Many developers say used games are killing the industry but is that just a little melodramatic. Tyler Zehner considers the arguments
Developers are constantly coming up with interesting, albeit annoying, ways of throwing stones at the hand-me-down Goliath known as used games. Things like pre-order bonuses, additional DLC, multiplayer modes, online passes, season passes and any other kind of unnecessary pass, has quickly become standard practice for most developers. The hope is that consumers will be enticed to purchase a game new and hold on to it, preventing it from being sold back to retail stores a week or two after release.
It is easy to say used games are bad, but it is not really a black and white issue, which makes it difficult to stand on any definitive side of the argument. Of course, we as consumers have no moral obligations to adhere to the constant cries of developers, but at the same time it is pretty clear that retailers like GameStop in the US and GAME in the UK, which thrives off of used sales of a game, are causing a noticeable disturbance to not only developers, but also consumers.
However, while used games clearly have a detrimental effect on the industry by unabashedly taking money from the pockets of the people who created the game, is it really possible that this could inevitably lead to the fall of the video game industry?
The short answer is no.
However, Silicon Knights Boss Denis Dyack, along with many other developers, believes this to be the case. Dyack believes that if not dealt with, the used games market could threaten the industry as we know it.
In a recent interview with GamesIndustry International, Dyack argues that having no “tail”, which refers to the revenue gained from selling new games over long periods of time, will ultimately cause irreparable damage to the industry as a whole.
“If used games continue the way that they are, it’s going to cannibalize, there’s not going to be an industry. People won’t make those kinds of games. So I think that’s inflated the price of games, and I think that prices would have come down if there was a longer tail, but there isn’t.”
Taking a similar stance on the matter, David Braben, founder of Frontier Developments and co-producer on the 80s space classic Elite, believes that used games will eventually kill off core games, saying that the day one sales, in a lot of cases, are it for a developer, which makes them a super high risk to make.
He told Gamasutra, “None of that revenue or chart position gets recorded, or VAT [value-added tax]… it’s borderline whether that’s legitimate. But it’s killing single-player games in particular, because they will get pre-owned, 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.”
Given enough time, I would agree that the industry could be heading for some dark days due to the effects of used game sales. However, with recent rumors suggesting that the next generation of consoles from Microsoft and Sony will prevent gamers from being able to play used games, and the inevitable cross over to a more digital friendly future – new releases being available through digital means on day one – it’s hard to believe that used games could have an adverse effect like the untimely demise of the industry.
In an article written for GamesIndustry International, industry veteran Richard Browne hopes that these rumors of an anti-used game measure for the next generation is true, as he agrees it can only benefit the industry.
“I hope and would actively encourage Microsoft and Sony to embrace the Nuclear Option and put an end to this. Give us no used games, give us digital access to software on the day it launches to retail. I don’t think we’ll see even a minor drop in sales; in fact, I think we’ll see it rise. Oh and don’t worry either of you, I’ll buy my Durango or Orbis from Amazon.com, Sony.com or Microsoft.com if I have to.”
So, whether you are a fan of used games or are on the side of the developers, it is clear that the industry is heading for a generation that completely removes them from the equation. I have a hard time believing it will be anytime soon, but the proper steps will be taken to ensure that this is where the industry is heading.
So, will used games kill the video game industry? Absolutely not, but that doesn’t mean we will see them go away anytime soon.
Follow Tyler on Twitter: @TylerZehner