Bethesda VP: used games are "absolutely" a concern

Bethesda walks to the beat of its own single-player drum

In the past few years, Bethesda has succeeded with single-player titles like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Dishonored, while the rest of the market pursues microtransactions and online game modes. In an interview with Destructoid, Bethesda Softworks vice president of public relations & marketing Peter Hines said that the company is still concerned with the secondhand market, it just has a different way to combat it.

"Absolutely it's a concern. We have tried to mitigate it by creating games that offer replayability, by supporting them with DLC that's worth hanging onto the game for, or offering tools that let them take things further," said Hines.

"Games are not cheap to buy because they're expensive to make, and people are looking for ways to keep it affordable. I'm not sure anyone has figured out a solution that works for everyone, and there simply may not be one until someone figures out how to include developers and publishers in the loop on used games sales instead of keeping it all for themselves."

Hines explained that single-playing gaming is nowhere near dead, and assertions to the contrary come from developers in other markets.

"Single-player games aren't going anywhere," said Hines. "Bethesda Softworks has been making single-player games for all of our 25+ years in the industry. We're still here, we're still making them, and people are still buying them. Dishonored was single-player and people really loved it, and it sold well. Skyrim was a complete success. A single-player RPG. There's practically a cottage industry dedicated to talking about how that isn't possible or why that won't succeed. Console fans won't get a game like that. Has to have multiplayer of some kind. PC gaming is dead. It's gotta be a shooter. RPGs are a niche."

"It's important to note that quite a few people who tend to say those kinds of things do so because it's not what they're doing. No publisher or developer making single-player games ever comes out and says single-player games won't work. Guys that do mobile games predict that console gaming as we know it is dying. People that do console-only games proclaim that PC is dead. Funny how people don't predict failure for the thing it is they're making or doing. They make those statements to build up or defend what they're doing and tear down what they aren't doing," he explained. "Or, they just don't know what the hell they're talking about."

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Latest comments (17)

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
Hollywood Movie #239.042

Cinematic release
Expensive home version release BluRay
Slightly less expensive home version DVD
Rental release
Pay per view release
Flat subscription service release.
FreeTV licensing
Bargain bin.

Video Game:

Expensive home version release
Bargain bin
(at the very best something such as a half-price version is being sold)
(only the successful games get a game of the year edition)
(worst case: the game is sold for $3 on steam to promote the sequel)

Peter Hines additions:

Replayability, which is weird since people hardly watch a 90 minute movie twice, alternate ending or not.
DLC support, which is like hoping the new James Bond BluRay will enable your company to sell additional 10 minute action setpieces.
Offering Tools.

MMOs go the Hollywood route to some extend by having boxed versions with a subscription on top and then slowly slashing the price until they go f2p. Arguable the title must have the structure to be able to go that route. Maybe Bethesda should look at it the way Hollywood does. Break even at the silver screen, make long term profits with everything else. If the cinematic release makes insane amounts of cash then good, if not, then keep at it selling the product any way you can. Games cost as much as big Hollywood production, yet they are often treated as if they were some wanna be Top10 music hit you just produced to $250k.
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 4 years ago
I don't get why publishers don't have buy back schemes to reduce the used copies on the market, they could even sell them back to used game retailers, that way they'd be getting a slice of the pie
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James Prendergast Research Chemist 4 years ago
@ Klaus,

Not so sure about the "Peter Hines additions" critiques. I mean, I re-watch movies all the time. It's the reason I actually buy DVDs (or rent them). In fact, in one moment of madness when I was much younger I left the theatre after watching The Matrix and turned around and went right back in again for a second viewing. The best movies are very, very rewatchable - otherwise they would have no value being shown year upon year around Christmas time (for example). I can't count the number of times I've watched Scrooged or It's a wonderful life! Sad as that may be! :)

I also re-read books and re-play games all the time too... but not the shallow, two-dimensional ones.

Smart and well-designed/thought-out DLC support can result in increased sales or kept copies. I don't think there's any data to the contrary, is there?

