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Current pre-owned model is "destructive," says Cousens

Confrontation between retail and publishers leading to ridiculous business practices

The pre-owned market in its current form is destructive to the games industry and killing attempts to extend the length of a game's shelf life, according to Codemasters CEO Rod Cousens.

Confrontational attitudes between retailers and the publishing community is getting "ridiculous", said Cousens, when both should be working together to benefit from each other's business.

"Pre-owned isn't actually new... the difference was that it wasn't a significant percentage of the market, and it was never promoted as aggressively through the retail community as it is today," he said speaking in the second part of an interview with GamesIndustry.biz.

"You could argue for the retailer in that context, but also what it's done is kill things like subsequent exploitation in platinum and classics... and it expands the potential for piracy by default. They would argue that prices would suggest otherwise - I would say not, because by the time you get down through the food chain, a thing gets more and more ripped off.

"So my view is that it needs to be managed. I don't believe that retail is going to disappear soon - I also believe that 35 per cent of the world market that doesn't have broadband, and its only access it through retail, is still a significant part to any content creator."

Cousens said it's possible with a game like F1 2010 that Codemasters could release a smaller game on disc for retailer partners, and then follow up with downloadable content as the Formula One season unfolds, helping to build a bigger game for those that want it, addressing pre-owned and piracy issues.

"It's not inconceivable to say that we send out a Formula One game that's not complete - maybe it's got six tracks. Then they have to buy their next track, and you follow it around the world. When you turn up in Abu Dhabi you have to pay for the circuit, and whatever the changes are to the cars that are put through. That, I think, would deal with a lot of it, and also address the pre-owned."

But he also warned that retailers need to work with publishers or risk alienating them with aggressive second hand selling, which can only escalate to confrontational situations.

"What we have to figure out is how we're going to work together to make this happen. If retail takes a confrontational point of view and says that if we go online, they won't stock the box - and publishers then say that all they're going to do is put out DLC after launch that retail can't participate in... it's ridiculous.

"Actually, you need them to get to the stage where they stock the box. It's not inconceivable that you're going to ask them to give the box away at some point in time. But then, they participate to an extent in the subsequent DLC exploitation," he offered.

Instead of retail and content creators stubbornly fighting their own corner, they need to work together and find a way in which both can benefit from boxed and digital sales, said Cousens, otherwise creativity and the end product could suffer.

"The way it's structured today is destructive, and it's negative to creativity and innovation. I believe it has to be managed - there's an element of it which is acceptable, and there's an element that isn't.

"If the content creators could participate in the secondary or subsequent exploitation, I think that's fair game. I think equally the retailer then has an argument that he should participate in some of the DLC, which they ordinarily wouldn't. By default, you manage the process.

"What I don't buy off on is that retailers are responding to pre-owned because that's what consumer traffic tells them. If you put the price at zero, you'll get even more traffic, but where does that go?"

The full interview with Rod Cousens, where he also discusses the EGO engine and refining the Q&A process at Codemasters, can be read here.

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Matt Martin avatar

Matt Martin


Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.