the full experience. If you really want to keep players via DLC it should have competitive content or lower the price point with an occasional free release (right now, it is plain insulting to want to get away with that). to make it worthwhile.

On the other hand, the online pass is a simple way of getting revenue from 2nd hand copies from the users instead of really tackling the problem: retail stores with that service should share their profit of that market with the publishers but it is far easier to get each user to pay for a fault in the system.

What you state shows the current problem: devs have to keep in mind that they are making games for the players, and these measures are not popular because they are done for the wrong reasons. As you stated, retail stores don't care about the devs and I think that future action should try to cut some of that benefit from them instead of creating new measures that affect only the end user.

I agree that the Sony digital game discount on Vita games is a start, but a 10% discount is pretty much nothing if you keep in mind the insane cost of memory for the system; in the end it will end being more expensive.

Steam manages to get profit to the devs and keep their users happy... is it really so difficult to reach that sweetspot in retail? The main problem here is that simple solutions are easier to implement.

As I said, I agree that devs should be getting a piece of that (big) cake, but I think it is wrong to get your users to pay and suffer the consequences of this.

I believe we should go forward, not back. Sometimes we all have to remember who we make games for...

Hayden Dawson
profile image
The continuing 'only save $5' argument at gamestop is more than a bit of straw as games with extra online access fees have been reduced more than that, and the period before additional price drops is small. Again, shouldn't the developer be examining why their new buying customers are getting rid of their products so darn fast? The prices at retail themselves drop almost as fast -- even the biggest AAA titles this year lost their first $10 within a few weeks. It seems the consumer may be trying to tell the industry something other than their latent desire to make gamestop rich.



Be very careful in wishing for a change that would put a lot of your customers 'up in arms'. Attempts to limit their rights -- which regardless of some EULA are actual in the world -- aren't going to find acceptance. Disks that turn into bricks after so many plays tried and failed. If you put block after block between your product and the consumer folks will just choose not to consume.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
With 10 hour campaigns being the norm one week is a long time...

Marc-Andre Caron
profile image
I will argue that perceiving used games as lost revenue is counting money wrongly, because it's only the manifestation of another problem, namely how bad a deal AAA games have become, considering the high price point and the inconsistent quality and reliability of the products. Used goods is just a normal, every day part of our economy, no matter what type of good we're talking about. If you don't want your customers to get your latest game used, you have to convince them, not limit anybody's economic freedom, including retailers. If they make a lot of money doing this, it's because the customers finds their service to offer a better deal than ours.



You feel like you need to get the fruit of the hard work you put into your game? Well customers work as hard for the money the spend.



You don't hear car manufacturers complaining about used car sales? Same for appliances, books or most items worthy of their own category on ebay. Why do we? Why do we fell like we should bend the rules and force our customers to pay an insane amount of money for a 5 hour game? Let me float an answer out there: we'd like more easy money.

Bryan Robertson
profile image
I'm not going to comment on whether or not the used market is a real problem, because sales figures, budgets and the like are not my area of expertise.



But I think it's worth pointing out that used video games are fundamentally different from used appliances and used vehicles. Generally speaking, used video games suffer very little wear and tear, and are not all that different from a new game, the same cannot be said of a used vehicle or appliance.



Another difference is that video-game retailers push second hand very aggressively, often to the extent of putting second hand copies on top of new copies, or asking customers if they'd prefer a second-hand copy instead when they're at the till. And they've been pushing it more and more aggressively as time goes on.

Jordan Lynn
profile image
Videogames are Not Cars: A love song.



I walk into a dealership, and see two cars, one used, one new.

I walk into a game store, and see two games, one used, one new.



I buy the used car:

BAD THING: I risk getting a lemon.

BAD THING: I don't get the warranty that the new one does.

BAD THING: The vehicle may be significantly worn down, which could increase repair costs later.

All the money goes right back to the dealer, who made the car in the first place, increasing their sales. Profit: Maker.

The dealer also receives repair and service fees as a very profitable side business. Profit: Maker

The dealer is owned by the same company that manufactures the product, so all profits go right back into the company. Profit: Maker



I buy the used game:

It costs $5 less.

The used game will be identical to the new one (scratched discs don't count, since GameStop won't sell them scratched).



The maker receives 0% of the profits. Profit: Distributor

The maker does not own the reseller. Profit: Distributor

The maker does not sell services for that product (well, except maybe DLC). Profit: Maker, if you count DLC



In summary: I will not argue with you about whether used games are good, bad, or neither. But stop comparing them to cars.

Eric Geer
profile image
@Jordan---Your love song is flawed.



But to compare video games with the Music and movie industry is a likely comparison--



What if any time you bought a movie or cd you had to register it online, or if you bought it used you had to pay 5 dollars to re-activate/unlock the last 10 scenes of the movie or if you bought a cd used you only got the first 7 songs and had to get an online pass for the last 5.



It sounds fucking ridiculous...so why does the video game industry do it with games?

Jordan Lynn
profile image
@Eric:

My car argument isn't flawed- it's a rebuttal to the same argument I see online ALL THE TIME.



If you would like to argue a separate model, and you do, I'll gladly jump into your additional model.







"What if any time you bought a movie or cd you had to register it online, or if you bought it used you had to pay 5 dollars to re-activate/unlock the last 10 scenes of the movie or if you bought a cd used you only got the first 7 songs and had to get an online pass for the last 5."



The vast majority of games with downloadable content do not do this. Nearly every game I've seen with DLC or new purchase incentives falls into 1 of 3 categories:



Additional, optional story content

Additional weapons/upgrades/gameplay modes

Customization items



I can't think of a used game that I couldn't buy, play the single player campaign to completion, and not have to buy an online pass. If you block content that is necessary to the game, you're doing it wrong.



I think the correct analogy would be buying a used movie or cd, then having to pay 5$ online to upgrade to the High Def video or High Fidelity audio version, or unlock the blooper reels and special features. These pieces of content are not required to enjoy the core product, but if you're willing to pay $5 for them, you can get extra enjoyment out of your product.

Joe McGinn
profile image
Oh gods here we got with the car analogy. This is a mindless as a piracy thread. Here's a visual guide for the slow learners. Try to stay on topic please.

http://img.techpowerup.org/120101/piracy-a-handy-guide.jpg

Eric Geer
profile image
"I can't think of a used game that I couldn't buy, play the single player campaign to completion, and not have to buy an online pass. If you block content that is necessary to the game, you're doing it wrong."



