Avellone: "I hope digital stabs the used market in the heart"

Obsidian boss loves digital for hurting used market, low environmental impact and flexibility

Obsidian's chief creative officer, Chris Avellone, has said that he loves digital distribution not only because it saves environmental impact through lack of packaging and because it gives developers extra flexibility, but also because it could spell the end of the second hand market.

Speaking in an interview with Industry Gamers, Avellone poured praise on the digital model, despite his company's predilection for large, disc-based RPGs.

"I love digital distribution," said Avellone. "For one thing, being environmentally conscious, I really appreciate that we're not making more boxes and shipping them and creating all that waste. It's better just to download the game through Steam and not have to have all that packaging.

"I hope digital distribution stabs the used game market in the heart."

Chris Avellone, Chief Creative Office, Obsidian Entertainment

"One of the things I enjoyed with Fallout: New Vegas was that digital distribution of the DLC made things more flexible in terms of getting the content done. You didn't have to worry about production times for discs, and so you could take an extra week if you needed that to get things right."

The creative chief wasn't keen on diluting his opinions about used game sales and how he hopes that digital will affect them.

"Of course, one of the greatest things about digital distribution is what it does to reduce the used game market," he continued.

"I hope digital distribution stabs the used game market in the heart."

Avellone also revealed that Obsidian does harbour ambitions to develop and publish its own IP eventually, instead of the solid work for hire it has done for companies such as Bethesda. These titles, he says, are likely to be distributed non-physically.

"Our eventual hope is that we can stockpile enough resources to release our own titles digitally. Smaller games can be very satisfying projects to work on, and it would be great to do that. But it's going to take time for us to get there; we want to make sure we do it right."

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Latest comments (55)

Joćo Namorado Project Manager, Portugal Telecom6 years ago
Interesting how Avellone is happy that digital distribution can affect second hand sales but doesn't even mention how it could prevent piracy.
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Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University6 years ago
I not one for the used games (unless you can not get a hold of the game)
but what the point in buying big games when they come out? I can get deus ex HR new for like £15 when it cost me about £40 or so.
Skyrim just got a £13 cut on it and that going to have a GOTY copy with all the dlc sooner or later so that more money i could of saved.

And i only save money digitally when there a sale, most of the time a digital copy (for me) can cost more then box copy in time, (+there is download time for big games but it not been so bad for me as of late).

that "you could take an extra week if you needed that to get things right." for the dlc
is a bit of a slap to me when Fallout: New Vegas was full of bugs when it came out.
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Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University6 years ago
it not letting me edit, (some bug)
so i post it here for now untill i can edit it in
"So where the + side for the people buying the game new when it better for them to wait and get it for a lower cost (or with all the dlc) or get it used for a lower cost? the dlc you get for getting a new game will be sold any way, some for like £0.99 to £1.99 for a skin"

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Show all comments (55)
Mohammed Alsadoon Staff Writer, Gaming Bus6 years ago

He was talking about the DLC, the actual game itself shipped on a disc so it didn't have that extra week (not that it would have done much)
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Joćo Namorado Project Manager, Portugal Telecom6 years ago

Steam does not encompass all games, nor console games (I gave up on upgrading my PC years ago). The question is where will users short on money who buy games second hand turn to if deprived of that option? Will they pay full price or turn to piracy? Or will they simply buy less?

Second hand sales are a legitimate option for gamers on a budget which game developers should work with, not try to kill. What strikes me is the lingering feeling that "never mind the pirates, let's go at second hand buyers".

If only digital distribution meant lower prices, but currently that is usually the exception, not the rule.
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Ben Pilgrim Studying Media and Public Relations, London Metropolitan University6 years ago
If downloading digital copies of games is so great than why did the PSP Go flop so much, also i'm already willing to bet m house that this will make the vita flop aswell.

As for hitting the second hand market the cost of having to pay for the online priveldges again is £5 or there abouts and when compared to the saving on the original title its still often worth it and from what i've seen has not pt people of buying preowned games.

Totally agree with Joao that digital download games should be a much cheaper with none of the overheads of packaging having to be covered.
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William Preen Studying BSc(hons) Interactive Systems and Video Games Design, University of Bradford6 years ago
A comment I keep hearing about digital distribution is that:
'while yes it is convenient, it lacks the tactile feeling that comes with owning a disk with a game on it.'
A strange comment, but when you think about the number of people who hoard things and love the idea of idea of owning a collection it leads the question of is it worth excluding them when they may pay extra for a 'Collecters Edition' at a later date?
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Joćo Namorado Project Manager, Portugal Telecom6 years ago

I agree with your thoughts. It seems to me a more sensible path than "stab the used market in the hear".
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Marty Greenwell Software Developer 6 years ago
"however thats assuming publishers won't just go the greed route and keep prices the same"

That's a BIG assumption ...
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Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto6 years ago
With regard to prices being kept at the same level being "greedy". It's worth pointing out that the price of games have effectively been falling for the last two decades, as prices haven't been adjusted for inflation. AAA game budgets on the other hand, have increased by orders of magnitude during that time period.

"The price is not as low as I'd like it to be", is not the same thing as "the seller is being greedy".

Just my two cents (also not adjusted for inflation :) )
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Marty Greenwell Software Developer 6 years ago
"The price is not as high as we'd like to sell it for", is not the same as "The consumer is being a cheapskate"
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Emily Rose Freelance Artist 6 years ago
Games are cheaper than they've ever been Tom, and games are costing more than ever before to make.
We're lucky they are this cheap. Maybe the lack of boxed copy overheads is helping make up those extra development costs without increasing the price of games for the consumer.

Then again, I only play mmos and indies, super cheap.
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Mario Tommadich Software QA Analyst, Indie Game Developer 6 years ago
For one, I hope I'm not the only one realizing that the so called "Second Hand market" is people like you and me. Also the guys that make DVD hard cases and print manuals will very much want to keep their jobs. We are talking about human beings here that want to make as much of a living as anyone else in the Videogame Industry. Also @Joćo Namorado - I agree with you, it might be a bad idea to deprive gamers on a budget of the possibility to buy used games cheaper. The current digital prices with added broadband fees on top don't really help gamers on a budget. Unfortunately piracy does.