Tools can also restrict selling of the product as well - and can result in multiple copies being bought, though this data is easily confused with great games selling multiple copies to the same customer as well so it's less well-understood/supported by the data. I probably spent almost as much time map-making for Quake 3 Arena as I did practicing the game... I'm sure I wasn't alone in that.

@Craig. Easy to understand when you take into the current ideology of company heads as well as the total economic costing for such an endeavour.

1) Current concensus on operational objectives is to focus on your core competencies. Even if you're doing well in something which isn't a core competency, you close it down/sell it off and out-source it because the thinking is that it will be cheaper/less distracting for your company's operation. I don't subscribe to this line of thinking but it's a buzz-word/thought that is liked by lots of investors... so publically traded companies find it difficult to go against this sort of grain.

2) To set up such an operation would cost a lot of money both on personnel, infrastructure and logistics. If a company is not already performing such a "buy-back" then it's very unlikely that setting one up from scratch would result in profit any time soon after initiation. Companies don't like playing the long-game at the moment so it's unlikely that this idea would gain much traction.
An alternate idea to partner with a third party (such as Gamestop) to do this is also unlikely to gain any ground because the third pary has no incentive to do this and not choose to take all the money themselves. There's really not much the publisher/game company can do to incentivise them except give them higher percentages of initial sales and this isn't really an attractive idea for execs and bean-counters. I've not got enough knowledge of the numbers involved for all parties there to actually try and guess whether it would be feasible or not, to be honest.
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Show all comments (17)
Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
The customer has to buy it and he has to keep it. Sure, DLC will keep a good portion of players from selling the game. But DLC also costs money. The Gamestop proposition is not to make the customer see value in a product by trying to tell him it was the key for opening up a world of highly desirable paid DLC.

Instead a used game shop is offering the customer 'real' monetary value for his game; even if it is just store credit at Overpriced Inc. You cannot fight that with paid DLC, you can only do that with free DLC. Content which was factored into the budget before release to extend the life cycle of the product. Works fine on PC, let me see those console certification terms again.... ok, you're screwed. So why is the customer or Gamestop the bad guy when Sony and MS keep their 3rd parties from competing in a way that makes the most sense?

The other "used game" offer is that of reduced prices. Gamestop buying up used copies, selling them for $45 instead of $60? There is whining and there is looking reality in the eye. Long tailed sales will not manifest from stubbornly sticking to one pricing and advertising model.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 4 years ago
"Funny how people don't predict failure for the thing it is they're making or doing. They make those statements to build up or defend what they're doing and tear down what they aren't doing... Or, they just don't know what the hell they're talking about."

So true...
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James Prendergast Research Chemist 4 years ago
@ Klaus.. I see what you're saying. However, isn't the argument of DLC usually that it's factored into the budget before release? I mean, this is the big sticking point of day one DLC...

Also, you could do crazy things like "get the DLC free with a brand new copy of the game" (online authenticated code required) to get around the gamestop shenanigans... OR lower the price of the first-sale copy if it's bought with the DLC.

These aren't insurmountable problems. Cause enough havoc and the second hand retail businesses will come to the table to talk. They're already doing so with regards to the digital content cards they're beginning to sell in the stores.
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Kevin L. Clark Founder, Editor-In-Chief, Fresh Thinking Media Group, LLC4 years ago
"Funny how people don't predict failure for the thing it is they're making or doing." [Spot on.] ||
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Rob Craig Instructor / Writer 4 years ago
You know, there is this thing that happens among media consumers that can promote a product well beyond it's initial release. We all do it! Do you have a movie that you love, and want to share the experience with a friend? Loan it to them! It's quite possible they will fall in love with it and either buy it, rent it, or share the experience verbally with a friend who intern does the same. In music, you can hand over the headphones, or crank it up in your car and give them a taste of the product. I can loan them a CD, send them an MP3, etc. If they like it, they buy into it too. They might even become a hard core fan, go to a concert, buy the next album pre-release, etc. It's internal consumer marketing at the benefit of the consumer - and ultimately the distributor / creator. It's a long tail concept, is nothing new, but something I think that is often overlooked by impatient publicly traded game making giants.