So if the multiplayer was not part of the package then why include it on the disc?

Marc-Andre Caron
profile image
The analogy is not what's important.



What's important is that selling the things you no longer need is part of every day life and everybody's economic freedom. And I say "economic freedom" as in "everybody has this right", not as the loaded political speech we sometimes hear.



If you need to bend the basic rules of how things get bought and sold in a society, then your industry has become parasitic.



You don't fight the used market by chaining people to products they might regret purchasing, you fight it by offering a better deal.

Jordan Lynn
profile image
@ Eric Geer: "So if the multiplayer was not part of the package then why include it on the disc?"

To make money. At this point, I don't like online passes. But developers have to figure out some sort of alternate revenue stream to help pay the rising costs of game creation. Even on good games, sometimes the dev and marketing budgets are so high that title sales aren't enough for profitability. The industry is desperately trying to find ways to stay in business (read: stay in business, not buy gold plated toilets for everyone's bonus).

My base argument is that even games with online pass are still complete games without the online pass content.



@Marc-Andre Caron:

You don't have economic freedom to resell Angry Birds.

You don't have economic freedom to resell any game you're ever played on Steam.

You don't have economic freedom to resell any MMO.

Joe McGinn
profile image
@Marc-Andre - so you can resell your Steam games yes? Your Amazon e-books? Your iTunes music? No?

Dorica Prostel
profile image
@Jordan Lynn



"You don't have economic freedom to resell any MMO."





Selling your account might be against the EULA, but regular games have that too (thanks Bill Gates, i love not owning my games), and it has stopped exactly zero people from selling their accounts in MMO's since as long as i can remember... along with gold farming it's a pretty lucrative business in some places...



As for Steam, that's one of the main complaints about it...

Eliot Lash
profile image
Ugh. While we're at it let's shut down all public libraries too, as none of the profits make it back to the original publisher...



If this really is an issue, perhaps the business model for traditional console games is broken. As development costs climb higher and higher to create a blockbuster AAA title, it becomes too risky to try something fresh and new, and we wind up with HD, polished, voice acted rehashes of games from 5 years ago. If you want to charge $60 a pop, make better games. Or figure out a way to make games for cheaper so you don't need to charge $60. How about making a 2D game that demands less man hours to create? New Super Mario Brothers Wii did fantastic. But please don't come begging me to prop up the current console sector.



If games were cheaper at retail I'd buy more of them. Put 'em up for MUCH cheaper once in a while on Steam sales, or on XBLA or PSN sales (which never tend to be too exciting right now.) Because otherwise I'm just gonna wait for 1-5 years for the game to just drop to a more reasonable price like $30-$15. I've gotten burned more than once paying top dollar for a AAA game that is just a polished turd. I'm not gonna keep dumping money into an industry sector that's so risk averse and is better at turning out marketing hype than fresh or interesting games.



In general, I walk into gamestop, browse for 15 minutes, yawn, and leave. Give me a good game and I'd consider picking it up at retail for full price. How about sequels to Psychonauts, Beyond Good and Evil? Team Ico gets my money without question, and that's about it. I pre-ordered Mass Effect 3 at full retail price because Bioware hooked me on the first two games (not to mention KoTOR) and have built up a relationship with me where I can trust them to deliver a quality, entertaining game. I bought Skyward Sword for full price. That's about all I can think of in recent memory, and those are all, to me, exceptionally high quality games deserving of such a steep price tag.



Indies and more reasonably priced downloadable titles (with more reasonable budgets I might add) are more where it's at for me. The cost of buying a bad game is so much lower, I'm willing to eat the change if it's not so great.



I don't want to come off as a troll here. I used to love AAA games. But if systems like the ones suggested in this article were implemented it would just give me even more reason not to buy AAA games at all. I'm just honestly frustrated, as a consumer, with the current state of affairs, and something like this would turn me off even more.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Anthony,



Why does a library metaphor invalidate his argument?



Libraries are the epitome of a used market that has not hurt the industry it operates under. People go to libraries and get books for free. Those same people are one of the largest book buying demographics out there. If getting books for free has not harmed the literature industry, why would people buying used copies of games do it?

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Anthony,



Yes, libraries are a concern for publishers. However, that concern seems to be unfounded as libraries and publishers have co-existed for hundreds of years without the death of either. However, any limits set on lending (outside the legally untested waters of digital lending) is in violation of the First Sale Doctrine and the long legal precedence found through it. I have seen no successful method of limiting the ability of libraries from lending physical books.



Can you explain how the two are not an apt comparison. I am just not seeing how comparing used sales to libraries as incompatible. If letting people read books for free is not killing publishing, how are people buying buying games used going to kill game development?



You may think that there is harm done by the used market, however, I have seen no conclusive data to support that theory. As you said, it is your opinion and i respect that. However, I don't think action should be taken based on faith and an opinion.

Joe McGinn
profile image
" If this really is an issue, perhaps the business model for traditional console games is broken. "

It is. It was broken by the game stores short sighted and AGGRESSIVE pushing of used over new content. Not the existence of user games itself but retails mindless exploitation of it. You can't even take a new game to the counter at Game without being asked, "Sir, wouldn't you prefer this identical user copy for $5 less?" And don't even get me started and their misleading packaging and shelving organization of used vs. new.



" If games were cheaper at retail I'd buy more of them. "

If games were cheaper they would not get made. Period. It already requires 2-3 million (!) sales of a modern console game just to break even, before one dollar of profit. Cut prices and it is impossible to make money.

Eliot Lash
profile image
"If games were cheaper they would not get made. Period."



Sure. The console industry is apparently digging its own grave with the constant race to the top with graphics, and a race to the bottom with profits. And yet there are profitable indie developers springing up all over the place that prove time and time again you can produce a good, marketable game on a more reasonable budget with a small team. Take a look at small studios like Double Fine, The Behemoth, and thatgamecompany. I don't know the numbers, but I do know that they are able to garner a lot of fan loyalty and stay in business releasing exceptionally good downloadable titles at a more reasonable price, like $15-$20.