However, maybe we should try to think about an option that makes it desirable for developers or publishers to also serve the second hand market. What if certain features of a game would have to be registered and verified by a one time code that must be renewed if the owner of a game(physical media) changes?
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 6 years ago
Used game market isnt bad, it just needs to be modified.... In a perfect world publishers/developers would have a cut from the profits. However, the used games market helps against Piracy. I think developers would find it prudent to add online passcodes. Online features could be locked for used game purchases and a passcode would need to be purchased for 5$. Games like Dark souls would benefit from that. Even though the game can be played offline, it has a very nice online feature that lets you see other players deaths. This activation code should be free to anyone who purchases the game new. however for a small fee, used game users. the important thing is that these features be none essential to the context of the game, and more of an optional thing. Mass Effect 3 has the multiplayer campeign seperate from the single player. It remains none essential for the enjoyment of the game, and its optional.

However I see a future where games will need a 1 time pass key to activate. It comes as part of a new purchase but not for used games. this pass key can be sold seperatly for used games. and developers can have a cut off used games and also encourage new game purchases. i wouldnt mind this as long as it was something around 5 dollars. however the problem would be is that you would need an internet connection. And games must be playable offline. unlike Bionic commando rearmed2 that requirs a constant internet connection. i will never purchase that game for that alone because I dont play online much.

These are some ideas, Im ok with the used games market, but it needs to be structured in a way where developers and publishers can prophit. Retailors are really digging their own grave with this. And I understand the anti sentiment developers hold against retailers.

However I myself like having a fisical copy of the game. I dont like having my content tied to an account, for fear of losing my account if it gets hacked. And I also worry, since hard drive technolofy and flash drive technology is unreliable, It would suck to have all your games erased incase of malfunction.
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Louis Serianni Jr. Studying Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan6 years ago
I personally love digital distribution as it is much more convenient. Steam makes buying games easier and it keeps track of them for me so I don't have to worry about losing disks.

As for the prices of games digital or retail, it all comes down to economic principles. I always buy games right when they first release and the reason is simple. I value the utility of playing the game right away as being equal to or greater than the price. If I place a higher utility on the game than what I pay for it then that is great because it means I get consumer surplus. A game like Skyrim, I would gladly pay more than 60 dollars for.

As long as there are lots of consumers like myself who place a high utility value on games, then it doesn't make sense to initially release with a lower price. When the well of people like me runs dry it only makes sense to lower the price and move further down the demand curve.
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The principle of passing used things you no longer want on to others is an excellent one. It maximises the value to the community from the efforts and materials consumed in the making. For content embodied in physical media it makes sense. Especially as time passes and the publisher has fully recouped and amply profited, or indeed no longer exists! One should consider too less privileged consumers, for whom second-hand or even library use is their best access to the new content we all enjoy. It is myopic to not appreciate and praise second-hand markets.

A significant reason publishers don't share in the revenue is that the revenue is very diluted and perhaps insufficient to make audit and collection profitable. You'd have to track the price paid to the consumer for each copy (or somehow dictate the price) and then work out the retailer's fair cut. Running a second-hand shop - which serves a useful community purpose - doesn't look particularly easy to me. There's a huge risk of stock languishing, and no returns policy or any such protection first sale retailers enjoy. Whereas first sale retailers can go with a margin of £10 or so on a new title, second-hand retailers likely need to look for £15 or so. That doesn't leave much surplus profit for publishers to collect on.

In future of course, I expect most forms of digitally embodied media will be more in actuality (as well as in theory) loaned and not sold. At that point one will expect to pay less for the product for a variety of reasons, but one being that one may be giving up ones right to pass on title to ones heirs or others. Gone will be the bible belonging to your grandmother. This is kind of fine, because that bible will be much cheaper and if the granddaughter really cares she can get a fully updated one of her own. The necessary step for publishers is to not expect digital games to sell at the same price as physical ones. I feel that suggests a market for collectors edition boxes - right to sell on second-hand or pass on to heirs, and all that, accepted.

We should perhaps look forward to branched SKUs - with the physical version being understood as an object to treasure, enjoy, and pass on, and the digital version understood as the ephemeral experience. Perhaps the rights will be separated out, and systems like Steam will let you buy a resaleable version. I'd love to leave my games library to my daughter!
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
Speaking from an environemental point-of-view, the computer/video game industry is wasteful in a way that's truly appaling. Every game that has Steamworks, for example, is essentially just a code-in-a-box. The disc means you don't have to spend X Hours downloading, but it's theoretically unnecessary. The manual? That's available as a PDF. The content? Unlocked on Steam. You don't *need* it all. Retailers could just sell sealed recycled-cardboard boxes with a code, and it would be better for the environment. On the whole, the carbon footprint of gaming is shocking - DVD duplication, printing manuals, printing inserts, the manufacture of boxes, the shipping... Yes, there are side-effects to downloading content - server farms and the like - but I doubt that they're as bad as physical product.

As for prevention of second-hand - well, blame-the-retailers, not the consumer. The consumer wants cheap product, but, generally, if they can't get it, they'll buy new or buy less often - the worry of "consumers who can't get second-hand will pirate" is over-stated I feel. Retailers wanting an easy-buck? Well, that cannot be over-stated, especially in these economic times, but until the industry puts its foot down and says "no!" it's not going to go away.
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Steven Gibson Journalists 6 years ago
The majority of industry competes with the used market. Why should games be an exception to that? I get so tired of the "must kill used game sales" argument. How about "must make our product desirable to buy new"? It can't possibly be that consumers don't feel the investment required to purchase a game new is out of line with the product their receiving. No, it must be that the evil Game Stops of the world are ruining the industry. Oh well, at least this becomes podcast fodder for the week.
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William Usher Assistant Editor, Cinema Blend6 years ago
@Mario, I think you have one of the most reasonable comments on this thread so far.

