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Used games 'killing' single player titles, says Braben
Used games 'killing' single player titles, says Braben Exclusive
March 19, 2012 | By Staff

March 19, 2012 | By Staff
Comments
    107 comments
More: Console/PC, Exclusive, Business/Marketing



As part of a new Gamasutra feature interview, Frontier Developments' David Braben (Elite, Kinectimals) tells Gamasutra that the used game market keeps prices high and is even destroying the single-player form.

"The real problem when you think about it brutally, if you look at just core gamer games, pre-owned has really killed core games. In some cases, it's killed them dead. I know publishers who have stopped games in development because most shops won't reorder stock after initial release, because they rely on the churn from the resales," says Braben.

"It's killing single player games in particular, because they will get preowned, and it means your day one sales are it, making them super high risk. I mean, the idea of a game selling out used to be a good thing, but nowadays, those people who buy it on day one may well finish it and return it."

"People will say 'Oh well, I paid all this money and it's mine to do with as I will', but the problem is that's what's keeping the retail price up -- prices would have come down long ago if the industry was getting a share of the resells," Braben claims.

"Developers and publishers need that revenue to be able to keep doing high production value games, and so we keep seeing fewer and fewer of them," he says.

He should know. His studio's own project, The Outsider is in limbo -- because it's a story-based single player game, he says.

"The fundamental nature of it is of a story-based game, and from a design point of view, the story itself doesn't lend itself very well to being a multiplayer game other than as a tacked-on affair, which we've seen with quite a few games, and it's not generally worked."

"It just becomes a higher and higher risk... But justifying that is much harder at the moment," says Braben.

The full interview, in which he discusses his studio's work with the Kinect and why core gamers shouldn't fear the encroachment of casual titles on consoles, is live now on Gamasutra.


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Comments


Marcus Miller
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Many gamers sell their used games to buy new games. If you get rid of the consumers' ability to sell a used game, people will have less money to spend toward new games. Believe me, people are going to get really selective about dropping $60 on a new game if they cannot resell it later. I thought the game industry was moving towards more downloadable content to make additional game revenue.

Alex Leighton
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There's also the "bringing in new customers" angle that these people don't seem to get. If someone can get a game very cheaply or even free (by trading), then they might try games they never would've touched otherwise. And maybe they'll like it so much that they'll be there on day 1 for the sequel. I can name a whole bunch of games that I never would have bought if I didn't get them dirt cheap, and I liked them so much that I bought the sequels new.

But the bottom line is: if gamers are returning your game to the store, that's something wrong with the game, not the used game market. Single player games can have plenty of replay value.

Ryan Marshall
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I have to agree with Alex on this one. Even coming from the perspective that $60 isn't an outrageous price for a piece of good software, there is something wrong with a game if people want to return it.

Personally, I'm blaming the FMV. They cost a ton of money to produce, don't add anything to gameplay, and present an annoyance barrier against re-playability. At first, it's cool to get a free movie tie-in with your game, but anything with too high of a story to gameplay ratio is going to be second on my list of returns (behind games that were never fun in the first place).

John Owens
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That's not the point he was making Marcus.

He's saying that because the developers don't share any of the revenue of pre-owned they have to make it all on first weekend sales and that makes it extremely high risk especially for games that don't rely on multiplayer.

It's obvious that the guy is right and you can see that's exactly what is happening.

If games where just simply cheaper but there was no pre-owned market it would be better for the industry as it wouldn't skew revenue towards the big releases that have strong multi-player focus and allow more to go towards innovative and/or story based games.

But as another poster said it's a moot point. Game is almost on it's last legs and it won't be too long before the whole industry goes digital.

Andy Modrovich
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John Owens beat me to it, but I may as well post it since I wrote it:

The point he's making is that gamers probably wouldn't have to drop $60 on a game if it weren't for used games. What's also important to realize is that it's not like game developers want to insist that everybody pay full price for their games, period, no exceptions. Fair is fair, though; if used games are going to be sold and resold in a commercial setting, then they want to be dealt in.

Right now, when you go into Gamestop on the day of release and pay $60 for a game, the people who made the game will get about 45% of that money, and Gamestop gets the rest. Okay, fine. But if you go in one week after release and pay $53.99 for a used copy of that game, Gamestop gets 100% of the profit (after the pittance they paid the guy trading in his game). The developers get absolutely nothing. Does that sound like the way things ought to be?

A tolerable state of affairs for developers would be if Gamestop would agree to pay them royalties for these sales (but hey, who's gonna make 'em?). The perfect system, though, would probably be one in which there were no used-game sales, but also no $60 games. Developers, being gamers themselves, are very aware that $60 is a hell of a lot to spend on a game, and that not everyone can afford that. They'd prefer the starting price for a game be lower. And if you're still unwilling or unable to pay full price for a game, even when full price is less than $60? That's cool, too: just wait a few weeks until the price comes down to where you're comfortable with it.

Almost every developer understands that gamers are not the enemy here; nor do they particularly care about gamers trading or selling used games among themselves, which has always gone on. Gamestop getting rich for doing nothing is what pisses them off, and rightly so.

E Zachary Knight
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Andy,

You are a bit mistaken on how much Gamestop makes on a new game. Gamestop spends about $45 on a $60 game. So if they don't discount the title any, they make a whopping 25% off the new game price.

Darcy Nelson
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I never sell my games, partly because the trade-in rates are horrible and partly because a good, core game with a lot of replay value is worth keeping. A consumer who buys a game on release day, plays it for a week and then returns it just to get a new game should just start renting- they'd lose a lot less money that way.

Joe McGinn
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"Many gamers sell their used games to buy new games. If you get rid of the consumers' ability to sell a used game, people will have less money to spend toward new games. "

A nice theory, not born out in fact. If it was true, you could measure an increase in the purchase of overall game units corresponding with the massive rise in used game trade-ins these last few years. In fact there has been no such rise, therefore your theory is incorrect.

David is right I'm afraid. Much as consumers like it, used-games have been an outright loss for game developers, in many cases leading once just-profitable studios into destruction.

Garrett Pence
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I'd guess a good percentage of people selling their used games spend that cash on used games. Developers lose twice!

Garrett Pence
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I'd guess a good percentage of people selling their used games spend that cash on used games. Developers lose twice!

E Zachary Knight
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Joe,

I don't know where you get your data, but according to gaming history, there has never been a time when consumers did not have access to used games. So how can you measure a growth in game purchases in the last few years when the variables have changed little in the last 30 years? Perhaps you are privy to some data the rest of us are not.

Joe McGinn
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The growth in used-game sales has been astronomical in the past few years, all based on public data. I thought this was common knowledge within the industry.

Bob Charone
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Video games are not like movies. You watch a movie in a theatre because you don't have one. Video Games should not be in physical format I think, outdated!

Tyler Buser
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Agreed. Movies have a window of exclusivity at the box office that they can use to recoup most of their investment. DVD and Bluray sales are just gravy.

@Christian: I don't think that's very apt either. People can and often power through a game in a weekend and return it in several days. While readers of books and novels surely can "power through" them I don't think it happens as often as it does with games. Also consider that books , especially paperbacks, have a lower initial price point than games which means trading them in for store credit isn't exactly as attractive. Then there is the fact that reading a book also effects the book itself, folded pages, cracked spines, etc. Save for scratches a game is as good as it was new.

Tyler Buser
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@Christian: There are definitely good games that I'd only want to play once. We can agree on that correct? Not every game needs to be infinitely repayable. Even games that are replayable I don't always play them again. Of Mass Effect 1 and 2 I burned through both in a matter of days and haven't played them again since and that franchise has a karma system, branching dialogue, choosing who lives and who dies kind of consequences, etc.

sean lindskog
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Whether a game is more like a movie or a book is sorta interesting. But it doesn't matter.What matters is the hard data behind the sales of single player games. Publishers are shying away from them, because of their sales trend. You can't argue with the numbers. It's a real concern for people who enjoy single player games.

If multi-player games are significantly more profitable and less risky to make, that's what we will get. It's a simple fact. Outraged opinions about consumer rights do not change this fact.

sean lindskog
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@Christian

So you're making a quality judgement on single player games? That if they were good enough, people wouldn't resell them? Maybe that's true. But I don't know - "just make better games" is easier said than done.

And there may be other reasons for the Nintendo trend that has nothing to do with the quality of these games. Sure, it's an interesting discussion. And I tend to agree with those that say the genre of game (e.g. story-driven vs. platformer) is as likely a culprit in the resale as the quality of the game.

But I still think it's missing the core issue.
There are always going to be good and bad games, both single- and multi-player. Still, the general trend is that single player games are less profitable, in part due to used sales. Again, no judgement call here, just stating the facts.

Less profitable = less likely to be created.

Sean Conrad
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Because screw the millions of people on poor internet connections or without internet at all. How dare they hold us back from being able to ditch physical media.

sean lindskog
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@Christian

I agree with you about the sky-rocketing budgets, and too-short single player campaigns.

I think MMOs are a separate argument though - they are a whole different beast, and I don't think Braben is addressing those.

If Breban says publishers are unlikely to invest in pure single-player games because of the sales trends, I'm inclined to believe him. And I believe that the publishers are acting rationally - they're pretty good at evaluating market trends.

You wrote: "to say single-player games are less profitable has to mean multi-player games are more profitable, which is not the case."

Breban is saying it is the case. You think he, or the publishers are wrong?

Of course there are going to be exceptions, and Arkham Asylum is a good example.
Although I'd bet there are proportionally more used copies of Arkham Asylum floating around than say MW3.

Megan Swaine
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I've replayed story-based, single-player games plenty of times. Even ones that have only a little bit of variation for replay value. If a story-based, single-player game is really, really GOOD, then there is value in keeping it the same way there is value in keeping a good book or a really good movie on DVD. Maybe that's just me, I dunno.

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

Brian Devins
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The only reason people like used games is because they cost what people are willing to pay. Has the industry considered positive reciprocity? Sell new games for the price of used games, thereby reducing the available margin of used resellers. People could buy more games and become more immersed in the hobby.

Maybe my comment is naive but I've yet hear a compelling argument about why a new AAA title needs to be $60.

Fiore Iantosca
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I've been saying for a long time the $60 price has to come down.

Chris Dickinson
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I think you have that backwards. People like used games because they DON'T cost what most people are willing to pay. They're now cheap thanks to the 'tarnished' nature of a used product. A lot of that is derived from their time-sensitive nature, or some attachment to the game (whether its the story, the gameplay, whatever). Just look at games like Mass Effect 3 or Skyrim. Plenty of people were perfectly willing to pay $60 for those games on release day (even more for Collector's editions) just to be the first one to play it, or because they absolutely had to find out how the story ended. The $60 simply represents that kind of attachment converted into dollar form. Some people are in no particular rush to dive into it, or they just plain don't think $60 is worth it, so they'll wait, whether for a sale, or for a used copy.

That $60 price is just the result of decades of pricepoint setting, basic economics and business. Developers/publishers don't just throw any old thing together and slap $60 on it. They aim for that pricepoint by providing what they think is sufficient for someone to pay $60 (ask any two people and you won't get the same answer, so its kind of a crapshoot). That's what people are used to paying for a triple-A title, so that's what they gun for. If they end up below the mark, then they get punished for it by bad reviews, poor sales etc. If they overshoot it, they've essentially just set the new benchmark of what constitutes a $60 game, and that just ruins everyone else's party. Just look up the story of John Romero, Ion Storm and Daikatana for an example of what happens when egos run high and someone else keeps beating you to the punch by setting the next benchmark.

So, for example, as soon as Bioware came along and started releasing singleplayer RPGs with ever-increasing levels of 3D, voice-acting, crisp and varied animations, graphical effects up the wah-zoo and so on, anyone who wanted to create a Baldur's Gateish RPG, in 2D, with far less graphical detail, little to no voice-acting and so on, for $60 is SOL. A new benchmark has been reached, so that's what the triple-A title developers are now competing with for that price point. The other guys just plain don't need the same level of resources as Bioware do to make their title. They can probably hit the indie market, or other lower price points, but you're going to have a hard time convincing a publisher that you can hit the $60 price point, and put the same kind of money into your project as Bioware gets for theirs, when the scale and scope of your project is much smaller.

The reason $60 doesn't go down is because AAA developers keep releasing games at that pricepoint and setting new benchmarks all the time. Pretty straight-forward. The reason it doesn't go up, is because budgets for AAA titles are already beyond insane, and publishers are terrified to ask customers to pay more money, even if its for a bigger, grander game than they're used to with $60. It's just too much of a risk. Hence you see many modern methods to increase that price without spooking the customer through microtransactions and subscriptions-based models. People seem far more willing to fork over $80 with a $60 purchase and some microtransactions, than $80 in one lump sum.

Lyon Medina
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@Chris

I agree completely, with licensing fee's, priority shelf space costs, marketing costs, games are getting way to expensive. Gamers are not the only ones with high price entries any more. Too produce a AAA title now would make any smaller game company quiver in fear. I think the Hybrid game market needs to be better mixed, and the blame shouldn't completely fall on used game sales for higher prices.

The interview seems to be focused its self on the used games aspect of sales and doesn't cover that not all AAA priced titles are good enough to warrant 60$ entry point. While other smaller games like the original "Portal" were bundled in which other major games to create a more bargain style for purchase. I would have never bought none the less played Portal if it were not in "The Orange Box". There needs to be a better understanding from needs of the consumer end and the willingness to try new things, grow as a business and not just blame the over used analogies of "Global Economy", "Theft", "Price" and "High Risk".

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

Joe McGinn
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"Sell new games for the price of used games, thereby reducing the available margin of used resellers."

Sorry does not compute. Used games would still sell for $5 less, and developers would be making even less money. The addressable market of console gamers is finite; there is no gain to be made by slashing prices, only losses.

Joe McGinn
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@Fiore: "I've been saying for a long time the $60 price has to come down."

They already have.

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2010/10/an-inconvenient-truth-
game-prices-have-come-down-with-time.ars

Sean Conrad
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@Fiore That's insanity. Game prices have been completely flat for 30 years. A PS1 game cost $50, today that same $50 is $70 today, a $60 NES game would be $113.

$60 is a BARGAIN, and anyone whining about $60 needs to get some serious perspective.

Chris OKeefe
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And libraries are totally killing the book market.

Don't get me wrong, it obviously costs more to produce a game than it does to produce a book (though not as long in many cases), so the return needs to be higher. But libraries have been around for ages, providing for free a near limitless amount of reading material. Why would anyone -buy- a book when you can just get it for free?

And what about game rentals? When I was a kid we barely owned any games, when we wanted to play something new we rented it. There were a dozen places to rent games within bike-riding distance. This didn't seem to kill games either, the game industry seemed to explode. Now I can't think of a single place anywhere nearby that rents games. Blockbusters went out of business, as did all the local shops.

And you know what? Most used game places don't sell used PC games. At least I haven't been able to find any for years.

The argument here is incredibly circular. People buy used games because games are extremely expensive right now. And the argument is that games are expensive because of the used games market. As if producers like EA would just drop their prices if suddenly used game sales became illegal, rather than just pocketing the money so they can report record profits.

In the past decade the number of games I purchase in a year has increased a hundred fold. The same is true of everyone else that I know who plays games. When I was a kid I had far more options for playing games cheaply that weren't illegal. So honestly, do not try to tell me that today the situation is worse. More people are playing games than ever before. The market for games is more accessible than ever before, with digital distribution. The average price of games has dropped only for a portion of PC games, the rest are higher than ever. DLC is the new fad when developers used to provide updates for free, and in many cases content is chopped or delayed in order to be sold after the fact. Day-1 DLC is becoming more and more common.

And all of that is honestly fine, business is business, but remember this: The industry has done virtually nothing to entice customers. After all that has changed on the face of the industry, the most that can be said is that the games industry's lobby groups have willfully attacked consumer's rights in the court of law in a bid to control the medium of distribution so that prices remain high. And you are complaining about used games?

Kyle Redd
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It is amazing the kind of arrogant entitlement attitude that exists among game developers that doesn't appear in any other industry. These guys would happily eliminate every existing consumer right without a second thought, so long as they could make a little more money.

k s
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You make a really good point about the rental market Chris, our industry got to where it is now with game rentals being common place.

More of us (consumers and developers) should support kickstarter funding, if we eliminate publishers from the equation (or at least greatly reduce their influence) everyone (except publishers) will benefit. We developers will get to make more of the games we want and still be able to pay our bills, consumers will have more choice and the average price shouldn't be as high.

Adam Bishop
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@KyleI think in most cases it's publishers, not developers, who have the attitude that you're speaking of. And it definitely exists in the publishing branch of other creative industries. Look at the lengths that movie and music execs will go to to try and protect their business model, for example (suing their own customers, pushing for legislation like SOPA, etc).

Brian Devins
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I definitely agree with your argument about this self-entitled industry. If you buy just about any other product in existence you can return it for a refund if you're not satisfied. Why can't we return DVD games with DRM or cartridges which cannot be easily copied? What recourse do gamers have other than the second-hand market?

Valve turned Russia from a piracy haven into a huge customer because they addressed a challenging marketplace with features relevant to those customers. Whomever doesn't follow Valve's example will be marginalized by publishers focused on customer satisfaction.

Kyle Redd
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@Adam

I have no doubt that publishers are just as eager to rid consumers of control over their games as the developers are (and increasingly even game journalists - see Colin Moriarty at IGN), but lately it seems that all of the complaining is coming from the developers themselves. Those who make these products seem to despise the very people they want to sell them to.

John Owens
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People don't buy used games because regular releases are too expensive. They buy them because they are slightly cheaper.

If you lower the price of regular releases then the used game would lower relatively and people would still buy the used game.

If game companies around the world where making mountains of cash I would buy the games industry is greedy argument but that's just not the case. Most are going bankrupt because the sales revenue is going to a few big hits. Big hits like COD etc that I don't really have much time for while companies like Double Fine need to resort to kick starter to get funding.

If prices where lower across the board but there was no used game market then personally I think you would get a better spread and that would allow more innovative game design.

Andy Modrovich
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I think a lot of people have this idea that game developers are just sitting around in bathtubs of cash lighting $100 bills on fire. Maybe that's because mega-blockbuster games like Modern Warfare and GTA and WoW get so much press, I don't know. But the vast majority of developers--even the ones responsible for some excellent games--are struggling just to stay alive. They literally cannot support themselves, and Gamestop siphoning money away by putting a used-game pawnshop in every strip mall in the country has a lot to do with that.

Articles like this one aren't about how to scam even more money off broke gamers so some game developer can buy another sold gold toilet, they're about how to protect the institution of core gaming from being squeezed into oblivion by Gamestop's insatiable greed. Listen, gamers: Gamestop is not on your side. Developers, to a great extent, are.

Jele Ge
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@John Owens - The effectiveness of reduced pricing cannot be overstated. This is better seen in the increase of Steam downloads whenever publishers lower the price of a product for a limited time. It's therefore up to the publisher's channel marketing group to apply this strategy for retailers - setting up timed sales for specific retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, etc., and marketing the sale effectively.

Matt Ployhar
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Several things going on here worth noting - and I'll build on this story a bit.

1) Games-as-content, like their movie predecessors, has to evolve. (e.g. Black & White film to Color, Sound, etc) Same for Games... Game design can't rest on it's laurels & expect to keep collecting a paycheck. Sure recipe for disaster.

2) Console Games are going to also go more 'Digital' - as PC Gaming pretty much already has. A lot of readers will say... hey... if the Publisher/Retailer is saving on the cost of: Retail Packaging/the Disk/the DRM/etc... why am I not seeing more savings trickled down to me the consumer? In some ways.. we should be seeing a bit more of that. If you're not... start demanding more 'services' from that distributor. (At the moment... Steam does provide the most 'bang for your buck' - To both Consumers, & is far more egalitarian back to the Developers. Anyone remember the roots of 'Steam' & what Valve had to go through with Sierra back in the day?)

3) The problem goes FAR.... far... beyond just the Secondary Sales & Pre-owned equation. A friend of mine loaned me 6 Console Games to take home & play. No store required. No money exchanged. No profit to going back to the Dev. This sort of ties in with the 'library' argument made a bit earlier.

4) @ Kyle: On the flip side of the equation - most people aren't also putting themselves into the Developers shoes. There are very very few Developers I know that view this as an 'entitlement' thing. Given the comment... I'm assuming you're not in the industry? The problem is this... if you're a small to medium sized Game Developer... not only do you have to make payroll, but you also need at least a 3 year, preferrably more, buffer to make that next game. I've lost count of how many good games devs (Small to Large) I've seen go out of business - not because they weren't making good games, but because of all the 'middle men' taking a dollar here, & a dollar there, that ends up being a death by a 1000 cuts sort of situation. I think you'd be amazed at how thin margins are for Game Devs.

I see a lot of 'ragging' on the Game Devs - which I'm not sure is entirely justified. If you met most of these people F2F - I think most people's opinions would change. They are some of the hardest working people I've ever met. (work stupid hours to boot) The higher costs are largely attributed to simple supply & demand, overhead & wages, and all the 'middle-men' I spoke of earlier.

E Zachary Knight
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Matt,

On your point number 4, that seems to be a problem of "too many cooks in the kitchen". If a developers is suffering from too many middlemen taking too much money, then it is time to cut out some of the middle men. It is far easier to do that today than it ever has been, in my opinion at least. Why stick with a losing formula when you can break away and do something risking and potentially more rewarding. We have seen that recently with Double Fine and Wasteland 2. We see it everyday on the PC, mobile phones and browser markets.

Cut the waste and you can survive.

Kyle Redd
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@Matt

The problem is that those that are complaining about used games are not even considering much more logical and obvious factors that are affecting game sales. In their minds it's as simple as "My single-player game isn't selling well, therefore used sales is the culprit and consumers who buy used are thieves and just as bad as pirates."

Can they not think of another possible reason why their $60 game didn't sell as well as they'd hoped? How about competition, for starters?

At this point, one could conceivably swear off ever spending another penny on gaming for the rest of their lives, and *still* spend every waking hour doing nothing but playing high-quality titles forever. There is a massive array of free games out there in every genre for every age level. Gaming is not a scarce resource because there are literally millions of people out there making hundreds of new games available every single day.

So how come competition is almost never mentioned as one of the factors affecting the sales of $60 games? Just because you have a career in game development or publishing, does not mean you are automatically guaranteed a healthy salary. Gaming is an over-represented field by any measure. This is not the 80s and 90s anymore when consumers only had a few titles to choose from each week. I think it's about time developers started to realize that and deal with the realities of supply and demand instead of attacking the consumers themselves.

Jonathan Jou
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I'm a little surprised that no one is coming in defense of developers...

The notion that a game can be "used" is such a terrible misnomer to start with. What sort of wear and tear can even happen to actual game content? The disc might be damaged, but that would be like if people today could by a used car, which works just like it did new, barring some potential cosmetic issues. (I omit the potential for a disc to be broken--if a used car doesn't drive you don't buy it, and in used game sales you usually have the option to trade it in for another copy.)

Would we accuse car dealers of charging *too much* because their cars apparently last forever, which is far longer than we're interested in keeping the car? Do we blame construction teams for making houses that last so long that we can sell them when we move? I have no doubt that houses could be built a great deal less sturdy for some significant savings!

So is it the fact that software is effectively immortal that somehow makes it worthless? It's great to say things like "$60 is a whole lot to pay for a game, and I don't feel like I should be paying that much," but it's so much more valuable to be able to analyze the revenue model and point out the places where problems arise.

I think gamers and developers are in perfect agreement here: the used game market shouldn't have to exist. Used games should not be cheaper, and at the same time developers shouldn't be in a world where they have to achieve astronomical sales to be able to have their game idea become reality. We can forget about the fact that developers need to eat, and that gamers need to eat, and just focus on the reality that neither party is truly benefiting from the current model...

Kyle Redd
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DVDs and game discs can and do degrade in physical quality over time. No matter how well one cares for their game library, one day all those discs we have will absolutely stop playing, just like the binding on books will crumble and the engine on cars will sputter to a stop. Unless you're keeping your game library in a vacuum-sealed safe, the value of the disc is lost over time.

Even if discs did last forever though, that would change nothing. Consumers have the right to transfer ownership of anything they rightfully own, period. There is no special exemption for games. If I've purchased it legally, that gives me the right to give it away or sell it at my discretion. I do not need the permission of the creators to do so.

Jonathan Jou
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Kyle, thank you for your reply! Weirdly, you seem to have stated things that sound like contradictions but neither contradict my main point about the used game market being a symptom, not the cause, nor even really disagree with what I've said.

I agree, physical media can degrade over time, but the binary code which it is made of will never break down! I own games well over 10 years old now that I can still play without any trouble, and haven't suffered so much as a scratch. I've never had to replace, repair, or take my games in for "routine maintenance" of any sort, and I don't think I'm alone in being able to keep a DVD playable!

And I never contested the right of someone to sell something they own. I firmly agree with it. In fact, every analogy I listed were things that could be sold! I merely questioned the logic in accusing the sellers of "overpricing" something that doesn't actually lose objective value over time.

You'll note I ended with the fact that neither gamers, who have to sell their used games at a loss and buy used games at what should really be considered a premium, nor developers, who are trapped in a situation where development costs are dangerously difficult to balance against the resulting profits, really benefit from it.

So my point was, and I hope you agree with this, at least:
The publishing and retail model puts too many middlemen between the developer and the seller. Developers get such a disappointingly small slice of the $60 people think is so unfair that I have to agree with them, it IS unfair! What people do with their copy of the game is their own business, but used-game markets are hurting both parties.

Kyle Redd
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I was responding to your initial point - that software is "immortal" and thus should never lose value. On that I would absolutely disagree. Of course, the code itself does not expire. However at this time, all of that code must be stored on physical media of some sort - discs, hard drives, memory sticks, etc. - all of which can and will fail at some point. So I don't think we should approach games as a special case compared to other consumer goods in the "used vs. new" debate.

And of course, there are many people (including myself) who generally never buy used games in the first place, because of the scratches and scuffs that inevitably get inflicted on discs by the previous owner(s). That's why used games are always priced cheaper.

As far as both consumers and creators being disadvantaged by used game sales, I do not agree with that either. Consumers gain the option of buying a somewhat inferior product for a cheaper price, and creators get greater mindshare and a larger fanbase with which they can sell future products.

All game developers have the ability to keep every penny of the $60 game cost for themselves, if they are willing to invest the time and resources to do so. All they need to do is create their own games console, perform all of the advertising, and set up their own retail storefront to sell the product. If they are unwilling to take on that amount of expense, then they should understand that those who do so have a reasonable expectation of taking a portion of the sale for their efforts.

In other words, without those "middlemen" in place, the games industry would not exist at all, so it's not unfair for them to earn what's rightfully theirs.

E Zachary Knight
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I have written about this before and will simply paste my previous comments on just this: http://ezknight.net/?page_id=205

So how does this effect the gamers? Why should we care about a healthy used game market?

For us it means one more avenue of protection. Ask yourself, how often are you 100% satisfied with the purchase of a game? Ask yourself, how often do you regret the price you paid for a game?

Now, ask yourself this, when was the last time you were able to return a game because you did not like it, it was bugged all out or just plain didn’t work? The answer to that is probably never.

That is one of the problems with this industry. We can’t return crap products for a full refund. There is no rhyme or reason to it. The best reasoning the games industry can come up with is that it prevents people from buying a game, making a copy to keep and returning the original for a refund. This doesn’t fly with the consumer though. We deserve better treatment.

Used game sales provide several protections from this kind of behavior. For one, it drives down the cost of games that are not worth the current asking price of $60. Most used copies start out at a price of $50-55 for a recently released game. Then they fall as demand slows or inventory is increased with out a matching sell through rate.

This drives the cost down, making a game that is not worth $60 to the true market cost of the game. This is done at a far faster pace than the games industry wants. It would rather us continue to pay $60 until it decides that it wants to lower the price.

The used games industry also allows for the gamer to regain some of their investment in a game. If a game is not worth $60 but we are forced to pay it to get the game, we can later sell it off for $30 bringing the true cost down to a fair market price of $30

Eric Geer
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"For us it means one more avenue of protection. Ask yourself, how often are you 100% satisfied with the purchase of a game? Ask yourself, how often do you regret the price you paid for a game?

Now, ask yourself this, when was the last time you were able to return a game because you did not like it, it was bugged all out or just plain didn’t work? The answer to that is probably never."

^This is what I like to call gamer regret---I seem to run into it more and more often that I used to.

Also--I never understood why the gaming industry drop stheir game prices so soon after releasing a new game. Only companies that seem to hold price points are MS/Ninty/Sony. All others seem to drop within 2-3 weeks.(I have a feeling it's because they know they are pushing shitty products), but if a dev/publisher believes and knows they are pushing a good product--they would be sticking at that $60 point well over a year. (Hard to find those 1st party Nintendo games on the used shelf--that's gotta say something...)

Joe McGinn
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The other thing it nets gamers should be rather obvious ... more games with more diversity of games being made. Although that horse is largely out of the barn already, a risk-taking console game is a depressingly rare event these days.

Benjamin Quintero
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huh, I just wrote a blog before reading this that argues much in the other direction. Interesting. http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/BenjaminQuintero/20120319/166434/W
hat_Killed_Videogame_Preservation.php

Joshua Darlington
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Physical games are toxic waste landfill in motion. That should be reason enough to move onto new models of distribution.

Joshua Darlington
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On second thought I'm making an off the cuff remark. I will take out the part I can't back up. Thanks!

Chris Dickinson
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My lord, did some of you sleep through Economics 101? I assume you've all heard of Supply and Demand, right? The only correct price is what the customer was willing to part with to get it. Some of you act like the publisher is unfairly ripping those $60 from your hands. This is the nature of any commodity, folks. If someone creates something that people really want, they're going to clamour for it on release day and pay the full price (i.e. high Demand). To them its worth it. To others its not, and those ones sit on the sidelines and wait for the price to come down (and you know it will because entertainment products and technology are forever time-sensitive).

Why would one pretend like videogames are immune to basic Suppy and Demand economic forces and 'should' be priced a certain way? Because it's not 'fair' to ask the customer to pay the pricepoint the publisher/developer targeted when they risked untold millions of dollars and years into the investment? If you were foolish enough to pay $60 for a game you weren't happy with, don't you think you're better of LEARNING from that mistake and being more cautious about your purchases, than changing nothing and crying about it every time it happens thereafter?

This sense of entitlement that has grown out of a minority among the community, but still manages to lead conversations about this industry is really starting to grate my nerves.

Mark Harris
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Get used to it. It is growing like weed throughout society, not just in this discussion. A shame, really.

John Owens
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Not for long Mark.

The western economies can no longer afford it.

E Zachary Knight
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You seem to have not paid much attention to Economics 101. The existence of a used market is something that exists in all physical goods markets. It is part of the natural course of such commodities. It also shows that there is demand even for used products, mostly because they are cheaper than new.

A good businessman will look at the ebbs and flows of not just new products but also the used markets for his product and adjust business accordingly. He doesn't rant and rave and try to stop the flow of comsumers but attempts to redirect those consumers to his door. If he is failing at bringing those sonsumers in, he needs to LEARN from that and change his business model.

This sense of entitlement goes both ways.

Ryan Marshall
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I didn't take Economics (my degree is in rocket science), so forgive my question if it is silly, but doesn't the law of Supply and Demand not really apply here? A particular video game - a distinct sequence of 1s and 0s - is not a limited object. It can be replicated fairly quickly and efficiently. The discs which hold those numbers can be restricted to create an artificial scarcity, but I can't even remember the last time I couldn't buy a new game because the physical disc was sold out.

It seems to me that they're really creating licenses (effectively out of thin air, at no cost) to restrict who can play a game or not, and tying the license to the disc because that's what they've done in the past.... only to now realize how easy it is for people to trade those licenses. (I am kind of curious why it was never such a big deal in the 16-bit days; is it just the existence of a large-scale used market that can afford to risk buying back merchandise that might not re-sell?)

In any case, I prefer to view a video game as a service. The developers create games I like, so I give them money so they can afford to keep making more games that I like. Most developers aren't fat-cats sitting on big piles of money; they invest their profits in giving jobs to people like my friends and myself, and $60 every few months really isn't that big of a deal from my end.

Joe McGinn
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What tripe. Economics 101 theories don't apply as-is to the real world, and most especially not in highly constrained console market, where you are limited in number of users. As is obvious to anyone with two IQ digits to rub together, as an example, if you lowered game prices by $10 the impact would be less revenue and nothing else. Same number of users means basically the same number of sales, and used games would still be $5< than that.

And please knock off with the "sense of entitlement" crap. Developers are fighting tooth and nail for basic survival. If you don't know that you can't be in the industry, and if you aren't in the industry then frankly you don't know what you're talking about.

E Zachary Knight
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Joe,

You are right. The console market is constrained in the number of potential customers. However, there are many things that can be done to change that. The biggest hurdle to getting more customers is price. Not just of games, which is part of it, but of the hardware as well. We need to lower the price of the hardware in order to bring in new customers.

Another problem is perception. We learned with the Wii that moving away from the gamer stereotype resulted in a breakout console. However, because most game companies were not able to change their own business models and the perception around their games fast enough, they failed to capture that market. With the Wii, we had a refreshing take on gaming, a cheaper console and cheaper games. All those worked together to sell more hardware if not more games.

Let's look at the browser now. We had a lot of companies take Facebook by the horns and are huge gaming companies now. They did this by breaking away from the purchased games market and instead focused on free to play. They completely broke the price barrier for gaming and are making a lot of money at it.

Same for mobile.

WHen are we going to learn that console is not the only place for gaming? When are we goingto learn that console gaming is the slowest to adapt to changes in the market? When are we going to learn that console gaming is the most expensive avenue of gaming? When are we going to accept these facts and become even more successful than we already are?

Mark Harris
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Yeah, screw devs and pubs. They've only been churning out games that all apparently play for decades at a relatively static price point.

If game prices tracked with inflation they should cost $80 or $90 by now. Production costs have increased sharply and inflation has been marching steadily along, but game prices remain pretty much the same.

Weird how none of you have addressed that, instead harping on devs for lamenting over their ever-decreasing margins. Only the rapid expansion of the game market has kept them alive so far.

Ryan Marshall
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It is a fair point, and one upon which I happen to agree with you, though we remain in the minority.

The price of physical manufacturing of each game has gone down sharply, from cartridges to discs and even to purely digital, but the production values and quality have gone up even more drastically. A game today is not going to crash or break, and even if it does (which has happened a few times), they're usually willing to put in the time and resources to fix a game-breaking bug - even after they've made their initial sales.

Chris OKeefe
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I would honestly frame the 'rapid expansion of the games market' as bloating.

It's pretty basic economics that as the market size increases, competition increases, and costs are offset by sales. Do games make less per unit than they used to? Yes. But you're also selling more units, in many cases by magnitudes compared to ten, twenty, thirty years ago. The game industry is now bigger than the movie industry. So when you talk about people not addressing inflation and the cost of making games, you are yourself guilty of not addressing dramatic market increases over the same period.

Many publishers are making more money than they ever have before. It's endemic of our current economy that the top of the food chain which creates nothing expect capital are making record profits while the actual people creating and buying products are at each other's throats.

Trust me, nobody hates developers or wants them to suffer, especially not here. Just this tack about used games being a problem is an attack on consumer rights and has become an incredibly tired story. You can't blame your customers for your lack of success. If some developers are suffering, I think there's other places to look than used games for a culprit. Publishers taking too much of a slice, price gauging, piracy in many cases, a bloated game industry, and fluctuating, unpredictable, an oversaturated industry that is slow to or unable to respond to fluctuating market needs, and most importantly, unreliable standards of quality.

I for one, as a consumer, am not prepared to give up my consumer rights on the off chance it might save a flagging developer. Not while the industry as a whole is still growing at a record pace despite the fact that the economies of most developed parts of the world is in shambles.

Mark Harris
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@ Chris

You must have misunderstood my post. I said exactly what you said. The ever-decreasing margins (via inflation of currency and production cost with a static price point) are offset at the moment by increased sales. IE, margin replaced by volume. That's the only reason the game industry exists as it does today. Without that expanded adoption prices would have risen significantly over the years.

Kyle Redd
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The idea that game makers are being generous by not raising the cost of games to match inflation is one of the most ludicrous arguments that keeps getting pulled out in this debate.

Let's start with the most obvious answer here - that there's no rule or law anywhere that is preventing game companies from charging whatever they want for their games. They set the prices at retail, so why aren't they charging $80, $90, or $100 if that's what their games are worth? Does anyone seriously think the reason they don't charge that much is because they're just so generous? Or maybe it's because if they *did* charge that amount, consumers would laugh in their face and walk right on by.

Secondly (and more importantly because everyone seems to ignore this particular factor), inflation has indeed reduced the "real" cost of games compared to what it was 10 or 20 years ago, but inflation has *also* reduced the buying power of the consumer's dollar by the same amount over the same period of time!

So if you're comparing someone who made $30,000 in 1990 with someone who makes $30,000 today, the impact that a $60 game purchase has on either person's income is *exactly* the same. Today's consumers are not blessed with cheaper games due to inflation. Inflation does not factor in to the equation at all. It's a ridiculous claim to make.

And while it's true that certain games like Street Fighter II and Phantasy Star cost $80 to $100 dollars at retail upon their release, that was because unlike today, both Sega and Capcom knew at the time that their games had little to no competition whatsoever. If you wanted to play a one-on-one fighter or a deep console RPG, you had a miniscule amount of options compared to what we have today.

So how about let's move away from this idea that "gamers today don't know how good they've got it so they should stop complaining." It's a pretty lame argument to make in the first place, aside from the fact that it ignores a number of the most basic rules of economics.

Ryan Marshall
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If someone is earning the same amount of money today as he or she was earning 20 years ago, then that person has suffered a massive loss in purchasing power.

The local burger flipper, earning minimum wage, will have experienced a 60% increase in actual earnings over the past 20 years (using local numbers, YMMV). That's just one example, but it illustrates the point. A $60 game today is less expensive than a $60 game was 20 years ago.

Granted, there probably are people who have suffered such significant setbacks, given the state of the economy. They know how tough they have it, though; their quality of life has dropped significantly, and I'm sure they plan their purchases accordingly.

Kyle Redd
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@Ryan Marshall

I'm not comparing the value of a $30,000 income from 20 years ago to the value of a $30,000 income today. Of course when you take inflation into account, $30,000 in 1990 dollars is worth nearly $50,000 today.

The point I am trying to make is that the impact of a $60 game purchase on someone who is earning $30,000 is exactly the same no matter which year the purchase is being made. Specifically that person will have spent 0.2% of their annual income for the purchase, whether he or she is buying it in 2013, 1990, or whenever. Inflation is not a factor at all, as Mark Harris (and hundreds of others) are trying to argue.

Ryan Marshall
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@Kyle

Except, it is a factor. The impact of a $60 game on anyone has dropped, specifically because it hasn't kept up with inflation. When income increases, and the price of other goods increase, and the price of this one thing doesn't increase, that is called "it becoming cheaper by not keeping up with inflation".

As you say, the "real" price has decreased because 2012 dollars aren't as big as 1992 dollars, but inflation has *not* reduced the buying power of those dollars - buying power remains constant because the quantity of those dollars increases to compensate for their reduced individual worth.

To compare a 1992 (price/income) ratio to a (2012 price/1992 income) is simply not useful data.

Eric Geer
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I'm not sure about everyone else, but I keep games that I either loved to death and see myself playing them again in the future, or I haven't finished the game and plan to do so.

The games that get sent off to the used game shelf are the games, for lack of a better term, suck. Well, maybe they don't suck, but they aren't good enough to keep on my shelf and would rather trade it in for something better. My games that get turned in are the games that there is something inherently wrong with the game that makes them not fun....make better games and youll see less used copies on the shelves.

I've found that people turn games in for a few different reasons--1)^see above^, 2) They don't have money so the trade in their games to get money to buy new games 3) They don't have game collections--they are the types of gamers that just tear through games and never look back, 4)Stolen goods.

Eric Geer
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PS--most of the games that I have retained on my shelves are their because of the single player campaign---good story, good mechanics=good replay.

Evan Combs
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While there is no study to back-up any random number I put up here, but from my experience the vast majority of people fall into the number 3 category. Most people just really don't care to keep their games. They just want to play it, then never touch it again. They might keep their most prized games, but the other 90% of games always get sold back because they have no desire to keep it even if they enjoyed it greatly.

Thomas Schenck
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Steam solves this problem, unless you decide to make ANOTHER standard system (like EA's POS Origin service) for this ... and another ... and another. Then this kills it all over again. I don't need twenty icons in my system tray to play games.

Michael Wenk
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I disagree with the article completely. Used games aren't killing single player games, its the amount of crap out there. With 1-2 exceptions, I won't buy a game at full price anymore for myself unless I can see it, and play it before I buy it. I've wasted much of my money on games that ended up being basically crap to do it anymore. For consoles this means I'll grab something off of gamefly and wait til I get it. If i like it, then I'll grab it used from GF. If not, it goes back in the mail.

As for PC games, I tend to only buy stuff off of the annual steam sale, or from the 20$ bin at a store. In the past year, I have bought just SWTOR at full price, and that was because I got the shot of playing it before. Free to play and demos/betas are the way I get games. However, I have been getting more and more discriminating with those, as while they are "free" they still suck up bandwidth and more importantly time.

If publishers think that getting rid of used at gamestop or gamefly will help them, these publishers are fooling themselves, at least with me. If that were to happen, I would just game less and read more and either save my entertainment money or more likely spend it on non game stuff. I am sick and tired of being fleeced into buying crap games.

Eric Geer
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I agree with Michael---

As much research as I do on games...I still end up with a bunch of crap each year that ends up in the used bin.

Patrick Davis
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Overall, gaming is in a worse state now than ever. If you don't enjoy this super streamlined/causal trend of gaming, finding the true diamonds out there is harder than ever. Since gaming journalism is also in a terrible state, who can you trust to give you an informed, unbiased view of the game you are wanting to purchase? Currently, the answer is no one. Considering most games don't have demos, it really doesn't give you a lot to go off of does it?

If it wasn't for being able to sell your used games, you would see a lot of people just not wanting to take the chance. PC users get even more screwed over by this since they don't even have the option.

Chris Dickinson
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That's the risk you always take by being an early-adopter. The only solution is to stop being an early-adopter! Wait a week or two after something's release and gauge the temperature level of people's reaction.

If you just can't bring yourself to wait, then you should probably ask yourself why being an early-adopter matters so much to you.

Ron Dippold
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Activision-Blizzard and EA (among others) are selling PC games, which have zero resale value and lower per unit costs, for $60. Do you really think if there were no used games market they would price their console games down? I don't for an instant. It just goes in the Even More Profits pile.

On the other hand, I do think used games hurt small publishers more and they might be willing to push down to a $40 (or lower) point if they didn't think GameStop was going to endlessly recycle the game.

Bob Stevens
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EA doesn't actually make profits as far as I can tell. EPS is still negative.

Colin Schmied
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Some of these developer pity parties are getting tiresome.

If you can't make money selling your games in the current business climate then don't spend so much on development. Figure out better ways to engage the audience other than just spamming them with "More! Bigger! More!" kind of presentation. It's not written anywhere that games must cost millions and millions of dollars or that making games should always be a lucrative business.

Also why can't the publishers institute some sort of "buy back" program. If the customer turns in a game give them ~$20 off another game of yours. The publisher gets some money back that would have gone elsewhere, the game is pulled from the "street" so it can't be resold, and the customer has a new game.

Above all try treating your customers as customers and not as criminals that have to be policed.

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Terry Lugviel
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I don't have much sympathy for console owners complaining about game costs. Any cross platform game I buy for my PC costs the same as it's retail console version even though there is no physical media and no console licensing fee tacked on. And on the PC there is literally zero opportunity to resell or trade a purchase.

I also have little sympathy for developers and publishers because they both deceive the gaming community as a whole.

"Smaller game packaging will significantly reduce the cost of games." - Game prices did nothing but steadily increase since that initiative began.

"Delivering game manuals in electronic form instead of paper books will significantly reduce the cost of games." - Another lie as game prices still rose regularly after this became practice.

"Get rid of used game sales and game prices will drop significantly." - It won't happen. If used games are eliminated two things will happen. The first is that Gamestop and other retail business that rely solely on games for income will close. They cannot survive without used games. The second is that the publishers, not necessarily the developers, will still keep prices at their current level because people are used to paying prices at this level. Without used games to buy it will only increase the number of people who buy games in the first week of release because they know they won't get it any cheaper for quite some time.

Jele Ge
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Developers have to reexamine the DLC model and try to make it appealing for consumers.

Time the release of additional content to not make it seem like day one DLC, or content that was cut out of the base game. The base game should also have hooks to advertise the upcoming DLC, maybe a live ticker.

The price of the base game could also be reduced (at release) with the established understanding that upcoming DLC will flesh out the experience.

As such, it's best to end the base game at a cliffhanger, but still leave a fulfilling experience worthy of a full price, despite it being discounted.

Regardless, user connectivity is the key to a lot of games today. Even strong single player games like Mass Effect 3 and Dark Souls have interesting multiplayer aspects that prolong the experience.

It's up to developers to come up with imaginative ways to interconnect users of wholly single player games. Perhaps allow a customizable character protagonist that users can take online, go on quests to unlock items that can also be used offline, and maybe just hang around a central hub to chat about random stuff.

Matt Robb
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I'm going to take a different tack than the posts I see here and offer up a simpler answer.

If you don't want people to resell your game, don't make a resellable game.

...

Did that overwhelm anyone?

A lot of single player games are akin to books (and movies). Nifty, pretty, electronic, interactive books, but books nonetheless. I buy the book. I read the book. When I'm done, I decide whether I'm going to keep the book or not. If the book isn't good enough or just isn't the type I'm going to read again, I'll happily take it down to the used book store and pawn it off. That said, I have an extensive library of books that I keep because I like to reread them periodically. The real quality doesn't get sold off. I've even gone so far as to repurchase copies that have suffered an untimely death.

Subscription games are like members-only clubs. If I want to keep hanging out there, I have to pay my dues. I don't have the time to really make too many memberships worthwhile, but I tend to hold on to a couple that provide enjoyment when I return.

The land of free-to-play and micro transactions feels an awful lot like the carnival to me. A ticket or two is no big deal, but if I bring the family and want to hang out for a few hours, it's really going to hit my pocketbook. Talk about price gouging. (A big shout out to League of Legends for doing this right. I'm glad to see their business model being ripped off by others)

The realm of DRM varies from feeling like you're enslaved to an organized crime syndicate to being a pampered but ultimately powerless royal figurehead (thanks Steam!).

Point being, many ways exist to make a game "unreturnable". Some brutalize your customers, some make them feel lovely. If you don't want to deal with the economics of a particular product, *don't make the product*.

Joe McGinn
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None of those ways work with single-player, experience-based games. Which was a perfectly viable market until Game and the like realized they could extract massive profits from used sales without passing one cent along to developers.

All those other things you mention are happening. But surely any gamer can see that it's a bad thing if it just plain becomes unprofitable to make single-player games, especially for such a piss-poor reason as "one of the middlemen is robbing everybody else blind".

Jonathan Murphy
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Lower the prices, force retail to give us a cut for every unit sold used or new! End of argument!

Tom Allins
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I don't think that lowering prices will stop the second hand market (prices for used games would drop a bit more, which would mean that sellers (aka gamers returning the game) would earn a bit less but in turn would also have to pay less for a used game).

There are only a few "viable" possible solutions:
1. stop retailers from buying/selling used games. Will probably be hard as they are also the first sellers of new games and there is no guarantee that gamers will sell underground (aka through ebay)
2. switch to download distribution. This might upset the retail business and would require support from the console manufacturers
3. offer the customer something for buying new games, free online access, some special DLC's. You can't deny these to used game buyers but if you set the pricing good enough they might be enticed to by new or at least some of the lost money would return to the developers.

E Zachary Knight
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I would love to see the games industry try to force retailers to give them a chunk of used sales. It will be funny watching them tie themselves in knots to get the deal where it benefits them more. Unfortunately, if they were to do so, I see several problems:

1) Potential anti-trust issues. We are already seeing what might happen by looking at the book world. The bix 6 book publishers and apple are being investigated for anti-trust actions in forcing ebook prices up. I could see something similar happening for the games industry.

2) Who decides who gets what? What if the developer and/or the publisher is no longer in business? Who gets the money then? Who will be in charge of distributing the money? We can look at the music world for the problems arising here. We have many royalty collection agencies that collect money for music they do not have rights to collect from. We have labels collecting money for music that is not under their control or not passing it on to the artist. Do we want to see these problems in the games industry?

3) Such a move could bankrupt all but the largest of used game retailers. Do you really want to see a world where only Gamestop has the ability to survive such a climate? I certainly don't. I like my local game stores very much.

Nathaniel Grundy
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I am not a big buyer and seller of games myself, so I always pay full price because hey, it's not a big deal. However, I know people who buy games, use the internet and resource they can to power through the game for achievements, then eventually trade the game in for the next big thing. The system most definitely favors the retailer over anyone else, and it's wrong.

Christopher Corbett
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As it stands the odd competition that exists between Gamestop and the industry it represents is akin to a snake eating its own tail. Gamestop isn't evil; they're just a selfish competitor very much exploiting an opportunity. They clearly have no regard for the industry or its fans.

Could game devs/pubs counter some of this via DRM that creates windows of exclusivity akin to movies released to theaters? To date what steps has anyone actually taken to counter used game sales? That's a genuine question btw, I actually don't know. Xbox live has a ton of full games "on demand". I looked for Mass Effect 3, but it wasn't there. Conversely I downloaded Mass Effect 1 on XBL for less than it is used at Gamestop or on Amazon! Release the games online 90 days before retail, and for $40 or something. Most consoles have huge hard drives and I suspect most are online. The next COD or Assassins Creed released via PSN/XBL only for 90 days would certainly NOT be a failure financially. Retain retail for people that do not have disk space or connectivity. As it stands by the time many games are available via online services they're not only more expensive than their now widely available used retail counterparts...but their new ones as well! It's backwards, it doesn't need to be, and it represents a missed opportunity to alleviate at least some of the above debate.

Christopher Corbett
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...then offer a credit to people who download a "one time use only" version of the game...credit available upon deletion of the game from their console. Would be like trading it in to cyberspace.

Dedan Anderson
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We need to start a "60 bucks is too damn high" movement.

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Bob Johnson
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Do like Apple has started doing with used iPads. Buy your used games back.

Evan Combs
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It has nothing to do with quality (well for some games it does, but for most games it doesn't), it has to do with how the average person thinks and acts. It is simple psychology. If a person can get the same game with no difference in quality they will buy the cheaper one every single time, unless they have an ulterior motive. If a person has no more use for the game, and can get some of their money back they will. Most people don't have a passion for games, and thus don't really care to keep games they aren't going to play again.

Think of it like pop. After you are done drinking the can of pop you have no more use for that can, so you recycle it and get $0.05. Yeah you loved the pop, but you have no more use for it so why keep it, especially if you can get some of your money back?

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Janosch Dalecke
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Okay, here's something to think about: Years ago it was game piracy that was said to be hurting and killing the game industry, today it's the used game market. Fact is, developers go out of business all the time. We just perceive it as getting worse in the last years...

I believe, those "lost sales" perceived are really just a symptom of a deeper lying problem. I don't really think it's the retail prices or anything.
We should definitely go deeper than just looking for someone "stealing" our game sales away, shouldn't we?

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thay thay
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Yes and used car sales are killing new car sales...same thing with home sales. Guys like this really need to shut up and sites should stop spewing such none sense.

Jonathan Jou
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Thay thay,

First of all, I'm glad you read my comment! I'll agree that my analogies were a little less than obvious, but they're (unfortunately) well-researched and used to show that, in fact, this comparison is NOT valid! The decrease in cost of a video game should, if the analogy held, never exceed the cost of burning a manufacturing and shipping--everything else should be development costs. You'll note that this suggests most games cost maybe $10 to develop, and as much as $50 to manufacture and ship! I don't really think that's true.

More interestingly, used car sales are *obliterating* new car sales, and pre-owned housing is (combined with an economic recession, which affects everyone) is absolutely affecting the business of building new houses.

The Automotive Industry Crisis:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automotive_industry_crisis_of_2008%E
2%80%932010
http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2009-03-16-used-car-sales_N.h
tm

The Construction Recession:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/dec/15/housing-starts-con
struction-recession-crisis
http://www.qualityinfo.org/olmisj/ArticleReader?itemid=00005457

I don't plan on shutting up, but I'm glad you feel strongly about the issue!

thay thay
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@ Jou
My prior reply was not to you but the guy quoted in the article. Now that I have read your reply, I agree with it to an extent, but greed (from the seller and buyer) will never let games be sold at a "fair" price as both want to obtain the most bang for the buck. But the consumer legally bought the game, so he/she has the right to sell it like with other items. By the way, I rarely if *ever* buy (or sell) used games as they are not worth the price they are sold when used. Thus while I personally do not buy/sell used games, I support the right for others to do so.

Eric Feliu
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Well like it or not the game industry is moving towards digital distribution to make up for lost profits due to used game sales on new games. Gamers who trade in games to buy new games are the main culprit for this change plain and simple. Of course these same gamers are the ones complaining the most about digital only games when they, along with Gamestop, are the ones forcing the publisher's hands. It's just like how the music industry switched over from CD's to digital distribution due to lack of new sales on CD's. Everyone complained about prices for CD's too and stopped buying physical media. The music industry found they could make more money digitally. So you can get your dollar games on your mobile devices or do games on demand on your consoles for the full games. Welcome to the future of gaming.

E Zachary Knight
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You have your facts very very wrong. The music industry did not decide to go digital when sales of physical cds dropped. They were dragged kicking and screaming to the digital market by Apple which resulted in a drop of new CDs as people started buying the 1 of 2 songs they wanted rather than the full 12 song CD. In fact, magor record label music sales revenue has dropped in the last ten years. However, the overall music industry has grown with the rise of digital music sales. There is more money flowing into the music industry, it is just spread out across a large number of muscians.

Gaming is following a similar path. I guess this brings up another reason why single player console games are struggling right now. There is a lot more competition today then there has been in a long time. I have bought only 2 single player console games in the last year. Why? Because the Humble Bundle has eaten up the majority of my gaming time. I have a collection of roughly 35 games that I have speant about $100 on and I am having a blast. Why would I want to spend the same amount of money onf console gaming and only get 2 games at the most? Its all down to competition.

Marcus Miller
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My problem with digital distribution is backward compatibility. Will future consoles be able to support games digitally downloaded in the past? I have a five year old playing my old Game Cube and PS2 games. Since I own the hardware and software, my kids can play these games with no backward compatibility issues. However, will digital distribution make all my downloads worthless if the next console will not support them?

Ed Macauley
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(Joke Alert)
Used car sales are killing the auto industry!
(End Joke Alert)

But seriously, used sales may or may not be killing anything, but the big publishers are starting (slowly) to do something about it. e.g.: The Arkham City drama about the catwoman content. It seems to me like the logical way to go is to produce a product that retails for less initially and then sell additional DLC. Structure your stuff to be episodic, not monolithic.

The ultimate "screw you" to consumers would be to require the whole game to be activated online with a unique, one-time key with a small download to actually make the game work. i.e.: include everything but the executables on the disc. :)

Craig Page
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The biggest selling points for new cars are the warranties, and the new car smell. Video game makers can't really include a warranty, but they can start including carpet and glue with every new game to give it that "new game smell". That's definitely worth paying $60 for instead of $54 used.

Jonathan Jennings
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I remember last generation when the whole $20 game initiative was occurring particularly with the ESPN games and other games such as Narc . I owuld love to see the analytical data as to how games that priced themselves at $20 sold compared to those that sold at the standard price ($50) at the time . For me it comes down to blind-buying I will not blind buy a $60 game in fact if I pay $60 for a physical copy of a game new first week it's a game I have researched and committed to buying weeks if not months beforehand ( like the 360 release of the Witcher ) .

certain publishers get upset when users don't pony up the cash for a new title and that's because as customers what we see of that games offering is not worth a $60 standard price . I don't understand the $60 standard price tag anyway . the best comparison I can make is between xmen desitny and skyrim . don't get me wrong I enjoyed xmen destiny for what it was a cool action RPG that let me create my own custom xmen character which i could beat in about 10 hours but had multiple playthrough capability on the other hand I have skyrim , which over 70 hours in I haven't even begun to complete . it makes no sense to me to ask a consumer to pay $60 for skyrim and xmen: destiny because they both have recent release dates not taking in mind quality , production costs, expectations, etc. I just feel like publishers hurt themselves we have seen $60 for a premiere AAA gaming experience is generally perceived as an acceptable price tag, but if your game is not a AAA experience I owuld deeply consider whether if the risk of turning away or forcing consumers to wait for the price to drop . don't even get me started on how slow game prices drop in brick and mortar retail vs. the large number of online outlets that offer used titles . In this day and age if you aren't competing with Amazon you are probably overpriced.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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If gamers pirate, no one gets paid. If they buy used, GameStop's CEO gets paid. If they buy new, the publisher's CEO gets paid. In the end, developers get laid off. This whole argument is moot. I tell my friends to never buy a game I worked on just to support me, as I no longer work at those companies after layoffs.

What we really need to be doing is having a revolution (violent if need be) to demand the working class get paid a fair share for their work instead of working to bloat the wallets of the already rich elite. This needs to happen in every industry. The working conditions, rate of job loss, difficulty in starting indie studios to compete with the big studios that ship your jobs overseas, the fear associated with these stresses, the consumer angst from having their own jobs cut or going overseas -- these are the real issues. The used game argument is just a distraction. When I see sects of the 99% going at each others' throats over 60 dollars here and there, not seeing the big picture of Neofeudalism and the 1% exploiting them left and right, I want to bang my head into my desk until I pass out.

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Jason Long
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The only thing used games "kill" are the extreme growth and profit margins of what is already the most profitable area of the entertainment industry in the history of mankind.

There is absolutely no way used games actually hurt gamers or developers. It DOES hurt things like 2nd month sales of extreme over-hyped sequel-itis 6-hr games that used advertising dollars to buy their opening weekend - just like bad movies.

The more the game industry becomes like the movie industry the more you'll hear arguments about used games "hurting" that industry. The issue isn't used games; it's an industry that refuses to adapt to consumer preferences and instead demands that the consumers adapt to whatever model maximizes profits for an already enormous, profitable industry.

You cannot tell me that if they can't stop the used games market, people will stop making games. That argument is completely absurd.


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