Why does every game need to be a high-budget, sprawling, high-poly 3D effects fest? What's preventing a large studio from splitting up into smaller teams with less overhead and working on a few more innovative, cheaper projects at once instead of one giant game?



I have not worked in the console sector so if you have real answers for these questions I would be open to hear them.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Elliot & Joe,



I have not bought an AAA game in over 5 years. I am very happy living off the wonderful world of Indie games. Shoot the Humble Indie Bundles have given me more games in the last year than I have been able to play. Why do I need to spend $60 for a single game when I could spend half that and get 5 games?

Joe McGinn
profile image
"Movies have much higher production costs then games and a ticket is much cheaper ... "

Not really, AAA budget games like Skyrim and COD are now in the $50-$100M range, not including marketing.



"If the industry begins to justify higher prices..."

There are not higher prices, AAA games cost the same (or less) than they did 20 years ago. Anyway we're getting OT. This isn't about pricing, it's about Gamestop and the like cutting the game developer off from making one cent on MOST game sales. I understand why Gamestop might be show short-sighted; the temptation of the dollar and all. Game fans should no better. Game developers not getting paid = games not getting made. Very simple formula.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
"I understand why Gamestop might be show short-sighted;"



They're not short sighted, it's probably one of the few things keeping them in business.

Jonathon Walsh
profile image
Nothing is going to change for the better until attitudes change. At best with restrictive options, you're probably going to drive people to piracy instead of used sales.



Right now the prevailing attitude by a lot of people seems to be, "What can we do to force them to pay" when it should be, "What can we do to earn their money".



The latter is exactly the attitude Steam and Humble Indie bundles have taken and I think the results speak for themselves.



If people are buying used games (or pirating) and you get no money it's because you've done nothing to deserve their money.



At the very least pressure the console makers. Games like Skyrim or Portal 2 are worth far far less on a console than PC because they don't support modding or quick patching. I'd never think of returning a used PC Skyrim (even if I could) because I know in 6-10 months there's going to be tons of user generated content worth experiencing. On top of that the online purchasing options seem to be pretty lacking on consoles. And there are plenty of other options too, why not offer a 1 day head start to people who buy a game through their Xbox live account rather than a retail box?

Jeffrey Crenshaw
profile image
"If people are buying used games (or pirating) and you get no money it's because you've done nothing to deserve their money. "



That is absolutely absurd. It is _always_ the developers fault when someone pirates something?



Or, if this is where common ethics are heading, I should be happy; I can now download anything I want guilt free. If anyone complains, I'll just tell them they don't "deserve" my money.



The only reason I'm assuming this isn't an exaggeration is because I see this mindset cropping up a lot lately.

William Barnes
profile image
@Jonathon,



"Nothing is going to change for the better until attitudes change. At best with restrictive options, you're probably going to drive people to piracy instead of used sales.



Right now the prevailing attitude by a lot of people seems to be, "What can we do to force them to pay" when it should be, "What can we do to earn their money"."



I can easily see your first point, and it has become a vicious circle as it is... Budgets go high because of eye candy, to keep the budgets lower, the budget is mostly spent on the eye-candy, and content is decreased. Then the prices are placed high in an attempt to recoup the costs quickly. Joe Gamer, sees it as too high, either waits for prices to eventually drop (and can grab it before it becomes unavailable) or goes the pirate route. THEN there is the group that has seen too many polished turds, will pirate when they can't get a demo that reflects actual game play instead of being a prototype, will turn to either used with a guarantee of immediate buy-back at price paid (within a certain amount of time, for GameStop, that's one week.) If the game turns out to be a turd, no loss, if found out within that time. OR they pirate and if a turd, no loss, but if not a turd, it usually (or can) have any annoying DRM disabled. The better people will buy some copy (a legit used, or new) to have the game.



As to your questions. Your right. The first is the question on everyone's lips when their bottom line drops, but your second question is the RIGHT question to ask instead.



As a compromise, perhaps GameStop can reduce their time on used games to 3 days.

William Barnes
profile image
@Jeffrey Crenshaw



I have to agree with you on the absurdity, primarily when it comes to piracy, but then there are many reasons people pirate: Can't get it locally, Can't afford it/Too expensive in their eyes, Burned with turds in the past and no sign of a real taste of the game, because they can, take all they can get for free, or feel entitled. I Have no real idea of the balance of the spread of how this actually works out statistically, but the reasons/excuses exist. Does it mean the developer should get nothing? No. Does it make Piracy right? No. It's bad enough that some publishers will pay a token of their income on something sold to the developer/artist while keeping the lion's share of the profits for themselves.



Unfortunately, ethics and/or morals have been heading this way for a long time now, and probably won't get better for the lifetime of our financial systems and the planet. Used has its place, as does new. WHY should the customer pay for someone gaming the system? Unfortunately, most solutions given are ones where the customer does in some way, directly or indirectly. That's the nature of the beast of free-trade and its version of capitalism. When all your eyes can see is Currency signs, You're dangerous to your own profession. Greed drives both the over-inflated price, and the thief and NOBODY wins.

Joshua Darlington
profile image
Technodispossession is rude. One should consider all aggressive marketing tactics in the context of EQ. If your brand changes its association (in the players mind) from fun games to those jerks who ripped me off, its a substantial shift.



I agree with Jonathon Walsh's point about modding. Adding modding and craft culture to games adds lasting value. No one sells a set of D&D books once theyve played the enclosed map. Some one is less likely to sell a used copy of a game once theyve built their own level.



Another major issue thats worth consideration is TOXIC WASTE. Physical distribution is landfill in motion. Plastics are endocrine disruptors etc.

Darcy Nelson
profile image
People sell their D&D books when the new edition comes out. Or once they get their hands on a PDF copy. Just sayin'.

Eric Geer
profile image
I am not a dev/program/etc. I don't work in the video game business.



I am a consumer. I buy games. I enjoy games.

I feel used too. Between having to sign up for each companies online network(sharing all my personal information), registering online passes, paying for day 1 or soon after DLC, weapons packs/map packs/pre-order bonus packs/etc, always connected DRM--its getting to the point where the effort is not even really worth it.