I'm not even sure why the "prices adjusted to inflation" argument should even be brought into the picture...we all know not every game is made equal, and we all know not every game is made on a $100 million dollar budget. Paying $70 for something like Limbo? Well it may have been a great game, but I don't think it's worth $70.

As for the used game market...I'll be honest, most of all the games I've played I've bought used because most weren't worth the retail price. There are some games (usually from indie devs) that I buy brand new to support the company and the progression of creativity and innovation within the industry. It's no offense to the devs but again, not every game is made equal and some just aren't worth $60 at retail.

The conundrum with digital distribution is that, as others have said, the prices are oftentimes (on PC) the same as retail at launch, which I don't see how that actually cuts into the used game market so much as it helps contribute to piracy just until the game price drops or goes on sale.

It would probably make more sense if they just released the game digitally alongside the boxed copies for $15 less. This way even if people decide to buy the game used they can weigh having to buy the game brand new at a similar price just without the box and booklets.

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Rob Craig Instructor / Writer 6 years ago
With DVD's and Blu-Ray physical media, you pay more in the first few months of release than you do later in the life cycle. Regarding AAA titles, For those who "gotta have it", let that consumer demand speak for itself and continue to control the market price. I for one rarely drop $60 USD on a console game. I'm older than the 18-25 demographic and have less gaming time while enjoying significantly more expendable income. When I buy a game, I want the publisher/developer to get income and I want it to work. So I buy new games. And I tend to keep those beyond the relevancy of the equipment. I am one that will buy collector editions of games I really enjoy.

The package and promotional items can strongly connect fans of a game/franchise. The music industry has struggled with this - going digital is part of their market. But the physical package is another strong part for their core fans. Ignore either one and you mess with your customer base.

I hate what the used game retailers are doing with buying and selling titles that are still experiencing a strong market. In the US, some legislation should be in order to protect the industry from the GameStop (and similar) market, at least for a specific period of time after a games release. My 2 cents on the matter.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Klaude

Your point about libraries reminds me of charity shops. I trawl charity shops for DVDs and games and books, and I hate it when I find games that have one-time-use serials on the shelf. Whilst serials that tie to someone's email account are great for the industry in that they prevent second-hand *sales*, they are bad since they prevent second-hand *use*. I found Settlers 7 in one a couple of weeks ago - entirely useless, since the code ties to someone's Ubisoft account which ties to an email. I was very tempted (though didn't, I hasten to add) to buy it, and then pirate the game - after all, whilst the developer might not have seen my money, the British Heart Foundation (a good cause) would have. As it is, the BHF will sell that game, then have to refund the money to the customer if they return it. Wasteful.

I do like your idea of branched SKUs - a sort of long-term renting, where the publisher/developer gains, the consumer feels as though they get their money's worth then moves on.

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago
If we look at Gamestop, we realize that taking away a game from one person and sell it to another is profitable business. You do not make less money doing that, but more. GameStop grew very rapidly, which is a good indication for a working business model. Used games are still in short supply at Gamestop, meaning the bottom on the value of a game does not drop to nothing.

Then we look at Steam which has an infinite supply of games. The value of any one game does drop to nothing. A game starts at 100% suggested retail and will end up in a 80% off firesale sooner or later. There is no economy, other than which player is going to buy when. Availability is overinflated you might say. Not just prices suffer, but margins suffer even more.

One year later, a game in a shelf at Gamestop, will still retain roughly 65% of its original value. 12 months on Steam and you end up in the -75% bargain bin. Sure, at least on Steam the developer still gets 25%, while he gets 0% from Steam. But that is not an argument against ditching GameStop, it is a godray smacking you over the head that you should behave as if you were GameStop.

From a technological standpoint it is perfectly doable to buy back activation licenses from the customers on a digital platform. Instead of dumping the game for half-price after a while, I buy back the game from one person for 40% original value and sell it to another for 65% original value. Sure, technically my supply is infinite, but for the sake of the market place, I restrict supply, at least the supply of the low cost "used" downloadable games. Since I only hand out store credits, not only will I have the money from the person paying 65% of the price, but the 40% I virtually gave back to the person whose copy I just deactivated, will end up in my pocket as well.

On a $100 game, I just spent $40 taking it back, received $65 instantly by turning around selling it and will get back my $40 later. $105 made off shifting around some activation key on Steam? Probably more when the guy with his $40 credit will buy another game. Where do I have to sign up for that being my job?

You might be scared that in the end you will sit on a lot of shitty games nobody is ever going to buy. The type of games you will encounter at a Gamestop en masse. But if GameStop figured out how to price it right and not go broke on buying back stuff, then I am sure an online platform can do the same.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Klaus

Okay. For a start "12 months on Steam and you end up in the -75% bargain bin". Only in random sales. There's... So... Many... Games that are still half or more-than-half original retail prices on Steam, and in all situations, the publisher decides the price. That's why MW2 is still £20, over a year after first release, and only went down to 50% off on a daily deal - because Activision don't want to deep-discount it.

Related to this, physical retail deep-discounts far more than digital does, far sooner. I walked into the local GameStation to find Dungeon Siege 3 was on sale for a third less than its original selling price. 2 weeks after release.

Second, what you're talking about is massively massively against the consumer. I feel aggrieved when I walk into a shop and see a second-hand copy of Arkham City at £2 less than a new copy. What you're saying (and I understand it's only an example) is milking the consumer both ways - both from a new game sale, and from the second hand market sale. And I'll tell you now, GameStop has awful customer satisfaction... Why would you want to behave like them?

Third. The consumer isn't stupid. Restricting supply of low-cost second-hand digital games? Why? The market *is* infinite, and the consumer knows this, because there's no physical product to sell-out of. You're talking about artifically keeping the price high. Which is also bordering on illegal in a lot of countries (consumer legislation and all that).

