Developers Inventing New Strategies to Fight Used Game Sales

By Blake Ellison, Nov 10, 2008 11:41am PST Epic president Mike Capps hinted recently that methods aside from new-copies-only DLC might appear to incentivize gamers away from the used game trade, which for years has taken potential profits from developers and left it in the hands of retailers.

"I've talked to some developers who are saying 'If you want to fight the final boss you go online and pay $20, but if you bought the retail version you got it for free,'" explained Capps to GamesIndustry, explaining one possible strategy that could take form.

Epic's Gears of War 2 is taking a stance against used game sales

Around the Epic offices, used games aren't exactly welcome. "We certainly have a rule at Epic that we don't buy any used games--sure as hell you're not going to be recognised as an Epic artist going in and buying used videogames--because this is how we make our money and how all our friends in the industry make money," Capps said.

Making a thinly-veiled reference to mega-retailer GameStop, Capps commented, "Our primary retailer makes the majority of its money off of secondary sales." The president sees a solution in digital distribution--or at least downloadable expansions to traditionally sold games. "I think DLC will be increasing in scope just because in the US we really need to make strides against the second-hand market," he said.

Epic is making its own strides by including one-time DLC codes in new copies of Gears of War 2, which released last week. EA Canada and Harmonix have followed suit in NBA Live 09 and Rock Band 2, respectively.

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67 Threads | 385 Comments
  • The answer is staring you in the face....

    If you want to compete with retailers and get some of the "secondary money" that comes with computer (or video) games, then you need to offer a better alternative. Instead of whining about a market trend, use it to your advantage.

    Retailers offer used video games, and gamers buy them. Why is that? Gamers buy used games because they're cheaper and the only drawback (the game is used) is a minor one. Retailers sell used games because it brings them additional cash.

    Rather than "punishing" players for buying used games, reward those who buy new games AND get yourself a share of the used game market. Here are some things you can do:

    1) Sell older titles at reduced prices. You can easily beat retail stores when it comes to the "reduced price" game. If some used and out-of-print games are selling for upwards of $100 on eBay, you can expect to continue selling your (decent) games for a long time after retailers have given them up for lack of profit. One example: Diablo 2 is almost ten years old and people still buy the Diablo 2 Chest brand new because it's cheap. Other old computer games are repackaged and sold by secondary owners for $10-15 a pop.

    2) Resell used games yourself. Anything retailers can do to re-certify used games, you can do better. DLC can be sold with a key, and the key can be transferred for a nominal fee. Why would a gamer pay a retailer $15 for a used game when they can get the same game from you for $20 with a DLC key?

    3) Give gamers the option of "renewing" their DLC or reactivating a used game by paying a small fee. If the price is right, you'll make money every time the game is re-sold.


  • Wow, so Epic wants to make more money, and has abandoned the PC market.

    Sounds like you guys have an identity crisis on your hands, here.

    What you're really after is more money, bottom line. If you wanted to create an easy solution and not jeopardize your player base actually hating you for it, you would find a way to get in on Gamestop's action.

    You could propose a contract for your specific titles where you receive a percentage of used game sales. Then again, it's their money so why would they give it to you?

    Seriously, there have been retailers selling used games since games have existed, and this has never been a problem. Quit your whining and man up, make better games and don't go running from a market just because there's pirates.

    You don't think there's pirates on the console systems? HAHAHAHAHAAHA.

    Seriously wake up.

  • For people who don't understand that it's your right to do what you want with your property, I'll put it in a gamer's perspective instead of a buisness perspective.

    You just bought a game, brand new off the shelf. You drive home eagerly and put it into your console, you play it for a couple of hours and decide that you don't like it. What are you going to do? Trade it in? The store won't want it, thay can't sell used games. Sell it to your friend? They won't want it with half the levels missing. So now you're stuck with a game you don't like, nothing to do but keep it or throw it away. What a waste.

    Another point I could make is that game retail is a circle of life. The developer ships the game to the store, the store sells it and re-sells it and uses the profit to be able to sell the dev's games again. What if there's no re-sale? The stores profits can be cut severely and may not be able to sell more games by the dev, killing their profit as well.

  • I bought my first used PC game this week. Ironically, I bought it used specifically so that my money would not support the developer's inclusion of the shitty DRM install limits.

    From here on out, if there's a game that I want and it has install limits then I'll only buy it used. It's legal; I still get to play the game; and my money does not go toward supporting this type of DRM.

    Sorry, I really want to buy your games, but installation limits are over the line for me, and I will not pay you for that. I passed on a handful of games this year due to this issue, but now I'll be catching up.

  • For me, it made more sense to splurge $300.00 for an Xbox 360 than to blow $1,300.00 on the kind of PC that Crysis and the rest of the new-age games are going to play. So, now, armed with my non-red-ringed (thus far) 360, I regret its inability to MOD games, and it makes me a little upset that in the last month I purchased the Limited Edition of Fallout 3, the limited edition of Gears of War: 2 and Dead Space, which is a grand total of $240.00 (note: strategy guide for Fallout 3 is in that price). That's a lot for 3 games, sure, but the enjoyment and hours of fun I get out of them is honestly really worth it. I mean, think about it, we're not over-eating, over-drinking, getting an STD (unless there is an unlockable for that in F3 or something), and we're contributing to our weak economy.

  • News Flash - Without trading in games and getting credit towards new ones, you would sell a LOT less games. Kids do not have tons of money, many times they make of for this by trading in 2-3 games to help offset the cost. I do it myself, and I'm not a kid. The good ones I keep, the others offset the cost of buying all I want to try. Without trades I would not have Guitar Hero World Tour set, Rock Band (game only) and several others. The trades all went to new games or, usually, preorders. Without the trades I would be without the games, and the sale would be lost altogether.

    At $60 a game, there are too many games fighting for too little money in my wallet, trades help. Otherwise, I wait until they hit less than $30 before I buy them. I am still waiting on COD4 for PC to hit $30 before I can get it, great game I'm sure but I will wait for it to drop before I purchase it. If I could have traded some PC games towards it I would have had it months ago at full cost, instead here I wait.

  • We're making this more complicated than it ought to be.

    Devs are trying to come up with incentives to encourage people to buy new games over used games (which are a few dollars cheaper in many cases). Thats it. Its going to take some trial and error to find a way to incentivize it that is acceptable to gamers.

    The stores that really get to devs are the game shops that buy used games very cheaply from gamers and resell them just under full price. They actively encourage people to buy used instead of new as they make great money on it. Dev and pubs don't limited leverage, as they want the stores are the distrobution channel for new products as well.

    This is a raw economic issue. It is much more profitable for stores to buy games cheap and resell them at near full value. There is no almost no reason for a customer to buy a new game over a used game.

    For PC games, digital distrobution is a good path. Unfortunately, this can become all or nothing. Game stores my not be happy with publisher selling a game over Steam instead of offering it on the stores own online channel. Price is another issue - drop price on the Steam version and the store may simply refuse to carry games from that publisher in the future. Its going to take a few years for this to settle.

  • What I find most amusing in this is that this is coming from the developers of a game that took something like 8 hours to complete and had almost no replay value. This is really disappointing and kind of disgusting, they are making money hand over fist. People get sick of games and want new ones, so what. Them being jealous that other people can resell a game is kind of pathetic. Some games I wouldn't ever buy new. Stranglehold was a decent game, not great, but worth $15. Had that not been used I wouldn't have even considered it.

    ... that and the other article on Shack today about the Harmonix founders getting $300M bonuses, I don't know how they will afford housing and food.