I know you want your money..but I want my time and convenience too. Whatever happened to pluggin and play? I think Nintendo is the only company still working towards that objective. They provide gaming experiences that don't need to be supplemented with $15-30 worth of DLC or require an internet connection. I want the fun back in gaming--back in the day the biggest issue with a game was blowing into a cartridge to get it to work. Now I have to have an internet connection, I need to get the latest update on the game, I need to install the game, I need to plug in my 16 digit online pass code, I need to sign up for your companies gaming network, etc, etc. It's like I'm having not having fun for at least an hour before I can even get the game to load up. I want convenience and ease back. You bring that back, you have my money.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Thank you Eric for this. This is one of the most insightful comments I have ever read on this topic. We should be focusing on what adds value to our games in the eyes of the public. They are the ones with the power. They are the ones who are paying us money to make games. If we lose sight of what they think is valuable, we will fall.



By putting barriers between the paying customer and the game, we are reducing value. Methods such as those listed in the article that are meant to fight used sales or piracy, reduce value in the eyes of the paying public. When the public values something less, they pay less for it.



Day 1 DLC and online passes are not adding value. They are actually stripping value away. For years, online play was an integral part of the gaming experience. Now publishers are trying to push it into the realm of a commodity. However, the buying public doesn't see it that way. They see publishers as taking away something that was once there. They see publishers forcing the value of the game to drop.



Add value. Don't shift it or subtract it. Add value.

Eric Geer
profile image
Thanks for the feedback---this article seemed to show up at the right time.



I'm almost to the point where disc based games are almost too frustrating...Not because they are naturally but because all the effort publishers have gone through to try and recoup some sales that ends up diminishing the end returns.



I would almost prefer an all digital downloading system. Only problem with this is that I have then lost ALL control of my game(s) and have to rely on someone else, and trust someone else(large companies)---and these are the same people putting consumers through the mill just to get an extra 10 or 15 bucks. Likelihood is that all digital is more friendly to the companies than the consumer. But we'll see how it rolls out.

A W
profile image
This is exactly the change that has happen in the industry that makes any aging gamer wonder if it is worth it, and Eric could not have said it any better.

Evan Combs
profile image
I keep reading this myth that other industries don't complain about the used market. Where do you think certified used cars come from? In the case of movies and music the video game industry doesn't have anything that compares to concerts or theaters. Every industry is worried about used sales, just you aren't involved in them so you don't see the complaining and worrying.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Certified used cars are not in response to any concern over the harm used sales have on new sales. They came about as a way for dealers to get a competing edge over other used car dealers. Nothing more.



As for the idea that gaming does not have a theatre/concert analog, well that seems to be an issue the games industry needs to work out. Theatres and concerts are what those in the entertainment business like to call "scarcities". They are things that are not easily duplicated in the market. Things that people want to attend in order to have a different experience than what can be found at home. We used to have something similar in the Arcade but that was quickly killed off as home console technology quickly outpaced the slow moving arcade cabinet.



So really the goal of the games industry is to find a new scarcity to sell to consumers. Something they cannot easily duplicate on their own. Right now the focus seems to be on online play. However, that is moving in a direction that gamers don't particularly like (although they are paying for it). It used to be bundled with the rest of the game, but now it is being stripped out. This is what we like to call an "artificial scarcity" or a scarcity that does not really exist without extreme interference from the owner of the property.



I honestly can't tell you what would be a scarcity for gaming. However, I can tell you that several companies are trying to figure it out. We have Angry Birds and all the merchandising that goes along with it. We have Steam that sells itself as a service for gamers to connect with each other around the games it sells (for dirt cheap). The fact is, there is no one model that will work for all game developers. So you need to do some soul searching for yourself.

Craig Page
profile image
There's no point in doing something to win a battle, if it causes you to lose the war.



Give the player some reasons to keep a game longer.



Make the gameplay longer than 6 hours.



Give them lots of multiplayer options.



Don't lie to them or overcharge them to get a pre-order sale (EA!!!!!!!!!!).



Put out new DLC every few weeks for the first 6 months, or until the first big price drop.



Make the game so enjoyable that the player wants to keep it on their shelf forever, as a trophy.

Joe McGinn
profile image
"There's no point in doing something to win a battle, if it causes you to lose the war."

That's exactly what Gamestop and the like have done with the relentless pushing of used titles. They will be extinct in 5 years, and all games will be sold digitally, with no resale option just like you can't resell a Steam game.



"Make the gameplay longer than 6 hours."

Oh problem solved, we never thought of that. Oh wait you just blew the budget so bad we're out of business.



"Give them lots of multiplayer options."

There you go again. Double the budget, we need twice as many sales to break even.



"Make the game so enjoyable that the player wants to keep it on their shelf forever, as a trophy"

Ah, the old "turn the quality dial from 10 up to 11" advice. Useful.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
profile image
"Ah, the old "turn the quality dial from 10 up to 11" advice. Useful."



God I wish I could multilike.

Clay Cowgill
profile image
Good point Evan-- so maybe borrow some of their model. Offer 'factory certified' used games that sell for less than new, but more than 'regular' used ones. Include some form of bonus (DLC, membership, etc.) with the certified copy that adds value.



Another angle is to embrace the "buy->play through->trade in" segment (essentially a rental) through a publisher backed rental system, or the equivalent of a 'lease' on digital distribution. Pay $30 now and you have it for 30 days, pay another $25 at the end if you want to keep it forever.



Gamers will go where the money is to a large degree as well-- make it easy for them to get more money/credit for a used game and they'll shift their business. "Buy back" their used game and take it out of the used pool entirely if you like, or resell it from a 'publisher direct' used store and recapture that 2nd, 3rd, Nth sale by doing some of the work to earn it. (Instead of complaining that someone else is willing to take the initiative...)



There's also an argument to be made that's again analogous to the car companies... They also encourage used car sales. I've been contacted in the past by the manufacturer of two different brands after a few years of owning a new car. They offered me an attractive price for my old one to buy it back outright. They recognize value in their older wares attracting a new customer base that might not have the money for a new car, but a nice used one is within reach so they actively pursue getting older models "back in circulation". (And of course they figure that there's a good chance they can sell you something new to replace the old as well.)

k s
profile image
I don't really like the idea of not permitting used games to be run on the system at all, at the very least do something like the online pass so for $10 bucks they can play a used copy and we developers get something for our work.

Joe McIntosh
profile image
Selling hard copies? People will always bootleg and borrow. Selling digital copies? Someone will make a keygen or other crack, and count on that being easily found with a Google search.