I get what you're saying - if you can't beat them, join them. But It goes against the consumer in so many ways, I feel, that it would push far more people to piracy than anything else.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago

You can limit goods which exist virtually just as easy as you can limit good which really exist. Best example is our money. If somebody at the Federal Reserve Bank pushes a button, then $100 billion start to exists. Just like that, from nothing. If it works for money, it can work for games. Good marketing is key here. Once you really know that you are buying the game off another person for a transaction fee, you are more likely to accept the artificially limited supply. You do that with money every day. And my suggestion is million times more likely to pocket the developer some money, than an one time activation code for multiplayer attached to a single player game. Cerberus Net fee: attach rate 20% (guesstimate). Publisher driven license transfer fee: 100% attach rate.

MMOs do this sort of stuff all the time and make good money with it. Renaming your character, shifting servers, etc, that also costs money for a service which costs virtually nothing.

Mining gamers from both ends is not as bad as it sounds. Essentially, you stop selling games and start renting them to people. But not in a broken Gamefly sort of way. You can earn wads of cash and still exploit people less than the $1 off deals a used GameStop game offers. People selling to other people on Amazon is proof. Especially since new games are sold pixels away and seem to be doing fine.

The bargain bin deals are extreme in the UK, but that is a local phenomenon. In Germany by comparison, a PC game will retail for 40€ the first week and then retail for 55€ the next six months. That is the odd cycle of the market dominating Media Markt chain.
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Paulmichael Contreras Contributing Editor, PlayStation LifeStyle6 years ago
So Avellone has no sentiment for the gamer who can't afford to buy games at $50-$60 a pop, which is a huge reason why a used market exists in the first place. There are secondhand markets for every kind of product out there. The main difference in this case is that the games industry can do something to combat it.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Klaus

True, if you're buying off a person and not a corporate entity, you'll accept that it's a limited supply. But the issue then is that either you're a middle-man for 2 consumers (and you take a cut of the price, like, say, ebay or Amazon Marketplace), or you get into the situation I outlined above, where the consumer just looks at the company and gets angry at the artifically high prices. In short, if there's a genuine reason for the high price, it's fine. If there isn't, then what the hell? :)

To further it, if you're talking about Steam (as an example, because it's easy) having a selling system between ordinary people, like they already have for Gifting, I would actually be very much for it. I have games I'm never going to touch again in my Steam account, and I wouldn't mind if I could make a bit of cash selling them on, especially if the original developer/publisher could take a cut of it. Everyone wins. But, just like with second-hand sales of physical media, it's the publishers who are going to have to make the first move and say "This is what we want". And that requires publishers being pro-active, which, the creation of DRM aside, they're not prone to do.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago
Whether you are selling, or renting to people. The risk lies with the person keeping the stockpile.

A shop full of games is a shop full of risk for the owner. The movie industry was never really interested in buying or running even the largest, most profitable rental places, such as Blockbuster, because they knew those places ultimately carried all the risk. Cinemas were sold off, because distribution means you carry the risk.

Enter Gamestop, which has an elaborate scheme of making you believe "used games" were real. In reality, you first buy their initial stock by pre-ordering, resulting in them not having to risk anything. Then they buy back and resell, which amounts to little more than renting games to people. The only difference to a rental place is that when demand drops down some poor schmuck will own it. At a rental place the owner will ultimately have a lot of games nobody rents or buys, they are depleted and his risk. Gamestop distributes this risk by creating the dead weight not in their own storage, but in the homes of millions of customers.

Gifting, from the perspective of the publisher, is the same than a used sale. You never want people to think they can give something away. There needs to be this bullshit layer of "important license transmorphicalference", to make some money. Person buying at a discount is happy, publisher is happy, person selling the game is happy. Sure, there is more potential happiness, if customers can cut out the man in the middle, the publisher. But if we want to make three parties happy we have to acknowledge some level of publisher participation.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
Which is why we need a system where the publisher takes a cut. At GameStop (and every other second-hand retail store), the publisher takes a cut of the initial (new) sale, and then the store makes oodles of money on every other sale of that game. In a digital economy, it's far easier for the publisher to take money on a sale. Witness the Humblebundle, where the customer determines where the money goes. Steam could easily have that monetary slider gimmick, but hidden from the customer, so that only Steam and the publisher know how much money is feeding back into the industry from a used sale. Though it's debatable whether it needs to be hidden; it might make consumers more eager to buy games if they see that the developers of Deus Ex:HR were seeing X amount of money on a used sale of the game.
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Luis Morales Public relations, Med Mercs6 years ago
Mr. Avellone hopes that digital stabs the used gaming market. You, know Kudos for those companies like Game Stop,, and others that distribute used games. They thought they could monetise on the idea of reselling used games... That is perfectly fine, Mr. Avellone should be writting a letter to big internet companies, his state governor, and even his state congressman for America to have better and faster internet at a low cost just like some Asian countries that are ahead of this game. Maybe this will resolve this issue for people to download full games and encourage costumers to go digital......Yeah, storage and hacking accounts is another issue too. Just t give you an example, I know of people that either downloaded DC UNIVERSE ONLINE(SOE) and it either took for ever to download (I believe 14 GB) or they just quit the whole download as it takes a while and in some cases, their PS3's were locked. Anyways, give me a good reason to own digital game copy?
As much as I go is to download DlC's. Hard copy is here to stay for another 8 to 10 years... Sony, and Microsoft have mentioned this in press releases. There are regions, and even here in the U.S were people don't have acces to internet or have low speeds. Take a hike Avellon!
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Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto6 years ago
"There are secondhand markets for every kind of product out there. The main difference in this case is that the games industry can do something to combat it."

