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

[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, 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.]

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