Consumers will generally go the cheapest route possible, and you don't get much cheaper than free. Same is true in business. If GameStop is turning crazy profits buying and reselling the same disc over and over, good luck convincing them to stop. If not GameStop, it'll be a pawn shop.



I just hope that out of it all will emerge a sensible way to find a balance.



One way or another, the money will have to flow back to the developers in order to keep meeting the demand for games. Otherwise, this compromises both "new" and "used" markets. I personally imagine a formal agreement for profit sharing between the developers and used resellers. Resellers will only be able to exploit this situation for so long before they don't have anything to resell. It makes sense that they would want to keep the developers developing.

Christopher Corbett
profile image
Perhaps a "not to be sold as used" street date rule could be developed where stores cant sell used games until they've been on the market new for 90 days; or something along those lines.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Such a window would require the voluntary cooperation of the used retailers as there is no legal way to force them to adhere to the window.



Unfortunately, release windows are something that consumers hate. Especially in today's climate. Warner Bros tested the waters by implementing a 28 day rental embargo on all their newly released DVDs in the hopes of increasing the sales of DVDs. That failed and they have now pushed it to 56 days. This has led Redbox, one of the fastest growing rental services available, to simply ignore Warner's embargo and are buying the DVDs they rent from other sources. This embargo is hurting Warner. I see nothing less happening to a publisher that attempts something similar for used games.



This is why I think the idea of making the Xbox 720 (or whatever) unable to play used games would backfire and hurt Microsoft and any publisher that tries it. Gamers will not stand for it.

Jordan Lynn
profile image
@Zachary



Steam is unable to play used games, and they seem to be doing okay...

Christopher Corbett
profile image
Thanks, I wasn't aware of the TW debacle. As a product that evolves beyond its release date; games may be different enough for there to exist an arrangement that works. Movies after all, are a finished product once put on disc. With online communities, dlc, etc. games begin another stage of development once released. Given the option to work with a release window or not have any used product to sell; there may be some room for negotiation. Besides, if they really wanted to publishers could simply enact a release window of their own, using a temporary access key system independent of physical product. So while you could buy a used game the week it comes out; it may be that you couldn't actually play it until some amount of time after release has elapsed.



Steam would be very successful were it offered through consoles as well...which I'm sure is being worked out as I type.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
@Jordan Lynn



Steam Sales have prices that are likely even lower then for used games, and the PC market doesn't have such a big used games market because the prices go down faster...

Jordan Lynn
profile image
@Dorica Prostel

"the PC market doesn't have such a big used games market because the prices go down faster... "



It doesn't hurt that it's PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to sell used games on PC these days. Yes, having sales increases the units moved, but they cannot be resold.

Walter Gwizdak
profile image
I like this idea or a form of it. I think the publishers/distributers could have more power here than they think. They could start shipping less units to stores that sell used games in a given time period or give lower prices or get the next game to them a day or two earlier to other stores that do hold out. They could even have a graduated usage where the amount they can charge for can't be more 50% of the msrp and then lowered over a period of time.



The publishers could buy the used games back from the user and resell them themselves. They could even encourage people to sell it back to them with non-monetary incentives like avatar items, discounts on future games, betas, and the first crack at new games. It takes the games off the market and gives the publish the ability make money off the used marked.



Steer the customers away them somehow with freebies for new games...ie. betas, vehicles, Microsoft points or some sort value added to the users account, pretty much anything that won't change the balance of a game in either offline or online play.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
@Jordan Lynn



Yeah, i don't know about where you're from, but over here they still sell physical copies of PC games... so it's hardly impossible.

Jason Hayes
profile image
Ugh. This used game argument again. I have stopped buying AAA titles altogether in the last year. Let me give you the story.



It all started when I found myself less and less interested in sitting down at my computer and trying to play the latest games I had bought. This happened very slowly but eventually I noticed that it was almost like a chore to get things going to play my game until eventually I just gave up on it entirely. The game itself was always fun once I was actually playing it. That was almost never the problem. I began to ask myself why I found this to be the case. I was playing indie games more than ever at this point even though I still wanted to play the AAA games but couldn't bring myself to buy them and fire them up. After some thought, I figured out that it was because TRYING to play these games was just too draining. Situations just kept cropping up that made it difficult. Some examples:

"I'd like to play Fallout 3 on my computer right now. Oh darn, my wife is on the Xbox watching Netflix... Guess I can't do that. Hey hon, how long are you going to be watching that movie?" "I'm going to be working on an island for a week with next to no internet connection. I know! I'll play me some Starcraft II! Oh wait... I won't be able to play my current campaign because I won't have a connection." "Our internet provider is out today... Maybe I'll fire up my Dragon Age campaign and finish my game. Right... I can't play it because of the DLC I used." "I've got about 30 minutes available. How about I play something? Oh look, I'm REQUIRED to get the latest update which will take 20 minutes..." Combine these with having to log into numerous online accounts (Xbox Live, PSN, EA, Battle.net, Steam, etc), sometimes two at once no less, having to keep track of what store YOU want me to buy it from just to get some extra content I don't want to have to pay extra for, and deciding if and when its worth throwing the dice on pre-orders that may or may not be store specific and which may or may not be the best deal before the game comes out is just infuriating even if the game is fun when you actually get it. Pile on all this nit picky junk and the end result is that I just said screw it. I'm done with AAA games until they get their act together. I should point out that I have bought probably 5-10 used games in the 15-20 years that I have been buying them. All this to prevent "piracy and used sales" which quite frankly I don't care about because I WAS a paying customer. If you really don't like Gamestop selling used games that much then the only suggestion I have is to organize an industry wide boycott and don't sell them the games in the first place. Let them pick up their copies for sale from some other store and have to sell their initial copies at an extra premium and get them late. Stop punishing me for your problems.

Christian Allen
profile image
All the publishers should get together and tell GameStop to go **** themselves. Stop shipping games to them unless they give a cut of the used game sales to the publisher. Otherwise, they can go buy their new games from Walmart.

Jordan Lynn
profile image
@ Cameron



http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/8/25/



No one who buys used games bankrolls anything in the industry. They bankroll Gamestop.