Not really, because you don't see outlets like HMV pushing second-hand CDs and DVDs as hard as you see second hand games being pushed in game outlets. In fact, I'm not sure if outlets like HMV even sell second hand DVDs/CDs? The film and music industry certainly wouldn't put up with them pushing second hand as aggressively as they do for games.

I don't think the existence of second hand games is what's hurting the games industry so much, it's how aggressively it's pushed by retail outlets that sell games, over and above new sales. That's massively damaging in an industry where profit margins are shrinking.
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Nathan Runge Managing Director, Genius Interaction Pty Ltd6 years ago
I thought I might briefly step in and offer my perspective on the pricing of digitally distributed goods relative to retail goods.

As I see it, the matter has little (directly) to do with the cost of production. Games are a luxury good with high R&D investment and minimal production expenses, even in retail. Customers pay a premium for access to a unique product that provides various intangible benefits. So the cost of production is a minimal concern in the pricing of the product.

That said, you could reasonably argue that the added value of retail distribution, such as 'instant' access, minimal bandwidth usage and physical media, could merit a higher retail price. Immediately the difference in perspective is value-added, rather than costs reduced.

The real nature of the situation, however, is risk. Retailers certainly don't want their products undercut, but more importantly publishers can't afford to undercut their own products. Publishers invest significant quantities of money in packaging and product design, printing, disk duplication, storage, distribution, etc. They (generally) carry the majority of the risk in this venture. If the games don't sell, the retailer will return them and the publisher will be out of pocket. Thus, if the undercut their own products and consequently do not sell the entirety of the retail stock, they risk incurring large costs for no benefit.

Regarding the matter of second-hand games, I am yet to fully form my opinion. Certainly, there are arguments to be made for a second-hand market. In many respects, I feel entitled to resell products I no longer want, and buy similar products from others. I rarely, if ever, do however. Like music, films and other software, we don't "buy" the game, we purchase a license to use the product. This license is rarely transferrable and its transfer can be quite damaging to the industry. These, however, are simply musings without a point.
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"I hope digital distribution stabs the used game market in the heart."

He should now be permanently retired for this statement or at least a dent in his credibility.

1. The will find some other way around selling digital copies secondhand. What ever you can sell, secondhand can do sell 10 time better.

2. Secondhand helps promote console or hardware upgrades. There are people how only buy if the can get things on a certain rate.

3. There will be a problem of ownership like there isn't one right now. Me personally I like to personal hold me games in my hand. If i can get a physical copy I wold rather get that then digital

4. For example, Gamestop (bad example) you can trade in your games for cash or store credit and use that to buy new games that maybe you didn't have enough for. Secondhand helps eliminate so of the worry thru purchases decisions.

5. Makes you spend more money. Not everyone has the super-sized hard drive or extra portable drive to save and store their memory hunger digital games and all their add-ons. Ounce again possible console/ upgrade killer.

All in all, ya its good for environment but in the wrong way. Just another way for producers to maximize profit at our expense. This can be argued and get it more details in many ways. The important topic is that was a horrible statement.
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Jamie Knight International Editor in Chief, Playnation6 years ago
if digital is such a cost effective way of doing things, ( both for the dev's and pubs as well as the consumer reaping the benefit ) then why is it not being promoted with such figures to show these pluses now? Instead you go onto any online service ( Steam is as bad as Games on Demand or PSN ) and all new release titles are still ridiculously high. To assure that these 'environmental measures' are in some way going to see a red cent saving by the customer is as ,uch a falsehood as the working version of Skyrim on the Playstation 3.

Steam may offer great deals, but on what? Far Cry 2? Rainbow Six? Ghost Recon or maybe something a little more recent, how about that show stopper Red Orchestra 2? Men at War? No, the song remains the same across 'all' platforms. New release equals high pricing. Steam are able to adjust quicker pricing to titles that have bombed or stopped selling faster.

Digital Distribution is just one more control method from the industry chiefs to screw the gamer out of more money for less service. Just as they do with the actual games themselves. Avellone stating another week makes all the difference is just laughable, at best. You could have a year at FNV and it would still be a mediocre title trapped in a previous titles engine with glitchy gameplay and lifeless almost 2D characters.

What happens when the developer/publisher decides that the game you 'own' is no longer a viable option for them and so they close down the server? what do you do then? and who is to say how long the time period will be before they do it? you think you would still be playing Kane and Lynch 2? Homefront? Rage or Dragon Age? Think again.

Might I suggest that iof the used industry is so lucrative and is taking such a large chunk of change from the mouths of the dev's children that they offer their own service for re-sell and so in that way they get all of the sales all of the time on neew release and second hand? Are you telling me that would cost too much too? Everyone would keep their jobs and even new ones would be created. How hard can it be as it seems to me that it requires little more than an envelope and a bank account. Look at 'send us your unwanted etc etc' If the dev's would bother to dip into their savings and invest in themselves they may well find that a customer would rather re-sell to you guys if you offered them incentives to do so and then you could repackage the game with the online key already inside for a smaler fee than Game/gamestation offers?

Digital distribution is the downfall of the gaming market. It cuts out too many of todays players with this 'elitist' view that everyone can afford it.

a-a-a-a-and relax :)
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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters6 years ago
The consumer doesn't need second hand games. To those people who keep arguing that they don't want to pay £40/$60 for a game: don't buy it then. This isn't food, or medication that you need to survive, it's a luxury. Wait for the price to drop. The price premium is the cost of playing it NOW as opposed to waiting a couple of months when the game, still a brand new copy, will cost far less. People are greedy, they want the latest game, they want it now, and aren't willing to wait for that "right now" premium to wear off. In the same way people live in debt, or off their overdraft, because they're too impatient to save up for something before they buy it, they have to have it RIGHT NOW.
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Preet Basson Train2Game Developer 6 years ago
This once again, is moaning dev again. If used games was such a problem, why are people only talking about it now, it seems that devs only want to point out that we are the problem there produce doesnt sell. I being an Ex-PS3 fan boy (hate sony), the PSN wasnt the best of digital distribution. I recently joined Steam and I find this is digital disrbution done right, constant sales, and online is free unlike Xbox Live (not perfect but in comparison to PSN and Live its better). Publishers and devs need to realise that putting out half-ass products and trying to make them sell isnt going to work. Not when new games go for dirt cheap at retail shops like after a month/s after release. This is nothing more than a jab at piracy, and like piracy is a two-way street, either its pirated because people want it or because they can so they can try it out.