In video games, there's this growing intent on disabling the product upon transfer of ownership, or marrying it to a server (Steam, Origin) in which digital ownership is verified via internet bandwidth (required), login accounts are entered, etc. Sure, I can pass along my XBox 360 or PS3 game to share ...for now. The hassles of installation, patching, logins, and so much more in the future of gaming distribution mean that my ability to share my experience with other potential fans is greatly hindered. Even worse, I think the love affair so many have with nostalgic media (discovered years later) will potentially be non-existent. All of this post-purchase attachment means the product comes in pieces, over time. It's hard to share, to inspire consumerism through consumers. Perhaps game makers see this simply as software. But gamers see it as so much more.

I realize that it's a problem without a clear solution. Games are released to players. Players discover issues well beyond the internal QA process. Hardware manufactures write better drivers, etc. Like Tom Pickard mentioned, games are polished a bit and more attractively priced when all the pieces have been added to the product - making it mostly complete. It's still a messy package, hard to transfer to another (at least for the sake of sharing something a player feels strongly about).
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Gilberto Najera Cloud Consultant, Sm4rt Security Services4 years ago
How about making replayable games? I remember I used to play Nintendo world cup, super spike v ball, rc pro am, bomberman, and others for tens of hours. Maybe I just finished some of them once, but played them a lot. The main target of any game must be to be entertaining, challenging and engaging. Games should not be like movies that you see once and you are done.
Would you sell a game that keeps giving you hours of fun for half of its original price?
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Alex Comer Games Developer 4 years ago
On the one hand, we worry about not getting money from preowned players, on the other, we embrace the free to play model. Not thinking things through here.

With F2P, we accept that we won't see a penny from most players, on the grounds that a small proportion will pay us enough to carry the rest – and counterintuitively the games make more money. People who buy preowned are equivalent to those free players, and it probably increases overall revenue in a similar way.

The preowned market is a great example of free enterprise finding a natural solution to a problem. People want to reduce the cost of games. Some reduce the cost by trading in; others reduce the cost by buying preowned. The likely result: more people buy the games new, and a lot more play them.
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Chris Madsen4 years ago
I like what steam is doing now :)
Pre-order with bonus rewards, the more pre-orders they get the more rewards you get.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 4 years ago
A good game is like a good book. Even after it's done, if you like it, you'll go back to it again and again. In terms of Bethsoft's games (primarily the Elder Scrolls and Fallout games), it's impossible to see everything in one play unless you sink a few hundred hours in poking around in every corner (some of which you may fall through, ha ha).

That and Game of the Year versions offer the best value for some who prefer to not get caught up in the weekend box office crap the industry is in that's going to sink it if it doesn't stop. A good game has a longer lifespan than what any bookkeeper or analyst claims and I think it would be better if there were a more reliable way to gauge sales than to cram them all into a few days or weeks and say something is a "failure" even if it sells a few million copies. At full retail in a crappy economy at that.

As for games having little to NO replay value as some suggest, really? Hell, where do you guys who say this think speed runs for the old games came from? REPLAYING THEM over and over. I can't think of that many people I know that played some classic games one time and went back to the store with them for a trade in like people do now with many titles. Of course, there have been some awful games that DID go back because they were bad, but that's a different case.
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Barrie Tingle Live Producer, Maxis4 years ago
@ Craig Always said that about the likes of Origin (since I work for EA). Would be a great addition to any digital distribution system where you could sell/trade in your old games and get a discount on a new purchase. Obvious example in the case of EA would be; trade in FIFA 13 and get FIFA 14 cheaper.

btw, I in no way talk for EA future policies or planned features on Origin with this post so no quoting me as "look whats coming..." :)
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Tim Ogul Illustrator 4 years ago
I still hope that the technology that was being hinted about for next-gen consoles is actually in there, where they can make used games non-playable at their whim. Now, I don't think that they should use this technology to make used games completely unplayable, they should just use it to make them so that you have to input a unique code to access the full game, otherwise it only works as a demo mode. The access code would run about $10-20 which would go entirely to the developer, so instead of buying a used game for $55 in the first week, to save that precious $5, you'd end up paying $75 if you went that route so you might as well buy it new. If the Gamestop wants to sell the game for $35 so that they make money, the developers make money, and the players get a little deal in the process, then so much the better.

And for those saying that games are too expensive, remember that used games completely distort the retail market, by making it so that devs have to charge the most they can get in the initial run, when they aren't competing with used copies, and in which retailers have no interest in dropping those prices after launch, because they want to push the used copies instead. If used games were not an option, or if they were made less profitable relative to a new copy, then publishers could charge less for the retail copies (or at least be more likely to recoup their costs), and the retail versions would go on sale much sooner in the launch cycle, likely matching the traditional used prices.
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David Serrano Freelancer 4 years ago
@Craig Burkey

Exactly. All of the large publishers and developers should have programs to offer discounts on other games in their libraries, upcoming titles, avatar items, DLC, swag, etc... in exchange for used copies. In addition to taking the copies out of circulation, it would provide an additional outlet for developers and publishers to directly engage consumers. They could also donate the copies they collect to colleges and universities which have game development and design programs.
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Publishers and some developers seem to want used gone, but are willing to offer nothing in return for this, you expect consumers to pay full price for what they have traditionally been able to resell, and offer nothing more of value for this, then you expect to receive all the extra profits this might entail, while making sure all your customers are poorer for it, and again you will provide absolutely nothing of value to cover this lack of value, basically in theory sure it would be nice if customers bought new copies of games for donkeys years, however trying to do it by killing of used sales, rather then providing more value to new customers, then a resold copy would provide is daft, and no making it impossible to multiplayer etc with old copies is also directly robbing your customers of fairly paid for value.

Sure its a difficult prospect, but just because its software you feel you have the right to, you expect your software to be treated with the same legal rights of say... a car, you don't want it to be stolen, you want it to be paid for, and anything extra you want to be paid for at your maintenance center(DLC), however despite expecting your software to be treated like a car, you then turn around and say, no no, no, its not your car, you buy car, you stuck with it for life, your not allowed to sell this car to anyone else., its one thing to do that to computer code ie copying as a special case but quite another to do it for a license of a game.

Basically its greed, pure and simple driving this, you want more cash at your customers expense, and you will provide nothing to cover this gap, every single gamer out there can smell this greed on you, it tarnishes the public name of any company to admit this particular attempt at cash based gluttony, and undermines any loyalty you think you might have gained in the past, no one likes being ripped of at someone else's expense, even folks who normally don't resell games, ie most gamers do not like to learn they've lost the right to, but are still expected to pay the same price, basically the way you've done it, smacks of greed of the worse kind, be ashamed.

Also as free to play shows used games mean a bigger audience, a bigger ecosystem for your game so to speak, which as long as you provide extra value for full price copies, without stealing basic gaming abilities of buying it used, still provide mp etc, you can then subtly encourage used buyers to upgrade to the price of your game by providing them extra value whilst simultaneously your "new" copy can provide more benefits still (not to mention the right to resell it, leading to more customers), so their friends seeing them play your game will be tempted to buy a new copy for a superior experience.

You people are plain looking at used the wrong way, annoying large numbers of customers, showing greed and making a PR nightmare and if you get your way you'll achieve the very opposite of what you want to achieve... more cash, me thinks you just plain have some pretty stupid people working at these companies deciding corporate strategies, there's no other reasonable explanation for the used witch hunt, you've taken an asset and deliberately tried to turn it toxic, bravo.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alexander McConnell on 24th April 2013 4:12pm

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Mario Tommadich Software QA Analyst, Indie Game Developer 4 years ago
"It's important to note that quite a few people who tend to say those kinds of things do so because it's not what they're doing. No publisher or developer making single-player games ever comes out and says single-player games won't work. Guys that do mobile games predict that console gaming as we know it is dying. People that do console-only games proclaim that PC is dead. Funny how people don't predict failure for the thing it is they're making or doing. They make those statements to build up or defend what they're doing and tear down what they aren't doing," he explained. "Or, they just don't know what the hell they're talking about."
Spot on. Couldn't agree more.
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