Eliot Lash
profile image
I buy used games and new games. I buy the most games - ones I wouldn't normally purchase ever, 'new' digitally during Steam sales at greatly reduced cost. Trying to force your own customers to behave a certain way using artificial technological restraints is a nasty, shortsighted tactic and I think all it ultimately does is poison the relationship between creator and consumer.



These are luxury goods! We don't have to buy games. We also don't have to tell all our friends about how much we really enjoyed the game that we just legally purchased, retail or used. Treat us like people rather than criminals and maybe we will be willing to reciprocate. Be a great company and inspire loyalty in your fans. Don't make us jump through technology hoops and hassle. Stopping Xboxes from playing used games is not the answer. Do something positive. Make great games. If you want, add incentives to buy new instead of used that aren't artificially imposed and add value, like free DLC for several months after release, etc.



Would you rather have me grudgingly fork over $60, complain to my friends that my online activation code isn't working, spend hours on a useless support call, maybe get it working, maybe badmouth the game and the company? Or to have me throwing money at you as soon as I can, shouting from the rooftops about how great your service is, how great your games are, and that there were no stupid hassles?



As Paul Graham wrote recently about SOPA, "Hollywood ... must be dying if they're resorting to such tactics. If movies and TV were growing rapidly, that growth would take up all their attention. When a striker is fouled in the penalty area, he doesn't stop as long as he still has control of the ball; it's only when he's beaten that he turns to appeal to the ref."



I see tactics like this as a sign that the traditional game industry is hurting, and trying to resort to "technodispossession" is perhaps a sign that what needs to change is not consumer behavior, but old business models that can no longer sustain themselves.



I think that getting into a war with retail chains would be shooting yourself in the foot. It's probably a moot point in any case, just look what's happening to Blockbuster, and what happened to Tower records before it. Brick and mortar shops for digital goods are all going to give way to internet-based shops eventually, it's just a matter of time. And on the online store playing field, the current consumer expectations are to have goods cheaper, but not usually transferable between people. As mentioned in the article regarding the PS Vita store. Maybe that will help things.



I sympathize with the need to make money when I'm wearing my developer hat. But as a consumer I feel unfairly targeted by these proposed practices.

Joe McGinn
profile image
@Cameron - we aren't going to war. We are in a war, struggling for (and over failing to achieve) survival in a severely hostile territory. The war was declared by retail when they decided they could be really profitable as long as they could just remove the inconvenience of paying game developers from their equation.



So many console developers have lost their jobs over the last three years, so many less games being made, it absolutely stuns me than on a professional game developer foruim anyone would be unable to see what a severe, life-threatening problem this is.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
"All the publishers should get together and tell GameStop to go **** themselves."



Sure, then instead of losing possible income they'd lose actual income when all the retailers tell them to go **** themselves back...

Dorica Prostel
profile image
@Jordan Lynn



And of course you're assuming they only buy used games...

Jordan Lynn
profile image
@Dorica Prostel



Of course I am. If you buy new, you have no reason to complain, since the day 1 code gives you access to all the features that everyone complains about, the developer gets a cut, and an angel gets his wings.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
@Jordan Lynn



How hard is it to grasp the concept of people buying both new and used...

Gerald Belman
profile image
Yeah, I'd say this guy completely misunderstands economics. If you can't resell something, then it is going to be worth less. Part of the reason these games sell for 60 bucks is because people know they can resell them for 40.



So go ahead and try to lock down a game disc to an xbox live account. People will just buy less of them. Supply and demand. Price goes up, the quantity demanded is less.



And don't confuse used games with piracy.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
Being ignorant and not caring are different things... you really think the majority of people would stop paying less just to feel better about helping a dev... they could get the same, if not more, feeling by giving to charity...



And you can talk about wanting a sequel etc, but let's face it, someone else will just buy a popular IP and make a sequel anyway, just look around at plenty of the sequels coming out and that have come out in the last few years.



Plus, it's how capitalism work, neither side is in it to help the other guy...

Harlan Sumgui
profile image
@Gerald. you are correct. These are complicated issues that aren't fully understood. Killing something as fundamental to console gaming culture as the used games market would be a quantum shift for the industry. One which could ultimately cause a lot of unanticipated hurt.



Some of the knock down effects may include: fewer game purchases per system, fewer hours played per system owner, fewer risks being taken by game purchasers, fewer purchases by children (as they may have cash, but no credit card), no game rentals, no lending to friends. Would that lead to higher profits for publishers and more jobs for devs? Anyone who says they *know* the answer is delusional or a liar.



My own take is that the AAA gaming industry has made an error in shifting from concentrating on gameplay to concentrating on storytelling. Expensive narrative games aren't really games. They are linear and not repayable, the antithesis of what a good game is suppose to be. Narrative games have the advantage though of requiring less risk to make, and publishers are keen to push out products that are disposable, i.e. with zero replay value, so the customer will move on to the next great big game.



The juggernaut that is Modern Warfare is successful because they give people a /game/ with massive replay value (I'll disregard the single player campaign, as that is a glorified tutorial). No, Modern Warfare gives their customers months of gameplay, and is endlessly replayable...you know like tetris & mario. People will happily pay $60, and NOT resell the game for a long time if they get an actual game and not a shitty $60 chose-your-own-adventure QTE driven story with as much replay value as an episode of CSI or Two and Half Men.

Gerald Belman
profile image
Christian,



So people who buy used games are immoral. lol. That's a new one.



I'm sorry, I mistook this for an article that was trying to offer actual solutions - not whine about the morality of people who buy used goods.

Joe McGinn
profile image
Untrue Gerald. People didn't start buying more games overall with the explosion of the used-game market these last couple years. It's had no effect on the number of game sold at all. Only effect is game developers out of business, less games being made. You'd think gamers would be upset about *that* but apparently not.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
@Joe McGinn



If it didn't affect the number of new games sold then why are you complaining?



Is it the same old idea that if you stop people from getting the game at a lower price they'd all buy at the higher one... sorry, but Economics 101 says that's not true: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand_curve

Joe McGinn
profile image
Pure nonsense Dorica. The idea that people who will pay $55 for a video game would also have bought it at $60 is not a stretch. Enough already with your mindless and condescending "you don't know economics 101" posts.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
@Joe McGinn



If you actually saw my other posts about it you should have also seen this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand_curve



But sure, the part of economics that is actually science is nonsense...