It seems that games these days are full of bugs and glitches, so what are these pubs trying to pull, and then release thousands of patches. I don't remember any of these brain-dead statements, when the PS2 was around. Atleast they had solid games they didnt break so much. Pubs problems are pushing out quantity and not quality, this is why 90% of games dont even sell of over a million. Then they say we need this to combat piracy and that. DRM will not work. Now if less, more quality games came out. This console has been the worst so far the amount of moaning, greed and milking of series and genre has been outrageous.
And i know what i said isint soo much abt topic as much as Im saying. but gamers how long are we going to be blamed?
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Jamie Knight "What happens when the developer/publisher decides that the game you 'own' is no longer a viable option for them and so they close down the server? what do you do then? and who is to say how long the time period will be before they do it? you think you would still be playing Kane and Lynch 2? Homefront? Rage or Dragon Age? Think again."

Codemasters did that with Grid. Multiplayer can still just about be played using various means (Tunngle and GameRanger). Perhaps if the gaming media was less a mouth-piece for publishers, there would've been more of an outcry over this, and less inclination to do it in the future? However, that requires the media having a different source of advertising income, and having some investigative journalist-type balls. (btw, I wrote about this over here in the comments: ).

And you think Digital is the only place this can happen? What happens when the industry hits a point in the (not-so?) distant future and the SecuRom verification servers don't exist any more. Bang goes your disc-based serial check, and you've got a worthless piece of plastic. No, DD may not be perfect, but it's got the same flaws as physical, just represented in a different way.

Re: Prices. As ponted out above, Digital Distro prices have to be kept in-line with standard retailers, because publishers don't want to lose the physical sales points. Witness the (alleged) stranglehold Game have... Or is there another reason why Space Marine and Skyrim weren't available to pre-order on Steam in the UK for an amount of time, despite using Steam DRM?


Why are people talking about used games now? In the UK, almost every specialist game or music store now sells second-hand games alongside new. They didn't used to, even 5 years ago. HMV, Game, CEX (who do occasionally sell new), GameStop, GameStation. I walk down the High Street in Sheffield, and If there's a game that's come out on console, I can get it second-hand, probably easier than new, certainly slightly cheaper than new *and none of that second hand revenue goes to the publisher/developer*. Oh, and that doesn't count the indie stores. It *is* a problem for the industry, even if I as a consumer benefit from it in the short-term.
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James Prendergast Research Chemist 6 years ago
@ Morville. I think the problems associated with strict DRM (not just a CD-key/check) are separate from the physical/digital argument you're making there. It doesn't make much sense to lump that issue in with them and come to the incorrect conclusion: "No, DD may not be perfect, but it's got the same flaws as physical, just represented in a different way. "

Removing DRM (online verification enabled securom on a disc-based release in your example) from a disc or digital and you end up with different 'flaws'. The only one i can think of is 'time to acquire', where once a disc is purchased you have the content straight away. (This is assuming that you are able to copy/back-up a disc in the same way you can with, say,'s digital purchases, in which case TTA is the only difference.)
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
Mmmm... Yes, I didn't proof-read properly (shocking!), and the edit function is still borked here.

My point re: physical/digital was that whilst publishers can revoke licences and/or features for games bought digitally very easily, there's the same *broad problem* with physical media. Once the SecuRom system goes belly-up, verifying even a new copy of BioShock will be impossible. In both situations, the game you paid for has been devalued by publishers who care little for the end consumer (though in different ways). If that makes sense?
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Rui Martins Senior Software Developer 6 years ago
From all the above writing, what I learned is that, apparently after you buy a brand new car, and you use it for a couple of years, and then sell it, the car manufacturer should get a cut of the second hand sale !!!

Really ?

Once you buy something (license, CDs, DVDs, physical or otherwise), it's yours !
And you should be able to sell it to recover some of the original cost, if someone is willing to buy it.

Licensing, is just a weird way use to try to circunvent ownership!

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
And once again... It's not the second-hand market per se, it's that so many mainstream specialist shops sell second-hand, for almost the same price as new, *right next to* new. It's not the positive sales of second-hand software, it's the negative sales of new. And new sales feed the industry.

As a whole, the industry is trying to negate all second-hand sales, as a means of forcing people to buy new. This is stupid, yes, and short-sighted, and feeds into the power that the retail market has (publishers don't want to hurt Game's or HMV's bottom lines). On the flip-side, if you give the consumer a reason to buy into it, then they will; hence Steam. People know they can't sell their Steam games on, but when you're paying less than half-price for The Witcher 2, you don't care.

Honestly, all this talk is pointless. The industry needs to actually put its foot down with retailers. But they won't. And whilst this is good for the consumer in one way - second-hand sales of console software - it's bad in another, because of the rise of one-time-use serial codes for PC games. I mean, when was the last time you saw a second-hand AAA PC title in Game?
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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters6 years ago
Seriously, how many times do people have to bring up this second hand car example? It's *not* the same thing. A car is a physical object that degrades with use. You don't buy a disc, you buy a licence to play the game. The disc is just a convenient way of delivering the content to you. You don't own the game, because all it is, is intellectual property that still belongs to the developer/publisher. Do you sell your cinema ticket on the street outside to someone else because you're done with it now? No, because they rip it when you go in, or make it only valid for one showing, that's their form of DRM.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
Can the Edit function *please* be fixed?

