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GameFly: Online Passes having "negligible" impact

Co-founder Sean Spector describes mail-order rental outfit's survival plan in a digital world

Publishers' efforts to get a cut of second-hand game sales are having a negligible impact on GameFly's mail-order rental business, company cofounder and senior vice president of business development and content Sean Spector told GamesIndustry International.

When asked about the effect such schemes have had on his company's business, Spector said, "Very little. It's probably frustrating for some [customers], but the overall impact is negligible."

Two years ago, publishers began rolling out Online Passes, one-time use codes included with games to unlock certain features for the original purchaser. Those features could be unlocked by other people for a fee, giving publishers a cut of the lucrative second-hand gaming market. The Online Pass restrictions affect everyone beyond the game's original retail purchaser, so renters are similarly stuck having to pay the usual $10 fee to get full access to the games they play.

Spector was less straight forward about how the company will evolve to cope with the changing industry landscape, other than to say that GameFly is likely to be more digitally oriented 10 years down the road. (The company has already moved a few steps in that direction, selling downloadable PC games directly to customers and publishing its first mobile game, Writer Rumble, last week.) When asked about the array of threats to the traditional physical games business--among them streaming services, free-to-play, mobile and social games--Spector declined to detail specific plans.

"Unfortunately, no one has a crystal ball, and since I am not privy to the hardware companies' decisions, we have to proceed on the console side as we have always done -- listen to our customer and give them good value for our service," Spector said. "We have made a lot of investments in digital for both PC and mobile and will continue to do so. The good news is there are more gamers today than ever before."

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Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.