And lets not even get started on the fact that you're assuming all used games are sold at 55$...





Also, the actual argument isn't that some people won't buy it at the higher price point, is that it will certainly not be as many as to make that much of a difference...

Jeff Keely
profile image
I strongly believe that the best way for the publisher to rake in more of this money that's currently going to the reseller is for the developer and publisher to provide more long term value in their games and community. In essence, I understand why publishers and developers want a piece of this resale pie, but I disagree that they are inherently owed said piece. I think there are better plans to reclaim some of the resale pie than using DRM, online one time use codes, first purchaser incentives or any other rather draconian methods that inherently lower the value of the game by revoking access for certain types of consumers to various content and features of the game, integral or otherwise.



Developers and publishers can earn this money by creating games with strong multiplayer support or long term compelling content additions, such as free or paid DLC, mods, etc. Consoles have yet to reap the game-lifetime extending benefits of mods as the PC market has long proven possible.

Bob Stevens
profile image
I'm a developer myself now, I have some income to spend on Amazon release-date delivery and I find this very convenient. However I remember when I didn't have that income source and $50 was a hell of a lot to ask for a game. I bought used then and will probably always continue to support it as a viable market.



The big problem is that people approach this issue naively. They look at Gamestop's revenue from preowned and try to create fantasy worlds where that revenue would be put directly into the publisher's pocket instead. This is especially laughable when grunt-level (non-executive) developers start ranting about it... when has more money for the publisher implied more money for you personally? It can have implications for job stability or whatever, but it's going to be hard to find a case of a studio closing because of preowned sales and no other factors.



But really the whole thing gets ridiculous when people start talking about how preowned will kill the industry. Really? A legal and legitimate market that's been around as long as the industry itself will kill the industry?



If the revenue stream is a problem there are a number of ways to deal with it without shafting consumers. Try offering them retention incentives. Try lowering prices. If all else fails try entering the preowned market to get a share of the revenue. Stuff like online passes are just the wrong way to reason about the problem, and I've canceled two preorders this past year because of anti-consumer initiatives like that.

Bart Stewart
profile image
"And my calculation is, as Quantic Dream, I lost between 5 and 10 million [Euros] worth of royalties because of second hand gaming."



You can only lose something if it belongs to you in the first place. What exactly is the legal or ethical basis for this belief beyond "because I want it"? The per-unit or total production cost is completely irrelevant beside this larger question of whether all creators have a defensible right to a piece of every sale, or if the legal principle of the Right of First Sale (but not subsequent sales) exists for good reason.



There's a practical economic reason for developers wishing they could get a cut of every sale: they could make more and better games. I could endorse an argument on those grounds. But that is very different from an argument wrapped around the presumption that revenue from game sales after the first one is somehow "lost."

Joe McGinn
profile image
@Bob - that ignores how much used-game market has been aggressively pushed and expanded in the last few years.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
@Cameron King



They did, over 100 years ago, luckily the courts weren't as easy to buy back then: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_sale_doctrine

Eliot Lash
profile image
Also, why bag on resellers but give a thumbs up to rental services? Isn't it kind of the same thing? Purchased once, played by several people?

Jeremy Reaban
profile image
Firstly, I think the used game problem is mostly a myth. Who are the ones that sell their games back to Gamestop right away? The people who purchase games on Day 1 for full price. The money goes right back into the industry - it's a cycle, they sell their games, then use the money to buy another new game.



Secondly, if something has such a used market, then there is a value problem. Why do people return games so quickly? Because they don't have much replay value.



Why do people want even a minor discount? Because they are overpriced. $60 for a 5 hours game is not a very good value, even with the inflated currency we have now.



If there is no used market, people will just wait a while and buy it for a discount. The market is flooded with games, there really is not point to buy for $60 now, not to mention how you get nickel and dimed (well, $5 and $10ed) for DLC. Might as well wait 2 years for the Game of the Year edition for not only half-price, but with all the DLC

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Mike Dobs
profile image
This 'car' analogy is obviously overstretched, so will someone PLEASE tell me the difference instead then between buying a used game and buying a secondhand book?

Because the last time I checked I don't need to pay an extra £5 to read the last chapter if I've bought/borrowed it off someone else.

Jordan Lynn
profile image
Reposted from above.



"What if any time you bought a movie or cd you had to register it online, or if you bought it used you had to pay 5 dollars to re-activate/unlock the last 10 scenes of the movie or if you bought a cd used you only got the first 7 songs and had to get an online pass for the last 5."



The vast majority of games with downloadable content do not do this. Nearly every game I've seen with DLC or new purchase incentives falls into 1 of 3 categories:



Additional, optional story content

Additional weapons/upgrades/gameplay modes

Customization items



I can't think of a used game that I couldn't buy, play the single player campaign to completion, and not have to buy an online pass. If you block content that is necessary to the game, you're doing it wrong.



I think the correct analogy would be buying a used movie or cd, then having to pay 5$ online to upgrade to the High Def video or High Fidelity audio version, or unlock the blooper reels and special features. These pieces of content are not required to enjoy the core product, but if you're willing to pay $5 for them, you can get extra enjoyment out of your product.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
@Jordan Lynn



Problem is that a lot of those "optional" things are part of what used to make a full experience... just look at ME2's initial limited weapon selection (and frankly even with the DLC weapons i still felt they could have done more) and the annoyingly incomplete Liara questline that needs Lair to come to a conclusion...

Caryn Willikers
profile image
"People often don't understand the cost that goes into creating these huge experiences that we put on the shelves for only $60."



You may say "only $60," but more and more that's looking like an outrageous price for any kind of game. I'm being spoiled by all the great games available at the under $10 price point for mobile devices.

Travis Bruno
profile image
I'm just curious if people want this Hobby (that's what it is at the end of the day unless you actually work in the business) to become some sort of "elitist", segregated community. What are we supposed to say to those whose Only legit option of playing games is through the used market. And I'm not referring to the 5 less dollar people who get it fairly soon after release. I'm talking about the people who wait for the fairly significant drop in used game price. Are we all REALLY ready to just be like "Well...sorry, guess you can't enjoy this amazing entertainment the rest of us do." I personally don't think I'm ready to tell that to anyone who wants to enjoy gaming on any level. That, to me, is everything the gaming community ISN'T.