What I meant above was "As a whole, the industry is trying to find ways negate all second-hand sales, as a means of forcing people to buy new."
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James Ingrams Writer 6 years ago
Well, buy hard copies everyone, or they'll be a ton of pirating! 90's companies understand, as do companies like CD Projekt RED, put maps and art books and OST's in game boxes and sell at standard price with no DRM and watch the games fly out the door!

If the market goes digital, many gamers will not have an affinity with the publisher and will start pirating.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
Um, what?


Go look at Good Old Games.

No DRM. Digital releases of old classic games. Digital releases of new CDPR games (without DRM). There's a HUGE amount of affinity and goodwill towards them.

Physical doesn't necessarily mean content, but content has everything to do with affinity. This is why people care about Valve games - Portal 1 and 2, Half-Life, TF2. Because they don't scrimp on content, and they don't particularly charge for it either.
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Mike Kennedy Founder | CEO, GameGavel.com6 years ago
Better idea. Publishers and developers decide to support and endorse our model of an online retail store that rebates them for used games sales and also shares used games sales data with them to help make more informed production, sales and marketing decisions. Their support helps us penetrate the walls of GameStop and helps convert gamers everywhere over to our online store and industry friendly business model.

Although THQ has endorsed us stating this should have been done long ago, many other publishers love the idea, but are shying away in fear of awakening the GameStop Gods. We have been in discussions with most of the publishers, discussing a business model that pays them nicely for used game sales, and they aren't biting. Maybe used games sales aren't hurting them as much as they are saying or GameStop has way to much control over them.
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Brad McGraw QA Tester 6 years ago
@ Dave Herod: Ok if not cars what about books? Music? Movies? All can be used as examples where a used market has not hurt the new market at all. The video games industry is the only industry to whine about used products. Claiming used sales are killing the industry is like saying 'video killed the radio star', sounds nice but no eveidence of facts behind it. The video game industry has surpassed movies in profits all the while used games have been available. As soon as home PC and Console games were around there was a used market, if used sales were really killing the industry it'd surely be dead by now instead of a billions dollar industry.

As far as reducing profits go... I don't know if you have noticed but we are kinda of in a global recession right now, that new games are still selling as well as they are is simply amazing. I notice game execs never mention how the economy is hurting their profits except when they lay off staff, any other time its 'piracy and used game sales'.

No mention of the fact that used sales can lead to new customers either. Where they may not want to try a game for $40, they may pick it up for $20, then go grab expansions new and future releases. Its also how some people get into other developers or publishers and then go buy new for more of their catalogue.

Trying to kill off used game sales is pure greed.
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William Usher Assistant Editor, Cinema Blend6 years ago
@Dave, I can't seem to get over this statement....

"The consumer doesn't need second hand games. To those people who keep arguing that they don't want to pay £40/$60 for a game: don't buy it then. This isn't food, or medication that you need to survive, it's a luxury. Wait for the price to drop."

Modern Warfare 2 just a short while ago was still like $40 on Steam. How many more months/years are gamers supposed to wait to play a two year old game for cheap? If you see a copy of Modern Warfare 2 on a GameStop shelf for only $19, used, a few months after its released then I honestly don't see why they should wait another two years to buy the game for $19 on a digital distribution service. Makes no sense whatsoever.

I don't see how millions and millions of gamers are greedy by NOT wanting to over-pay when they don't have to. As everyone else already pointed out, if you can get music, movies and cars for less, then you will. That's also not to mention -- just as everyone else already pointed out -- that companies like EA are quick to shutdown servers (or expire online passes) a few years after a game's release. Basically, if everyone stops getting used games but instead waits for the retail prices to drop they're not only risking getting a product that's no longer supported but they also risk getting a product whose features may already be disabled (i.e., Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit's multiplayer online pass expirations). What's the point of buying a game brand new after waiting a few years for the price to drop if you can't even access all the features?

As everyone else already stated, pubs/devs just need to create an alternative solution to the used game's not like they don't have the money (pubs especially). Activision makes a billion dollars every year off Call of Duty, they could easily create a Gamefly type service where gamers send in their used games, get a digital receipt/coupon for their next purchase and then resell the physical copy of the game from their own shop.

Telling the consumer that they're greedy and limiting their options just isn't a smart move, because, again, buying some games used opens up the potential market for that same gamer to potentially save up and buy the sequel or spinoff brand new if they liked what they played. In fact, a lot of our readers also comment on how they trade in games to buy other brand new games as a day-one purchase. I don't see how limiting the used game facility helps to sell new games when you just cut out a potential option for a consumer to buy a game new by trading in an old one.
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John Bye Lead Designer, Future Games of London6 years ago
Brad - "Ok if not cars what about books? Music? Movies? All can be used as examples where a used market has not hurt the new market at all."

No major music retailer sells second hand CDs alongside new copies. There are dedicated (small, independent) second hand music stores.

No major movie retailer sells second hand DVDs alongside new copies, although perhaps unsurprisingly videogame retailers like Gamestation who are largely reliant on second hand sales do sell second hand movies, even though they keep little or no new stock. Again, second hand movies are mostly sold in dedicated second hand stores like CEX.

All of the major videogame retailers (Game, Gamestation, HMV, GameStop in the US etc, and even some non-specialist stores like supermarkets and electronics retailers) stock second hand games alongside new copies, price them at a similar level, blur the distinction between the two, and even push second hand copies on people who bring a new copy to the till.

I have no problem with people buying and selling second hand games in second hand stores or via eBay or a car boot sale or whatever. I've done that myself. But when major retailers are giving half their shelf space to second hand stock, practically forcing people to buy used copies and giving incentives for rushing through a game and trading it in as quickly as possible to fuel those lucrative used sales, it's not just taking money out of all our pockets, it's also distorting the entire market.

If I walk into a high street retailer looking for a game which came out more than a couple of months ago, unless it was a Mario game, Zumba, or a big budget blockbuster like Call of Duty, the chances are that if they have any stock at all it will be used. The only new stock most stores seem to carry are a handful of perennial big sellers, the top ten on each platform, a selection of the latest releases, and some left-over stock piled up randomly on shelves at the back of the store.

William - "Modern Warfare 2 just a short while ago was still like $40 on Steam. How many more months/years are gamers supposed to wait to play a two year old game for cheap?"

That's supply and demand. Most games drop to £15-20 within a few months of release, and that's usually when I buy them, but a handful of big sellers and long tail titles like Call of Duty and pretty much anything featuring Mario more-or-less hold their price for over a year. If 20 million people are willing to pay $50 for Modern Warfare, why should Activision drop their prices any faster?

On the other hand, I'm sure the majority of games would make more money by selling more copies at a lower price point, particularly via digital where there's no manufacturing cost and very little shipping cost, and the store takes a smaller cut of the sale price than traditional retail distributors and retailers would.
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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters6 years ago
@John Bye - That was pretty much everything I was going to say. Saved me a lot of typing there. :)
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Alex Bunch Proof Reader, ZiCorp Studios6 years ago
Of course Obsidian's chief creative officer, Chris Avellone loves digital distribution. It's the only way the consumer can put up with Obsidian's constant releases of bug ridden untested games. If it wasn't for downloadable patches they'd be out of a job.
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Brad McGraw QA Tester 6 years ago
@ John Bye

You do make some good points, and you make some good distinctions, and when major game publishers start making those same disctinctions between a used store and places like Gamestop maybe it will have more weight. As it stands now the people loudly proclaiming against used sales make no distinction at all, its ALL used sales are bad and equal piracy.

I also don't think that publishers are so tied to a retailer that they have to put up with the things Gamestop does. (and I in now way agree with Gamestop, I think they are completely slimey) If publishers do not like the way Gamestop does business then they do not have to do business with them. Other retailers will love the extra traffic coming their way. Make agreements with these stores about placement of used games etc... I do think that publishers can win the moral high ground if they position themselves against the retailers that do the things you mention, because they are completely slimey tactics.
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John Bye Lead Designer, Future Games of London6 years ago
I do wonder what would happen if (say) Activision told Gamestop or Game that they couldn't have any stock of the next Call of Duty if they didn't stop selling second hand copies of it, or at least give them a cut of the profits. I suspect at this point Game need Call of Duty and the annual revenue bump its release gives them more than Call of Duty needs Game.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game6 years ago
As John Bye said, stores that sell new films don't really sell used generally, and don't try to push second hand sales whilst taking promotion cash from the publishers for the new product they then talk the customer out of buying. The AAA games industry needs to work together re Gamestop Or Game. If Ubisoft alone refused to sell a big release to a massive retailer without agreement to not sell second hand for a year, they will lose sales to something else. If Ubisoft, EA, Activision, Capcom, Square Enix and THQ all insist on it together, without the agreement GameStop is left with a very underwhelming AAA selection, and either caves or becomes a second hand only store.
If only EA and Activision could stop having the pissing contests and start talking...
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Nathan Runge Managing Director, Genius Interaction Pty Ltd6 years ago
There are a lot of arguments being made in this thread that are fundamentally flawed.

Dave Herod has been making some excellent points regarding the nature of the second-hand problem. In many ways the problem is two-fold. There's the consumer problem, as Dave described on the 14th, that consumers feel entitled to a product at a price of their choosing, and there's the industry problem, that certain retailers are pushing used game sales over new game sales. These sales are often at close-to-new prices, while reimbursing the original purchaser only a small amount.

The 'consumer problem' is out of our control and, as is evident in reading this thread, it is tied to the arguments of DRM and piracy. While I will stay away from those points if I can, there are many examples of the entitled attitude on this page. Jamie Knight said, for example:

"Digital Distribution is just one more control method from the industry chiefs to screw the gamer out of more money for less service. "

Starting with the fundamental problem that "more money" is an inaccurate claim, it also implies that the industry is a homogenous body, from retailer to developer and publisher. It is one, among many, "rallying cries" for gamers to "take what is theirs" in this thread.

Preetpal Basson went so far as to complain about "moaning dev(s)" and seems to imply that game players are entitled to the product because the quality has dipped, even going so far as to draw comparisons to piracy in a positive manner. The crux of the matter is summarised by William Usher:

"I don't see how millions and millions of gamers are greedy by NOT wanting to over-pay when they don't have to."

Yes, yes they are. I am sure that most of us would agree that piracy is wrong, and this argument would rationalise that, also. Used game sales are, effectively, the same thing in the current business model. You are purchasing a license from someone who does not own it, with no direct benefit to the entity which does own that license. Used sales do not need to work in this manner, but as they do, the distinction is a dark shade of grey.

Another matter I wanted to address was the prospect of a publisher, or collection of publishers, threatening to withhold high-profile titles from the shelves of retailers engaged in the "industry problem" side of the issue. It's an interesting proposition, with the foot-down approach first brought up by Morville O'Driscoll, and Brad McGraw seems to be the first to suggest withholding stock or business.

As a single entity, no publisher has the real capacity to withhold all business from GameStop. Certainly they could sustain withholding certain high-sellers, but this is unlikely to occur. Second-hand sales are an industry-wide concern. If one publisher was to blackmail or actually withhold some business from the retail sector, they would be taking the entire cost and risk upon themselves. No publisher will, or should, undertake this sort of practice in isolation as it's simply an irresponsible business decision.

Some, such as Andrew Goodchild, have suggested a collaboration between publishers. If this was to occur, change might be possible.

Mike Kennedy has also made an interesting suggestion, though he obviously has his own interests in the matter. Still, a standardised second-hand re-sale agreement framework for publishers could streamline the process and lead to a more consumer and industry-friendly environment, but would require significant sacrifice from retailers.
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Nathan Runge Managing Director, Genius Interaction Pty Ltd6 years ago
As an aside to the discussion, this article appeared on Gamespy today/yesterday:
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