Braben sticks knife into secondhand games market
'It's killing single-player titles'
Elite co-creator and Raspberry Pi backer David Braben reckons the secondhand games market is detrimental to the development of core-gamer and single-player titles because most retailers won't give them long-term sales support.
"I know publishers who stopped games in development because most shops won't reorder stock after initial release, as they rely on the churn from the re-sales," said the Frontier Developments founder in an interview with Gamasutra.
"It's killing single-player games in particular, because they will get pre-owned, and it means your day one sales are it, making them super high risk. I mean, the idea of a game selling out used to be a good thing, but nowadays, those people who buy it on day one may well finish it and return it."
Braben claimed the price of new games would have come down a long time ago if the industry was getting a share of the revenue from used game sales.
"Developers and publishers need that revenue to be able to keep doing high production value games, and so we keep seeing fewer and fewer of them."
Publishers may have attempted to tackle the issue with online passes for multiplayer content, a move that devalues second-hand titles with a large online focus. But as story-centric content rarely translates well to multiplayer games, the industry has seen a decline.
High street retailer Game, renowned for pre-owned titles, arguably suffered as a result, by relying too much on a market that publishers are fighting hard to eliminate. Ironically, if the retailer had thrashed out a deal to share second-hand revenue, the market may have just kept it afloat. ®
Single-player games that take note of this advice aren't dead. That tells you a lot. Hell, it's hard enough to find single-player games in retail stores nowadays without attacking the very concept of them. How dare someone complete a game!
In the era of BBC Micros and ZX Spectrum, it was still a problem - in theory - countered by the fact that actually most games lasted much longer anyway and could be replayed (hell, I'm still buying emulators to play some of them again). Even DOS games would have had the same problems but - gosh - sales of GoG.com and similar sites are doing quite well, thank you, and paying their dividends. Recently I had the choice between the old and the new Syndicate. Guess which I chose. Now ask yourself why.
The era of £50 single-player games being the norm is way over, that we can agree on. But claiming that there's somehow a problem with the business model is to ignore the very business model that got him where he is today (aside from selling small devices that are delayed and not having a single example in the wild despite HUGE fuss about being released). It works... IF you play fair.
If you can sell a game that's popular, people WON'T trade in their copies. They will buy it for multiple platforms. They will buy it for their friends. If you sell a game that's recycled pretty junk, it'll end up in the pre-owned bin, of course it will, where it only serves to tell your potential customers NOT to buy the damn thing at full price. It's like claiming that game rental destroys the market (by the same arguments he uses, they would do more damage!) but OnLive seems to be doing pretty good at that (and I might JUST buy Space Marine if the price comes down a bit because of a quite good demo of it using my "free" first OnLive game).
Make decent games. Supply decent demos (What's happened to them? You think I will risk my PC and cash on your dodgy coding and idea of gameplay without having a quick jaunt first?). Stop paying for FMV and ads that look so unlike the game they have to have a disclaimer. Stop paying for DRM that's about as much use as a chocolate teapot in a heatwave. Price reasonably, so I don't WANT to give it away, and people *won't* buy a secondhand copy of it because it's not worth the difference between that and a new one, and so I can buy 2, 3, 4 copies for friends. Make it replayable (not the same enemies in the same location every single time). Make it not take up 10% of my disk space so it's the first candidate for culling. Put it on lots of platforms so I end up buying it for my phone too.
Then go look at the "indie" market, see that they've done ALL of those things and have stolen all the revenue from big studios by doing just that, even to the point of "pay what you want" and giveaways (just got a free key for Faerie Solitaire from the developer - ended up paying for another for my girlfriend in appreciation because she liked the game).
Your second-hand market wasn't the downfall of your game. It was your poor attempt at hitting the first-hand market and severely stripping them of value that did that. At that point, you'd ONLY consider looking at second-hand or your mates copies. If it was really any good, both you and your friend and the guy who sold the game would have wanted to hang onto it.
I'll tell you where all my "game" money goes nowadays:
- Humble Bundles
- Indie games
- Steam sales
And most of the things I buy *are* single-player. I don't even own most of the big titles of the last five years.
Start making things that people DON'T want to re-sell the second they get hold of them, or can't complete in an afternoon. But, of course, that's HARD. This guy did it once. You'd think he'd know that it was harder to do than just knocking up a formulaic, unoriginal modern game with pretty graphics.
Braben claimed the price of new games would have come down a long time ago
He also has a bridge he would like to sell.
Go get a grip, Mr Braben
"Second hand cars sales are ruining new cars! Manufacturers demand a cut!"
"Second hand book sales are ruining new books! Publishers demand a cut!"
"Second hand clothes sales are ruining new clothes! Tailors demand a cut!"
"Second hand DVDs sales are ruining new DVDs! Distributors demand a cut!"
Once I buy a thing, it is *MINE*. Doctrine of first sale (or whatever the Yanks call it).
I will agree - the second hand market is ruining the market for vastly over-hyped, over-budget AAA titles. But just because the market decides that you product is a bit crap is not excuse to try and curtail the market - change the product! Trying to destroy the free-market is the tactic of the RIAA, BPI, MPAA etc.
Why the hell should I pay £40+ for a game when I can get totally ace games from the likes of the Humble Bundle?
Braben and Bell started something amazing with the original "Elite"...how the mighty have fallen.
"the price of new games would have come down a long time ago if the industry was getting a share of the revenue from used game sales"
...more games would have been sold if they hadn't been such greedy b'stards in the first place and priced the games at a more sensible price. Falling revenue is rarely countered effectively by upping the sales price.
...if the games actually had replay value then gamers might keep the games and not return them after completing them in 6 hours
...95% of the budget wasn't be spent on visual effects, instead producing games that a gamer might want to play for longer as once you've watched a movie you tend not to need to watch it again. (similar to the above point admittedly)
And then do the same for cars, so manufacturers get a cut of second hand sales as well.
Also, I recycle toilet wastes as compost, should I send money to the food industry, you know, to make sure the can survive?