Herbert Fowler
profile image
Excellent article and excellent discussion; one I feel should be republished as much as possible. There are two sides to this, obviously, and finding the balance certainly boils down to the individual ideals of the end user.



I talk with people about this very subject and always try to find out what their "answer" is. Thing is, it seems the average user doesn't have an answer. They will agree that buying used hurts developers, but they still buy used because they feel like they are getting a bargain and a lot of them like to cycle it where they return one used game and use the credit toward another used game. It's also interesting to note that a vast majority of them will buy movies new. When asked why they don't use the Moviestop right next door to the Gamestop they typically go down the line of games being a personal entertainment medium that still has the child's toy stigma associated with it. Where as movies are viewed as family entertainment. So, despite the lower entertainment factor per dollar (almost universally agreed upon, at least by gamers) paying full price for movies is more easily justified.



DLC is a love/hate relationship to be sure. Most of the folks I talk to love the idea of DLC, but hate it when it's released the same day or even within the same month that the game is released. Reasons are pretty well split between "too soon, should have been in the game in the first place" to "just trying to suck money out of us". Me personally: I hate DLC with a passion. Yes, for my favorite games I buy them, and I feel dirty after...but that's a different discussion entirely.



Everyone that I talk to have moved to digital distribution for PC games. When asked if they would do the same for their console it's surprising how few have even considered the possibility. Seems that having a physical inventory to maintain and showcase is a part of the console experience.



Disclaimer: My sample group is almost entirely thritysomething guys with families and budgets, including myself. So, there's that. Also, as an aspiring developer I never buy used. On the very rare occasion of removing a console game from my library (typically because I bought the GOTY edition on PC) I try to find a kid to give it to (with parent consent if necessary of course).

Herbert Fowler
profile image
Double post.

Ron Dippold
profile image
Your industry isn't going to 'fall apart' any more than the movie industry is going to fall apart (best year ever) despite their frenzied buggywhip screeching about how every single new change in their business model for the last 100 years would destroy them: http://matadornetwork.com/change/infographic-why-the-movie-indust
ry-is-so-wrong-about-sopa/



You have a service problem. This is not a buyer problem: this is your fault. Valve figured this out years ago. Why are people buying your games used? If you want to just blame Gamestop, fine, start there, but that is a puerile first level issue for people who don't even realize how broken their model is and don't want to admit it.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
That's why they keep using the same argument, because it worked so well, just look at copyright limits 100 years ago and now...

Dorica Prostel
profile image
"I think what most consumers don't realize is that every time they buy a used game, there is ZERO money making it back to the game developers."





Also, THEY DON'T CARE.



Nor should they...



It's how the free market works...





Also, don't they teach economics in 11th grade in America? Because there's a nice chart showing the relationship between price and demand that should really make you realise that counting everyone that bought the game at a lower price as someone that would buy it at full price is BS, and stopping piracy, used sales, loaning games to friends, playing more then once etc. won't actually change one of the most basic truths of economics...

Tony Chu
profile image
If buying used is immoral, is buying a $60 MSRP game for under $15 immoral as well? I've bought a lot of new, shrinkwrapped games from Amazon that way.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
I think the argument is that you're not paying the original creator/s of the work.



Which i guess means buying music made by people that are dead (or lost the rights) now is immoral...

Iulian Mocanu
profile image
After buying Red Faction Armageddon, I also feel used.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
profile image
Guys, guys.



Gamers want to pay less money. Developers want to make more money. There is another group of people we're forgetting about: middle men (publishers, platform holders, etc).



We really should pay attention to the Double Fine Kickstarter situation and see if we can't find ways to get more money to devs while charging gamers less by trimming some fat :).

Joe McGinn
profile image
It is interesting. At about 28,000 users, paying average of $38 each, you can fund a million dollar game. Makes you realize how much of the income normally is going to middle-men and the barest trickle makes it's way back to game developers. So in theory we can support fairly high budgets on a modest user base.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
profile image
Yes, not to mention that these gamers will be getting the game. It's not like they're losing in the deal. And they are more empowered to support games they want instead of having suits studying market trends. How can you get any more accurate than direct customers? :)



Moreover, since the devs are being open about their development, there is less likelihood of consumer dissatisfaction because consumers know what they are getting (more than currently at least). And even if it bombs, the risk is spread, so you don't have this one group of people over you that really _need_ the game to be a hit breathing down your neck and ironically making it worse.



Developers keep the IP and the profits, as it always should have been. I really hope this takes off, I'm doing what I can to tell people. This could fix our industry.

Dorica Prostel
profile image
"So in theory we can support fairly high budgets on a modest user base."



Yeah, but atm the middle men have too much power over developers... which is why entire discussion is about the customers not supporting you enough instead of about finding way to stop Gamestop from doing what they are...



Maybe if more people had the guts to go full on GOG.com... but i guess the scary piracy "problem" prevents that... (of course even that involves costs a new dev probably won't be able to afford, and most investors are part of the middle men so they wouldn't support such a move).

William Barnes
profile image
Who we see succeeding mostly in the market right now is the independent developers, they aren't giving us a ton of eye candy, but they are giving us a good blend of story and game play. Corporate big wigs whose only concern is the next bonus check and making sure they have a large golden-parachute only care about the money. The developers need to be wary about anything these guys tell them because it just might be an excuse as to why they'll get less money (while they themselves won't.) We already have seen that the ESA is in bed with the RIAA and MPAA despite what developers say. (I think the BSA is there with them too.) Their interest in a successful developer only goes as far as what they can make off them, and they'll offer all the excuses they can as the only budgets they cut is to the developers.

Sans Mal
profile image
I see the point the author of the post is making. However, the idea of prohibiting

Selling a product on the 2nd hand market is not just done for profit. It is an option to deal with a product that the original buyer might consider:
- defective
- disappointing

Anybody who ever shelled out sixty bucks for a game whose advertised system requirements he/she comfortably met, but still didn't run smooth, will understand. It also applies to games which didn't deliver the advertised experience.

I actually believe that the legislator should adapt laws so that entertainment products can face the same level of customer treatment as any other product. I.e., we should be entitled to a full refund if a movie was so awful that we left the cinema before it finished.

My impression is that entertainment producers don't really appreciate that they really have it good compared with those who produce physical products.


none
 
Comment: