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THQ: No sympathy for used game consumers

Publisher is cheated by pre-owned market, says Ledesma

WWE publisher THQ has said that it feels cheated by second hand sales, and doesn't care that consumers who buy used games may feel short-changed by having to pay an extra fee to then access additional features.

The company has begun introducing one-time codes to its games, giving access to downloadable content and full online features when a game is bought new - those that buy the game pre-owned need to purchase that code directly from THQ for the complete experience.

"I don't think we really care whether used game buyers are upset because new game buyers get everything," said the publisher's creative director for WWE games Cory Ledesma to CVG. "So if used game buyers are upset they don't get the online feature set I don't really have much sympathy for them."

"That's a little blunt but we hope it doesn't disappoint people. We hope people understand that when the game's bought used we get cheated," he added. "I don't think anyone wants that so in order for us to make strong, high-quality WWE games we need loyal fans that are interested in purchasing the game. We want to award those fans with additional content."

Yesterday Sony told that it is looking into introducing a similar system to its first-party titles, following the trend set by EA’s Online Pass.

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Latest comments (31)

gi biz ;, 11 years ago
We have so much in common! For example, I don't "have much sympathy" for THQ if I'm staying away from their games. Frankly I'm fed up with protections, ingame chat, forced login, uploading records to facebook, popups everywhere... I just want to put a game on and play. Geez!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by gi biz on 24th August 2010 9:15am

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it's called greed!!!!
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Pierre Vandenbroucke Assistant de production, Gorgone Productions11 years ago
What is the code linked to? The serial number of the console, or the user profile?
Can 2 different profiles use the same code?

I have 2 different profileson my x360, would both be able to use the online features (I mean, I bought the game and used to code, play online, I quit the game, then the 2nd profile logs in Xbox live. Would it be able to play online, or is it considered a second hand player?)

How many people use your console/have profiles on your console?
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Show all comments (31)
Andrew Wilson 3D Artist 11 years ago
As someone who buys a lot of second hand games here in NZ (no sales for us!) I just wish there was some way for publishers to find a middle ground where the new price isn't so high.
But they're dealing with an unusual second-hand market, where there are at present no downsides to owning something, unlike most markets (e.g. cars, electronics) where second hand goods are tangibly 'used'.
I would rather publishers found a better way to sell to the used game buying market rather than causing confusion and bad PR by gimping their own product.
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Chris Rowe Producer, Capcom Vancouver11 years ago
The irony of this is that THQ introduced the code for UFC Undisputed 2010 specifically for access to the online features, yet the game was released in a state where online was almost completely unplayable. I wouldn't really say that was "rewarding the loyal fans" who went out and bought it brand new. In fact, it no doubt resulted in a surge of copies being traded in.
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"Cheated", is an interesting term. I wonder how the first time buyers who trade in a game they've bought full price and decided to dispose of after only a couple of days feel about being cheated.

Would it be too much to ask or expect that a game is good enough to want to keep?

Maybe then there wouldn't be shelves of second hand the week after release.

Just a thought.
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Michael Foster Studying Computer & Video Game Design, University of Salford11 years ago
I actually agree with this move; I think it would strengthen developers and publishers, and it wouldn’t harm the consumer base in which they are targeting; honest buyers who punches a new game from the shelves. This isn’t the same as Digital Rights Management that EA attempted to introduce. When you bought a game which included that, you were effectively ‘renting’ the game. This is more ensuring that the full package of a game comes when you buy it genuinely at retail as opposed to second hand stocks.

Digital content retains its quality through a second hand sale, which means there’s no reduction on the market to discourage buyers. Why buy a game new at all when you can get it so vastly cheaper on a second hand shelve? With these first-party titles, you are adding that diminishing effect to digital content which is inherent in all aspects of every used market place.

If you buy a used car, you know full well you may need to buy a new gearbox. If you buy a used game, you should be fully aware you’ll need to buy a new 16 player Battle Royal.
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David Underwood Interactive Director, Hoo-Ha Ltd11 years ago
This is a chicken and egg argument if ever there was one. Do THQ cry when the likes of Tesco sell their product as a loss leader? I doubt it yet specialist retail stores are stuck suffering decreasing margins so turn to the 2nd hand market as an additional revenue stream. This hurts the publisher who sees 2nd hand product next to new product and a not totally stupid consumer unwilling to pay £44.99 when it's next to a £24.99 2nd hand game. So now the publisher attempts to punish the consumer by restricting access to sections of it's product. Consumer realises they can't recoup any money on publishers products by selling games on and either reduces the number of games they buy new in a year or stops buying publishers product altogether. Publisher cries again about lack of revenue and gets to write yet another article.
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Trevor Sheldrake11 years ago
I am actually hating the way the games industry is going - it's all about the $$$. Game add ons for MS Points or £££ which offer nothing new (mostly), now charging to play online - it smacks of desperation to find extra reven
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"I am actually hating the way the games industry is going - it's all about the $$$."

It is an industry, so will always be about the money. Without the money we can not create anything!
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Pete Leonard , Amiqus11 years ago
But surely there must be a better way to do this? It seems to me that things like Project Ten Dollar will only survive for so long and it will be another example of an attempt to curb second hand sales that ultimately fails due to how 'comsumer-unfriendly' it is.

Personally I think there needs to be more games that sit nicely in between typical boxed product and typical XBLA/PSN/Steam downloadable titles. Stuff like Wipeout HD and Shadow Complex sit in this space quite well and it looks like the new Lara Croft may do too. Games that are high end enough to attract more mainstream players but small enough to deliver electronically, and at a price where the consumer is happy to just purchase the game and be done with it.

Major action films cost tens of millions of dollars, but when did you last see a DVD going for £39.99? You could argue that games don't have the same infiltration as movies but it's getting close to being a bigger industry now in terms of revenue and may have overtaken already (I know it beats the box office).
My point is that either the major products have huge components that make consumers feel that they cannot afford to let the product go (like COD online component), deliver more games through digital methods that are appropriate for that platform, or release a continuous series of episodes or entire series of a games every six months or so for the ones that are popular (Siren Blood curse did this although it wasn't the most popular game - but imagine if COD released new mini games every 3-6 months, considering how popular it is, those that love it would continuously buy the content maybe making ti even more profitable).

Not saying the method in the original article is a complete waste of time, but something more radical needs to be done that ensures consumers don't come away feeling that they buy something, only to have to buy something again. Psychologically a lot may feel they are buying the game twice in effect.

From a PR point of view, another approach may be to not necessarily cut content, but just add lots of new content in the future for free for those that purchase the game. The current approach gives the image that rather than adding further additional content, existing content that should ship with the game will be 'stripped out' if the game is used. I just don't think most consumers outsode of the hardcore and those that work in the industry would have enough empathy to tolerate this. For example I held onto Alan Wake knowing that future episodes would be delivered for free. The cerberus network in ME2 was another good example. I knwo this may sound like extra work for studios, but for proven franchises, it could generate the required revenues when consumers have less option to buy used as most people hang onto their copies for future content. More 1st hand sales is more profit.

Just my braindump on the matter..........

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Pete Leonard on 24th August 2010 1:25pm

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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D11 years ago
"Major action films cost tens of millions of dollars, but when did you last see a DVD going for £39.99?"

Difference is, those movies will have made a small fortune at the box office. If Toy Story 3, say, was released straight to DVD then the cost would understandably be a lot higher.

The problem with free content is that there's no such thing as free - it all still needs to be paid for. Personally I'd be in favour of cheaper games with much less content, with further levels available for download. Problem there is that games that don't cut the mustard will fail even more than they do already.
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Pete Leonard , Amiqus11 years ago
May be on platforms like Iphone but PSN and XBLA tend to be regulated fairly well by not being oversaturated with seriously lack lustre content (well not always anyway). If you do a good title for these distribution platforms they can hit that sweet spot between cost, required sales to turn a profit, and also the shorter lengths suit most people's lifestyles that doesn't allow for 20+ hours gaming a week or something crazy! And if the game isn't to quality....well that's a different matter. No one is out to buy an inferior product.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany11 years ago
Do quality games and I'm more than happy to pay for em. Don't expect me to buy every year the same game but face-washed and with a few minor changes that not always are real improvements.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D11 years ago
Inferior games. That's the other problem. The market has just become too big - not every game can be a blockbuster or, even, good. A small percentage will be brilliant - probably similar to the percentage that are utter shite. Most will fall at varying places in between.

I'd love to know how much Toy Soldiers cost to develop for XBLA and how much it made. That was a FANTASTIC little title.
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Pierre Vandenbroucke Assistant de production, Gorgone Productions11 years ago
What about "real life" extra content. I don't know, a figurine of the hero, a car of the game, anything related to the title, (like the coin in the oblivion collector's edition, it can even fit the DVD case!

Why? Because people will want to have the item, and if you sell it, you might like to keep the item. And if you keep it, and the second hand buyer wants it too, then they might consider buying it new!

I bought my Oblivion collector's edition used only because it was complete (40$, naerly the price of the classic edition new at that time) Then the disc broke - you see it can break down! :-) - and I bought the GOTY edition new.

Great games should always sell more than bad games. It'd be easier.
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Matthew Eakins Technical Lead, HB-Studios11 years ago
I'm probably alone in this regard but I'd like to see them go even further. Give the unlockable code with the game but but have the game restricted to a demo type state until the code is entered. Then sell the code for about 75% of the box price. Those two factors would effectively gut the second hand market because retailers wouldn't be able to sell the second hand titles for a mere 5-10$ off the new price.

That's the stick, now here is the carrot. After six months or a year offer the code for free.

The net effect would be to give the game industry the equivalent of a theatrical release. That way the core consumers end up giving the developers their fair share but the budget conscious consumer still get's their chance later too. And frankly if a game is good enough that you can't wait to play it then shouldn't you behoove you pay the developers for their work?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Matthew Eakins on 24th August 2010 3:33pm

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Julian Toseland games podcaster/website 11 years ago
Well my personal views are mixed really, as a buyer of both retail and used, I see a place for all, however I lean towards not being in favour of all these new ways of unlocking content from early adopters.

I see slightly different views though, to the point of, if the developers made there games top quality titles, then consumers would buy at retail day 1 a hell of a lot more, however if by releasing poor substandard games, then I'm afraid there is only one place it's going to end up.

I also feel the developers missed the train here, they should obviously have brokered deals right at the begining of all this with the major used game stores, then everyone would have been happy.
I also go along slightly with another poster here, the average gamer would mostley see all these attempts at grabbing back the used market share as greed.
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Private Industry 11 years ago
While I don`t have any problem with things like project 10$ or having the code in the box to get the online access since I usually buy anyway games new unless they are not available anymore, that comment from THQ is very harsh.

With retails not willing to give anything to developers or publishers from used game market profit I see that people look into getting something back from this, but nobody should really go out and say they don`t have any sympathy for gamers that buy used games. Fact is unlike Mr. Creative Director Ledesma, the average Joe doesn`t have a big amount of cash to spend on games each month, but people still want to play as many good games as they can each year and having the option to get games cheaper by buying used games or trade the old games in is for them important. The consumer is not the problem, but the retailers having the attitude to fight against the consumers and retail isn`t right, the enemy for them should be the retail and not the people who want to play games but might have not that much money.

The thing with the current systems in place is of course if those people actually care about playing online. Sure companies do research, but maybe most of the people who buy used games maybe don`t care at all about playing online and just want to play the singleplayer or local multiplayer.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Private on 24th August 2010 6:02pm

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Isaac Kirby Studying Computer Games Development, University of Central Lancashire11 years ago
As a purely offline player could this infact benefit me?

If the second hand ones really decrease in value much faster due to this new "project $10" then my incentive to buy brand new is lowered, when surely a week or two after release i can pick up a copy for alot less. When its only £5 less is usually go first hand as its not much more to show my support.

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James Prendergast Process Specialist 11 years ago
@ Matthew Eakins

I think that's a really interesting idea and it's the sort of tactic i'd like to see with regards to other types of DRM as well.... Of course, i've not really seen any movement in this regard in the industry: it's usually either end of the spectrum with people releasing games with no DRM or with total DRM. I guess some of Stardock's games lie inbetween, along with The Witcher.... but i don't really know of any other games i'd be able to install regardless of a DRM patch if the servers are offline.

Same thing goes with this current economic effort within the industry. It's based on an ecosystem that greed (through lack of sharing) has built and tries then to break or circumvent that ecosystem. The movie industry has a lot more cooperation between cinema, rental and retail release and it really helps them. The games industry only seems to have harsh words from each of the component parts towards the other.
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Private Industry 11 years ago
The movie industry has the advantage of cinemas, where you can watch the movies for 1-2 month there and then 4-6 month later released on disc with a very big junk of profit coming from the cinemas.

The movie companies would not be very happy if cinemas sell a movie ticket for 10$ to people and give a certain amount of % to the movie company and after the movie the person could resell the ticket to the cinema for 4$ and then for the next viewing the cinema is selling the ticket for 8$ without giving anything of that to the movie companies. What helps the movie industry is that second hand is only possible once the DVD/Blu Ray is released, but a lot of the profit comes from cinemas and not from the DVD/Blu Ray sales.

As for second hand movies, don`t know if retailers really do much with those given how easy DVD`s could be copied.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Private on 24th August 2010 9:39pm

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Haven Tso Web-based Game Reviewer 11 years ago
I always see this as a way of publishers trying to cash in on crap titles they released. As I always said, people will want to keep their games if they do enjoy it. The creation of a second hand market is because of a lot of crap titles and shovelware were packaged as AAA titles but turn out to be junk. That's when people want to sell their games to recoup their own cost. It is not something sinister against publishers but a market reaction to bad titles. Take Final Fantasy XIII as an example. A recent market check at local retailers including EB and JB HiFi, despite being a AAA title, all the retailers in my region said that they can't pay too much for the second hand copy of that game because there are more people selling that game than buying it. This is a reflection of consumers won't be fooled by publishers anymore. When they don't like a game, they want to recover their cost. The fact that these publishers trying to cash in on the behemoth they created because of their shovelware is the real evil and the statement from THQ about no sympathy for second hand games consumer is totally ridiculous and shows how lack of understanding about the market they are.
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Private Industry 11 years ago
Well you and me probably keep the games (and sure many others here on this site) because at least I`m sometimes playing old games again like right now I`m playing again trough Wing Commander 3 and Mirrors Edge. But there are enough people who don`t have the intention to play a game again once they beat it except for multiplayer so they don`t keep the games. Taking FF XIII as an example is tricky, I don`t think it`s a bad game in itself, but as a long time FF fan not my cup of tea with the mainstream approach and many other who bought it on day one might feel the same. Trying to get more mainstream to catch more costumers with a series that has probably more than 20 games with the title FF by now does not seem a good choice in my opinion, but hey that`s a completely different story. :)

EA started with project 10$ and the online pass on Mass Effect 2 and the sports titles, so it`s not always a try to cash in on crap games. It looks like Sony is looking into it for the games they do and the Sony 1st party games are far from crap. Sure some companies might just try to use the second hand market defense to try to cash in some extra money, but with companies reporting more often no profit or only a very small profit they have to see how they can tackle the second hand market and as long as the products have a good quality I can`t say I`m against it for things like the online pass or project 10$. Of course things like disc based DLC people have to pay for who buy the game new that`s nothing I could support.
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Ricky Hodgson Studying BA (Hons) Computer Games and Visual Effects, Anglia Ruskin University11 years ago
If games were the price of a DVD I wouldn't ever bother trading in. But as I shell out £40 per game it really makes me want to recoup some of that money. Its too much for a piece of media.

I have always believed games price points are just too high. Slash them and I bet second hand sales go way down too.

How big is the second hand DVD sales market compared to that of second hand game sales? I don't see Tesco or HMV or anyone for that fact bothering much with selling second hand DVD's! Because its not worth it at those price points!

edit: as an extra thought I have no problem paying a higher price for true AAA games. Its when a game is bad or OK then I want my money back. Like someone above said I think its due to too many games being classed as "AAA" titles and then they never live up to that. Why don't the publishers just be realisiic about their titles quality and demand on a case by case basis and develop a price from that?

When Game X is launched at £39.99 built by some studio with no prior success or with a low quality game etc and Game Y is a major true "AAA" title launched at £39.99 then its a bit of a kick in the teeth when a consumer buys game X as they expect that same quality as the game Y. They then go and trade in their game X's in the future.

Like I said. Publishers should look at pricing. I'm more likely to keep a mediocre game at £20 then I am at £40.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Ricky Hodgson on 25th August 2010 3:49am

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Grant Smythe Editor in Chief / Owner 11 years ago
@ Robert Jeffrey (and those with similar thoughts)

Unfortunately, we've entered an age of quick ownership and short attentive span on newer/younger gamers.

One needs only to look at the mobile game market to see that, where games that require short, rapid, and fast paced gameplay get relative short periods of play, with little or no intent on keeping any form of real-world hard-copy.

Ad to that the fact that many newer/younger gamers simply have far too many devices to play on, and the added need to own just aboutr every title they can get in order toplay with their friends who may well have title 'X', then selling the games within a few days of purchase. With many mostly trading them back in to get a newer release, or in many cases, claiming the 7 day return policy that some retailers offer as an out, which is a perfect way to enable them to have as many titles as possible over a short window frame.

Making the ownership of hardcopy games less attractive in the long term.

Publishers then see far too much movement, and less ownership of a title. Which is vastly different to even say 5-8 yrs ago, where owning a significant game library was a status symbile whereas now it's seen as a negative thing rather than a positive thing.

So the secondhand trade flourishes in such a climate, the cost of the games across the board has remained relatively stable and constant over the last 2-3 decades, or more, yet the sheer number of titles on offer has multiplied ten fold - or more as far as console titles are concerned. BUt what has grown out of all proportion is the cost of development, yet the cost for the games on the shelf have remained basically the same ( Just check prices for games say mid 2005, them mid 1998 as an example). There's a $10 movement, and some games actually cost m,ore back then than now, especially when the cost of inflation is taken into consideration. But many newer/younger gamers don't see the relevance of that, as that does not nor did not affect them, now or then.

So consumers look for alternative means to 'own' (read use) titles rather than own (read keep) titles nowdays.

With more and more titles offered each month, and growing rapidly, and those months or period that were once 'quiet' during the year now having several major releases included in them, then the major release times being inundated with titles, many of them AAA, then the consumer must do something to battle that, and still remain within their limited budget. So secondhand purchase looks like a great way to have access to all those titles.

So along comes trade-ins and pre-owned titles, which outsell new sales every year, and grow annually at a rapid rate.

I'n certainly not in favour of having segments of a game limited when purchased, and can only be opened using DLC keys/code, or being charged for the ability to use content that was available to the original purchaser, simply because I purchased the titles second hand.

i do not have this issue when I go to say Civic and buy several ex-rental video DVD's, or say at a second hand store or online purchases of used DVD's etc. They are complete and everything is available to me.

No used or secondhand market is being thought of in this fashion, other than the game industry. One would ask why.

You could asy greed, but given the above, it's little wonder they want a bigger slice of the pie. Unlike DVD's (movies etc), games really only get one major slice of the pie - that is at launch. Unlike movies which have several release periods, cinema, DVD sales, DVD rental, DVD hire long term. And at each stage, the publisher gets a slice of the pie.

In games that is not done. Why not include tax or fee for the retailer, just like in DVD movies where they charge a certain rate for the sale of the goods, which is then passed on to the publisher.

After all, it's the RETAILER who is making the funds from the resale and resale of a title that comes in perhaps up to 2-4 times in its lifespan, so why punish the end user. Again, you would not see this in the movie DVD industry. Yet it flourishes because the end users do not see the fees being passed onto them through the retailer.

It's simply taken for granted that there is some fee that ends up in the publishers pocket, and rightfully so, but it is not forced upon them, nor is the movie restricted in any form when purchased or rented.

Imagine what this could do to the game rental industry, it would stop it instantly.

As no gamer is going to pay a fee for renting the game, then an additional fee for an overnight (or 3 day) hire of a game simply to use the games full functions. Be that online or sections of the single player side of the game.

The rentail industry just wouldn't support it, and it would be not a viable alternative. Closing a section that is already showing signs of pressure anyhow.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Grant Smythe on 25th August 2010 4:02am

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Tomas Lidström Lighting Artist, Rebellion11 years ago
I, for one it would seam, cant bring myself to blame THQ.
In a time of financial crisis and industry focus a bit up in the air as to "what is the right direction to go in?" I cant help but feel that this is a good move from their side. I hope that it will go to further secure the jobs at their studios because when push comes to shove, it wont be the executives at their company that is handed the axe but the guys on whatever production floor these guys are funding. I am sure that it is the executives that will reap the benefits if it all goes well but... well, the man gets a fatter paycheck and if it doesnt work out the little guy gets tossed out. What else is new?

With all this said, I really dont know much about THQ, their games or their staff. So i am really just talking out of my ass ;)
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Odd how the gaming industry feels "cheated" by methods most common to other media. Its like 20th Century Fox disallowing DVD rentals or making it impossible to view the full movie if you buy it second hand. Its not like THQ gets extra money from second hand buyers anyway - so what is the point about feeling cheated?
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 11 years ago
I think the whole issue is a bit of a quandry, but I wonder if publishers have really considered how aspects of the pre-owned market can help prop up sales of new games. For instance, how many people each year trade in their existing FIFA game to offset the cost of the new one - or more specific to THQ, I would be very interested to see stats for how many people traded in UFC 09 against UFC 10, if such data exists.

I still think pre-owned is a dispute between publisher and retailer, and the consumer is caught in the middle and the one who's going to suffer.

I also think something to consider would be to re-evaluate RRPs based on a game's profile and scale. I've bought several games new this year, but in many cases I've waited for games I'm interested in to be on sale (such as Yakuza 3 or 3D Dot Game Heroes), or bought older games for sub-£10 prices (such as Mini Ninjas or Bionic Commando). Would these kind of games have performed better commercially had they not been released as a full £40 launch? Or look at it this way; is Kinect Joy Ride going to retail for the same price as Gran Turismo 5? I know they're very different products, but surely there's a point when value becomes objective?
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Alexander Cederholm Editor-in-Chief, GAMEcore.se11 years ago
I don't think many people traded in UFF 09 for UFC 10 because by that time the game was almost useless. When I read all of these interesting theories and suggestions I thought that rewarding old customers to upgrade from say FIFA 10 too FIFA 11 would be nice and a sign of good will. The problem is that the retailer would never do that since the game have lost it's value after 4-6 months. In that case the would probably demand that the publisher went in between and stood for some of the cost. I don't see that happen since they already are in each others necks.

Oh and by the way... renting games is something that died in the late 90's here in Sweden. It's not at all common any more and it seems to be because of piracy issues. As someone said... it's strongest sales come at release and then it's simmers out with the exception of some certain games. How can we give the industry that extra income that the movie companys get from cinema? It's almost like the game release is the cinema release and the DVD release then is the equivalent to second hand sales. The problem is that the publisher don't see any of this money.
What would be interesting is to find a business modell that don't punish the consumer (by money grabbing or making it complicated with codes) and how do you give new life to a game that already have been released?

Heads up to Grant Smythe and Matthew Eakins that had some really interesting ideas/thoughts.
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Wale Awelenje Programmer/Designer 11 years ago
The creative director chose his words poorly, and he deserves any criticism levelled at him as a result of claiming he has 'No sympathy' for any subset of his customers.

A used game purchaser is still a consumer at the end of the day. If he enjoys the game he just may buy the sequel new.

As for the viability of incentivising new game purchases with one-time codes, I support this as long as reasonable measures are taken to ensure that a lost code can easily be retrieved.

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