back to article Braben sticks knife into secondhand games market

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 …


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  1. I think so I am?

    Goes to show

    why, I haven't payed for a new game in 2 years. Wait 3 weeks and buy 2-3 games for the price of a new one.

    1. I think so I am?

      Re: Goes to show

      Down vote! shame on you - GAME created the bubble that is 2nd hand games, if they didn't I would of bought all my games new.

      Their death will be brought about by their own doing !

  2. S.G.

    Why not?

    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?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Why not?

      Your analogies are not quite correct.

      Car manufacturers during the first 3-7 years (depending on car) get a cut of second hand sales from service, maintenance and execution of warranties. Even if a car is sold its warranty goes along with it. So in fact, that industry actually works off that paradigm.

      The problem of the games industry is that it never managed to find a compelling "warranty", "maintenance" and "support" arrangement for single player games.

      IMO they should have taken a leaf out of the soap opera marketing book on those. Release small episodes, release often and leave the core game purely as an engine to run the episodes. This however is against the way industry is structured so it is not surprising that nobody has tried it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why not?

        Repeat after me: CAR ANALOGIES NEVER WORK!

        1. admiraljkb

          Re: Why not?

          "Repeat after me: CAR ANALOGIES NEVER WORK!"

          Right. Games are published like a book. So a book analogy would be closer. In fact there recently as an article where someone was saying the second hand book market was costing sales, and that the publishers should get a cut on second hand book sales as well. I wish I could remember where I saw that now.

          I like the single player games truthfully. The storyline and all that is cool, and it'll get me by until the holodeck is invented. :) I don't generally like multiplayer, unless its a "lan party" with friends I know or family. Then its a lot more fun being able to taunt, razz and joke around.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Valve tried episodic gaming with Half-Life 2. I liked the idea.

        1. Figgus

          Re: Episodes

          Seems as if a few of you can't tell the difference between car dealerships and car manufacturers. The dealer gets the 3-7 year addon business, the manufacturer just sells the car once.

          This subtle distinction makes the analogy work much much much better.

          1. The Indomitable Gall

            Car dealerships

            Car dealerships pay a LOT of money to be an official Vauxhall/Ford/BMW whatever dealer and service centre. Warranty terms often specify that all servicing must be carried out by an official dealer, and that repairs must use official spare parts. That keeps the customer's business with the manufacturer for several years. Even afterwards, there's still a lot of money in aftermarket parts that are increasingly specialised and difficult to reproduce.

            Furthermore, a car costs thousands of pounds and R&D is a relatively small component of that -- manufacturing costs are high.

            Manufacturing costs for digitial media and cardboard packaging are negligible, but the time spent developing a commercial game is absolutely huge.

            1. davtom

              Re: Car dealerships

              Warranty terms for cars can't say that an authorized dealership must service the car now; that was legislated against, probably because it was anticompetitive.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why not?

        Valve tried it. We are all still waiting for HL2, Episode 3.

      4. npupp 1

        Re: Why not?

        because that is precisely what people want isn't it, 5 episodic parts to a 20 hour game released 2 months apart. playing 6 games concurrently while content is released sparradically for each of the six.


        replay value (perhaps alternate endings, perhaps non linearity), engaging content, hidden content; these would go a long way to keeping your games out of the 2nd hand rack a week after release EA (applies to others, but they are serial offender)

      5. The Jase

        Re: Why not?

        But DLC and add-ons are an additional revenue stream. You can't sell those on with your old games...

      6. TimNevins

        Re: Why not?

        The car is a good example.

        Same goes for houses/toys and everything in between.

        The point is that a warranty/maintenance/repair etc makes more sense for a car where mechanical wear and tear is the norm.

        The same does not apply for CD/DVD sitting in a wallet.

        As for passing the saving on to the End User this is a myth.History shows that every company will keep the boost in profits for shareholders and bonuses.

    2. Shrek

      Re: Why not?

      To be fair, a comparison to the car market doesn't exactly hold up...

      Car manufacturers (or at least the dealers of those manufacturers) do have the opportunity to compete with the non-manufacturer market by adding value to the sale (e.g. increased warranty and 'approved used' schemes). I appreciate that not everyone will feel that there is any value being added, but there is at least the opportunity to compete by adding value or supplying OEM parts etc.

      Again the consumer has a choice and the manufacturer can gain a slice of the action, as I see it with the games market there is simply no secondary revenue stream for games of the type mentioned in the article.

      Likewise with food you will have to consume more (new!) food to produce more waste, i.e. the process sustains itself.

      1. Anonymous Coward 101

        Re: Why not?

        Also, cars deteriorate with time and use and so become less valuable as time goes on. A second hand game could go on to the end of time provided it isn't damaged: why buy new?

  3. Nick Ryan Silver badge


    "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"

    or alternatively:

    ...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)

    1. auburnman

      Re: Price...

      Games have cost forty quid or more when they are released since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog. If you can't afford that why not buy older games? A glance at just now shows brand new copies of Assassin's Creed Revelations for sub twenty quid, and Portal 2 for thirteen quid.

      The fact is there are ways of buying excellent games on the cheap AND supporting the people who make them and the shops that actually stock new copies of games. Second hand sales are hurting developers by chipping away at the people who can't wait to play something they created but will try to shirk the premium day 1 price.

      That said, the way games are funded and sold could be about to undergo a radical upheaval - look at the companies who are using kickstarter to approach their fans directly for upfront funding and cutting out publishers.

    2. Lee Dowling

      Re: Price...

      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 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.

  4. jai

    simple solution

    Digital distribution. Just like mobile gaming, you buy the game online, download it, then you can't sell it on to anyone else, because there's no physical media to re-sell.

    That said, I don't look forward to having to download a blu-ray's worth of data on the next games like GTA5 and Max Payne 3. But possibly the solution is you open the games up to pre-ordering, and users can download them over a couple of weeks, and then on the release day, the copies are unlocked when connecting to their servers.

    Or, commit more to DLC. So you can buy the physical game, but you'll need to keep the disc around if you want to play the full game, as 70% of the single-player gameplay, and the multiplayer, all gets downloaded from online. The disc can hold all the music and the high-def textures, but the gameplay content gets downloaded and only works keyed to your account, or something.

    I know the 2nd hand market is a problem for the game developers. But I don't think many of them have done much about it other than whine "it's so unfair!!!"

    There are definitely ways around it, they just need to get us players into the habit of downloading more of our content in a means that makes it very complicated to then re-sell on.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: simple solution

      Or even better, Jai - just charge everyone a monthly fee and don't give them any games at all.

    2. Richard 81

      Re: simple solution

      "Or, commit more to DLC."

      I'll be sporting and give you a 30 second head start.

  5. Tom 35

    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.

  6. g e

    Boo Hoo

    It's one of the remaining methods of not paying full price for a game that's legal.

    I'm not convinced that paying £40-ish quid for a game that you complete in 20 hours and no point re-playing once completed is value for money.

    If more games were like Mass Effect (86 hours to complete) with the attendant depth of story, characters & gameplay and production values then yes, that's worth forty quid.

    So. Perhaps what the consumer should be asking is 'will you slash your prices by 75% (80/20 = 4) if second hand games are made illegal?'. No. Thought not.

    That latest Splinter Cell game.. about 5 hours to complete. Utter rip off, played it and punted it on eBay to recoup losses, a tragic end (presumably) to a classic game series.

    If your game takes 10 hours to play then it's worth a fiver based on Mass Effect 2's 86 hours gametime (not completed #3 yet but looking like 80 hours, too), cos if ME is worth £40 quid then _your_ game *isn't*.

    I've nothing against game developers making money, many games provide loads of fun (Portal a great case in point) but be realistic about what it's worth FFS,

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Boo Hoo

      £40 is the price if you're lucky! Publishers would have them retailing at £50-£55. It's not that unusual a situation for an 18-20 year old minimum wage worker to have to work more hours than they spend completing the game. It'll only get worse once publishers have carte blanche to set pricing with locked-in digital distribution systems. PC gamers should be thankful Valve are so damned good.

      1. TheRealRoland

        Re: Boo Hoo

        Uhm, here in the US there are people that have to pay more for gas to drive to work, compared to what they make at work...

        Luxury problem, anyone?

        Power to the People! I think it's our birthright to get games that are cheaper than what they cost now!

        Stop whining - read reviews, then buy, instead of 'gotta have it when it's released'.

        1. mark 63 Silver badge

          Re: Boo Hoo

          Roland ,

          Americans complaining about gas prices will get no sympathy over here!

          unless the gas prices are the 'luxury' you were likening to games

          when you learn to make cars that get more than 14mpg.....

          1. Goldmember
            Thumb Up

            "Americans complaining about gas prices will get no sympathy over here!"

            @mark 63

            Well said, sir. I pay £1.47 per LITRE for diesel currently, which roughly equals £5.57 / $8.83 per US gallon.

            Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Not that many could afford to, at these prices.

            1. Aaron Em

              Re: "Americans complaining about gas prices will get no sympathy over here!"

              Sucks, dunnit, to live in a society where the social engineering is even further advanced than what we've got here?

            2. Paul Wells

              Re: "Americans complaining about gas prices will get no sympathy over here!"


              But how many miles do you get for that $8.83 per US gallon? An American car doing 20mpg is standard.

          2. TheRealRoland

            Re: Boo Hoo

            btw, i used to be from 'over here', after having lived 'over there' for a while, really opens your eyes...

            Little off-topic - take it one more cycle: the people having to scramble for gas for their 16mpg cars do not have the money to buy a more recent car to begin with.

            Anyways, i totally agree with the fact that it's ridiculous that developers now should get another piece of the pie, trying to cut in to the second-hand market.

            BTW, what's up with that weird wave of entitlement going on? People complaining that they did not like the ending of ME3, and now they're trying to get the developer to change the ending so it suits them better? And now this?

            I don't know, i must be getting old, fast...

            1. SYNTAX__ERROR

              Re: No money to buuy a more efficient car

              Usually smaller, less powerful cars cost less than big fast ones. They also tend to be more fuel-efficient...

              Although I'll admit, the traditional mindset in the US has been to buy vehicles with massive petrol engines and so there's probably a lot of second-hand ones about.

    2. Seb123

      Re: Boo Hoo

      I completely agree, but this is why I vote with my wallet. I love games, but I only buy about 4 per year. I don't have the time to play more and most games just don't interest me.

    3. JetSetJim

      Re: Boo Hoo

      I'm not disputing that it's wrong for the games industry to get a cut on the second hand game sale price, but you are saying that you value your "entertainment time" at less than £2/hour if you are unwilling to pay £40 for a 20 hour game. What about the cinema - ever go there? That's about a fiver minimum (I've not been in a long time) for at most 2 hours normally - so you're paying more per hour for that. Or renting (or even buying) a film - how much does Blockbuster charge nowadays for the latest release? LoveFilm is £6/month (or thereabouts) and I wonder what the average number of films folks watch is.

      Just curious to know what your price-point is? I do agree with the principle that shorter games should be cheaper - but when you start adding in the "value add" of multiplayer online gaming how do you factor that cost. I've owned a variety of FPS games of varying single-player lengths and invariably I've put in at least high-double-digit numbers of hours in their online aspects - effectively amortising their cost over far more hours (yay for value for money).

      1. g e

        Re: Boo Hoo

        No. I never go to the cinema as experience shows that when I do I was better off watching the advertisement trailer which had all the best bits of the movie in it compressed into 1 minute for free, all the hype & marketing being absolutely no more than hype & marketing.

        I do pay Netflix though, and so far have no problem with value for money there, mucho TV series to marathon through plus reasonable movie selection. I also have no problem with games like ME3 as stated above, that game just keeps on giving.

        Thinking you have a right to some residual income from secondhand sales is ludicrous though. Anyway they'll have pretty much destroyed that market in the next generation of consoles. Watch prices NOT fall, though, regardless.

      2. g e


        I don't play much multiplayer at all, so that has little value to me - there's only one giant flatscreen with a surround system in the house and it has to be shared between PS3, XBOX360 and SKY+, 3 kids and a wife and annoyingly I have to spend time eating, sleeping and working, can't spend it all running around with an MP-5SD and night goggles.

    4. Blank Reg Silver badge

      Re: Boo Hoo

      I finished Mass Effect 3 in about 30 hours, and I did all the missions. I'm replaying it now on insanity difficulty and it's looking like it will still take around the same amount of time.

  7. bob 46

    bad guy

    How can Game possibly be made out to be the bad guy here? These games cost a ridiculous amount of money, buying them 2nd hand is the only way a lot of people can afford them. The producers think they deserve a cut of every little bit of money this game makes, but they don't. As someone else pointed out - do Ford expect a cut of the 2nd hand price of a car?

  8. The BigYin

    Go get a grip, Mr Braben

    What next?

    "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" the mighty have fallen.

    1. James Howat

      Re: Go get a grip, Mr Braben

      It's not about publishers demanding a cut. He's saying that if they got a cut, they might be able to afford to make new games, which could then be re-sold, to everyone's benefit.

      First rule of being a parasite - you don't kill the host.

      1. Ru

        "First rule of being a parasite - you don't kill the host."

        I can think of plenty that either kill or neuter their host. The trick is not to kill *all* the hosts.

      2. The BigYin

        @James Howat Re: Go get a grip, Mr Braben

        It's not about being parasitic, it's basic market forces. If you produce something that people want, but not at that price-point; either the market adjusts the price-point (e.g. via a second-hand market), they simply don't consume or they go outside the market (e.g. illegal).

        Just because you make a thing, does not mean people HAVE to buy it. The parasites are the jumped up games publishers who think they are OWED £40, £50, £60 a game. Sod that. Buy indy games (or music, or movies or...)

        And as for simply "owning a license", I can sell that license on (just as I can with music/film discs). Restricting MY freedom to do as I see fit with MY stuff is simply not on.

        If your business relies on perverting the market, then your business is wrong. End of discussion.

      3. Peladon

        Re: Go get a grip, Mr Braben

        "First rule of being a parasite - you don't kill the host."

        Isn't that the first rule of the symbiote, not the parasite? Parasites just take what they want until there isn't any left while giving little if anything back, then go find a new host, no?

      4. I think so I am?

        Re: Go get a grip, Mr Braben

        So publishers forgetting to pay the developers their dues when their game grosses more than $1billion is not the same. How?

    2. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Re: Go get a grip, Mr Braben

      You don't own software, you have a licence to use it.

      You buy a jumper and you have a jumper to wear, but you don't have the right to produce and sell an identical product yourself.

      1. Davidoff

        You don't own software, you have a licence to use it.

        Nonsense. That may be the case in the US of A, but here in Europe most software sales to consumers (i.e. buying a game in a shop) are sales of goods, You own the box, you own the medium, and you own this copy of the software that comes with it (you don't 'own' the copyright of course). And with that copy of the software you can do what you want (as long as it doesn't violate other laws and regulations, for example copyright laws).

        Of course the industry does a lot to make people believe that all they get is a license. Don't get fooled so easily.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Go get a grip, Mr Braben

        I don't think you understand the difference between buying a copy and RENTING a copy. If I buy a game with the license to play the game, then I have EVERY right to sell that disc with the license. I'm not renting... nor am I copying, which is not even a factor for a second hand game. I buy second hand games for my younger brother and sister because I'm not shelling out $50 for a plastic disc with a year old game. I bought about ten PS3 games for those kids for a little over $100. Almost all the sports titles were 2011 versions, so they don't get to play with the newer players. If a first person shooter game is good enough, then there should be expansion modules to sell with different scenarios or characters or settings? Microsoft, Adobe and others seem to have no problem making a slight change and then selling an newer version for more money. Why is that so difficult for the game industry to do with single player titles? I still play Civ 2 and that company didn't put out many scenarios after the initial sale. The more interesting ones came from private individuals. Civ 3 was garbage and I'm not inclined to pay another $50 for Civ 4 until I can play it to see if it's worth the cash. The model seems to be working, since I bought a new 'version' of the same software.

        1. conan

          Re: Go get a grip, Mr Braben

          I fully agree. i've bought Civ, two copies of Civ 2, Civ3, Two copies of Civ 4 and now a copy of Civ 5. I have never resold any of these, even the duplicates (bought because they included add-ons bundled and I wanted a single installer with it all on), because i like the game and want to keep playing it. You can buy Civ 4 for a tenner these days - well worth it. I still play Civ 4 and sometimes Civ 1 for a laugh.

    3. Stevie
      Thumb Up

      Re: Go get a grip, Mr Braben

      Tailors. Heh heh.

      V. Droll.

  9. David Haworth


    how about making games that take longer to complete?

    If your concern is that people will buy the game on friday and will complete it over the evening and then sell up on saturday morning then make games with more longevity!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: well..

      I think I agree with what you mean, just not what you *say*.

      I am guessing that you want games that have more hours of entertainment value, rather than merely taking longer to complete.

      This might sound like nerdy pedantry, until you come across games which have been needlessly padded beyond the interestingly designed content to fix an arbitrary value test so as to compare to other similar games and meet a price point.

      Lots of games have done it, but the best recent example is Skyward Sword.. It would probably be one of the best video games of the last twelve months without the obviously tacked-on repetition, just doubling the length. It was a lovely game, but then you started re-visiting areas and bosses.. not just a few, either. After a while, it became apparent that there was no real clever twist coming, you more or less were doing the whole damn thing again. It would have been an amazing game at half the length, and half the price.. though that would obviously mortify Nintendo.

      However, pretty sure you meant that games should offer more hours of entertainment value, and if so I am right there with you. It's ironic that Mr. Braben is partly responsible for Elite, one of the most legendarily engrossing long-term single player games ever, really. He's a fine speaker, and he made an amazing game once, but I think he's just plain wrong in this case.

      - Anonymous Elite Fanboy

  10. Andrew Baines Silver badge

    How about some interesting games?

    Games design has ground to a halt. all that happens is that the graphics are updated for the latest graphics card.

    Single player games would still do well if someone could come up with a new Command and Conquer, Civ or Sim City rather than just making them prettier and over-complex.

    So many fps games that are all the same - set piece battles, wonder around for a bit, then another set piece - think about the puzzles that were around in the likes of Doom - you would play it multiple times just to try and get 100% on each level.

    1. The BigYin

      Re: How about some interesting games?

      If you want innovation - go indy. There's some great/quirky indy games.

      Trine, Gratuitous Space Battles, Aquaria, NightSky to name but four.

    2. TimNevins

      Re: How about some interesting games?


  11. Aldous

    I wash out food jars and use them for storage, should Kilner be screaming at me?

    I use carrier bags from shops as bin bags, should Mr Wongs Happy Bin Bag Plant scream at me?

    I ride a second hand motorcycle should suzuki refuse to sell me spares?

    WTF is wrong with people when it comes to media (tapes,games,dvd's etc)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If games had the same sort of Lifespan as Elite did - then people wouldn't. object as much for paying a reasonable amount for them.

    But they don't.

    No wonder I prefer playing emulated Spectrum and C64 games! (Hope the RasPi gets a good set of emulation platforms!)

  13. LesC


    Knife, meet David Braben for this atrocious space sim..

    That is all.

  14. Haku

    Cry me a river.

    If the prices of new games weren't so extortionatly high the 2nd hand games market wouldn't be so strong.

    If they want a cut of the 2nd hand market, they should run their own games stores.

    Just because person A saw an opportunity person B didn't see it doesn't mean person B should automatically get a cut of that revenue stream.

  15. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Get ready to pay full price

    because soon nobody will releasing games in a box and you will have to buy it via Steam (or similar) where it will have zero resale value to you. In effect you will be buying a single user LICENSE to play the game and not buying the game itself.

    You can bet that the prices will rise too once the suppliers stop selling boxed games.

    It will soon be the same for consoles as Publishers start releasing ONLY via Xbox Live or PSN.

    Personally I am already buying all my new games via Steam as I got sick of retailers refusing help when I had problems installing the game. Some of the game publishers were pretty crap at support too. Steam on the other hand are very good but rarely needed as I have yet to have a Steam install fail.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get ready to pay full price

      EVERY Steam game I own is on its own Steam account, with its own email address to go along with it.

      I have one REAL Steam account, and I use it to buy games as Steam gifts and then gift each one to its own Steam account (which has its own email account), which I create specifically for the specific game. It is a bit of a nuisance to do this, but it lets me sell any games that I want. I have bought and sold Steam accounts on many many occasions.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Just wait for sales.

      Just like any game outlet, Steam often does sales. Their big ones are twice a year, in midsummer and again at the end of the year. Plus games DO get marked down over time. Don't like the game at full price? Just wait a bit and watch it start dropping. Of all the Steam games I have (and I have quite a bit), only one or two were bought at full price (then again, they were the same price as at retail at the time), and I got my money's worth out of them.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    lol, piracy hasn't changed much has it?

    I remember copying Elite back when it was released, admittedly 4 of us clubbed together to buy a copy between us which was unusual for me. Used to post packs of floppy disks to each other with the latest stuff on. lol, how did we manage before the internet? Paying for all those games was out of reach of our meagre budgets in those days, old habits die hard. I still find it galling what they expect me to pay for a shiny disk in a plastic box with a bit of paper inside the cover. So I buy second hand. You really think the shops selling games on the high street would survive on selling brand new games only?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: lol, piracy hasn't changed much has it?

      This reminds me back when Microprose was a well known company, friends and I used to participate in being green and recycling the stuff they threw away in a large skip.

      *cue pedalling home with large rucksacks literally overflowing with many many 3.5" disks, full games, joysticks etc. etc.*

      Ahh good days. I still have a Special Forces baseball cap somewhere.

  17. Brian Miller 1

    Wait WHAT?

    You imply that by sharing their revenue (that with the highest profit margin) they would have somehow have had more money? How did you work that out genius?

    And if you can finish a title to satisfaction in a week or less then it is a problem with the GAME, not the sales channel. Most new games are crap compared to the old classics.

    To be successful you have to have great gameplay, plenty content and a hook of some kind that keeps you going back for more.

  18. John70


    Well if games designers wrote games that will bring you back for more instead of curning out out rubbish that is over within a few hours, then they would get more sales.

    So Braben... When are you going to create a new version of Elite?

  19. Dr. Mouse

    "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."

    Then make games which take longer to finish!

    If a game takes 3 days to complete, they player is well within his rights to sell it on, and that means the person going to buy it 3 days after release can buy second hand.

    If a game takes 3 months to complete, the people buying in the first 3 months have to buy new.

    The game industry (and other media industies) trying to stop second-hand sales is disgusting. If you have finished with something you have bought, why the hell shouldn't you sell it on again?

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      I grew up playing (and buying) Spectrum and Atari ST games. Some of the games - I'm thinking Dungeon Master specifically - really did take me 3 months to complete (and then I continued to play it for probably another year, working out all the puzzles).

      Another example, Speedball II, took me literally years before I won the 1st division league - its insanely hard. Yet another, Sid Meier's Pirates, I still haven't given up beating my score.

      Move into the PC era, the original Half Life took me about 3 months to finish.

      Nowadays, it is all about the graphics, and not about the gameplay. It's a cinematic experience taking you about 6 hours, and it's never insanely difficult.

      If a game doesn't hook you into playing it for so long, why shouldn't you re-sell it? The designers should have spent more time making it addictive and replayable, with a longer play time.

  20. Stevie


    Because increased revenues would naturally translate into lower prices at the counter rather than higher remuneration for the producers, just like it always does.

    Soon the lock-down will be so intense that there will be no market at all, and then everyone will have to enter the real world.

  21. Craig 12

    boycott the greedy

    The media/creative industries have become just so greedy, I'm vowing to give them as little money as possible.

    (And no, I don't mean pirate content.)

  22. Matt_payne666

    Im just an occasional gamer, so almost exclusively buy preowned, I cant warrant £40-£55 for a game that I will just play in drips and drabs, Im not botered if a game takes 10 hours or 100 hours to complete, I will only get anough time to scrape the surface - Full time job, young kids, books and real social interaction put the kybosh on that...

    If software was tied to a limited number of activations, then decimate the price, £20 and id still bend over for it, but £50 not a chance, ill be downloading PSN titles for the forseeable...

  23. RetroTom
    Thumb Down

    The REAL problem

    Why are people trading in their single player games so early to create this market in the first place.

    I still have the majority of my SNES and Megadrive games, why? because they're timeless. I can play them over and over again, they have lasting gameplay value on reliable systems which have outlived numerous failing 360s, PS3s, and Dreamcasts.

    360 and PS3 games with the same long-term appeal are rare, I have one or two which I'd never consider trading in, but that's it.

    The problem with most AAA games if that they don't have this appeal, they're shallow games propped up by a bunch of pointless extra achievements and downloadable content in an attempt to keep you playing. Once I've played them through they get traded because I'd have no real desire to play through them again, and probably won't have a working 360 in a few years from now once they're out of production and all failed; look how quickly Microsoft dropped the original XBOX. Furthermore I don't really consider them worth the price I paid for them and the trade in money subsidizes that. If the trade-in option wasn't available I wouldn't have paid the 'new' price.

    Current games are a short term fix, like a drug, not long term investments, and this is even more true of the downloadable content.. Due to this, I don't value them as long term investments, and trade them in.

    Braben should be looking at the cause of the problem, not trying to treat the symptoms with an axe. I find his comments ironic when you consider that Elite and Frontier are two of the most timeless games around.

  24. Anonymous Coward 15
    Thumb Down


    And I hope this puts some people off the Pi. Ever heard of the first sale doctrine?

  25. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Second hand cars kill the new car market. So what?

    Is it unreasonable that in these risk aversive times that we pay full price for something we may not like?

  26. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Yes, Comrade!

    You got it. Just like the good old Soviet times - when your economic system (or your product simply doesn't sell as much as you want) does not work - JAIL THE SPECULATORS, THOSE ENEMIES OF THE NATION AND AGENTS OF IMPERIALISM!!! Or, I guess, you would prefer to call them agents of communism? Never mind, I got you.

  27. JDX Gold badge

    Easy solution...

    just slap a £1 'tax' on 2nd hand sales which goes to the publisher, for any licensed seller.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it only me or do most people part fund new games by flogging their old ones to people who aren't willing to pay the price of a new one? I certanly wouldn't buy so many if I didn't recoup some cost selling them on, so the industry is getting a cut effectively.

  29. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Also in the news

    Home taping is killing music.

    Air travel is killing our railways.

    Private cars are killing buses and won't someone think of the cabbies.

    Books are killing trees and ebooks are killing books and internets is killing ebooks. What?

  30. Robinson
    Paris Hilton


    Well, I haven't bought a hard copy game since I installed steam back in 2007 (or around that time, I can't remember). I've spent a lot buying games online, not just for myself but for friends and relatives for birthdays and so on. I no longer even have a DVD player in my PC.

    Yes, you can buy the games cheaply, if you wait a while rather than buying them on release day!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I also vote for the line that if you make your games replayable then you don't have to worry about resale issues.

    At the most extreme end of this is World of Warcraft (or other MMORPGs) where the replayability is so high people fork out $10 a month for years to play it. In more recent times, I've been through the single player campaign on Starcraft 2 Wings of Liberty at least 10 times, twice on Brutal, and once even without taking any upgrades. I did this for many reasons. They had a great achievement system that persuaded you to replay. They had different upgrade options that I wanted to try out. You could change the order of play which meant you had different units to work with on a map (discovering that Siege Tanks annihilate the trains on Tarsonis and make hard or brutal really rather easy was huge for example). I'm still playing it now, only a few months short of its second birthday. Admittedly I keep putting it aside for other games, but I'll still come back to it because it is so much fun. I don't even play online!

    Another game that is getting a similar treatment at the moment is Arkham City. Having completed it 3 times on normal, and getting all the Riddler achievements (except for a few physical ones), I'm now trying to do the hard mode. Great replayability.

    Is it any surprise that these 2 titles are some of the best sellers of the last few years?

    Playstation and Wii games need to focus on what they are best at - communal gaming. Side by side multi-player so you can play after the pub is huge, but then the new SSX is missing that. Big shame for replayability.

  32. stucs201

    Sorry Mr Braben

    I sold my copy of the first PC version of Elite (the CGA version on 5.25" floppy) on ebay for more than it originally cost (not accounting for 20 years inflation). I was slightly surprised by £50, even if it was a relatively rare version.

  33. Andy Neale

    2nd hand market keeps money flowing into new games

    Without the 2nd hand game market, would punters have cash to spend on other titles ?

    Not everyone can afford new, but for some users being able to sell games on gives new cash to invest in new titles.

    For the Car Market analogists....imagine if you had no market to sell your old car, you'd have nothing to contibute to the next new one....

  34. Simbu

    Bollocks and increasingly irrelevant

    The argument that second-hand sales kill off new sales is bollocks. This argument doesn't hold water for DVD films, cars, phones, whatever.

    The increase inthe use of digital downloads, however makes the argument a moot point. You can't transfer purchases between digital accounts (unfortunately) and when these become the norm, everyone will be ponying up for a new copy of that game.

  35. Citizen Kaned

    how many single player games are worth £40? how many hours are most single player games to complete? many are about 8 hours. thats £5/hour to play a game. not great value.

    maybe if games were £10 the resale market closing would be fine.

    in the olden days games lasted much longer as all the dev works wasnt in visuals, it was in gameplay.

    how about devs actually FIXING bugs in games rather than waiting for their next version. (EA im looking at YOU)

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Does this logic extend to books and DVDs too?

    Are they saying we should close charity shops and libraries?

    Rule 1 - If you want to stop somebody selling your goods second hand, make it something they want to keep. In the case of games this just means a game they want to keep playing (i.e. something that you cannot 'complete' in a few hours - or better still ..ever).

  37. Ben Rosenthal

    Someone call Karl Pilkington, this is a job for Bullshit Man.

    Suppose it's not that surprising, he's always been a bit (okay a lot) of a douche if you look back at how he treated his Elite/Frontier associates.

    Publishers are lucky we are still buying games at all, in a world where every other industry is vying for your hard earned with better and better deals, videogame merchants seem to think there is still room to keep squeezing.

    Last new release I picked up was Star Wars: The Old Republic just before Christmas, where knowing it was days till Santa would be loading up his sleigh and that they had a very hot game on their hands I was lightened of £45 for a copy by "Game", well over the odds for a PC game and I'd probably think twice before spending that on a console game either.....add a monthly sub in there and you have the answer to why I never usually go near new release games. I'd been waiting a long time so this was a massive exception to my usually cast iron rule of not buying till the price drops.......which has nothing to do with the pre-owned scene and everything to do with not enjoying getting shafted.

    What does Dave even think we're spending our trade in "fortunes" on if not more games?!? Has anyone pointed him at either? A whole site of games so worth the asking price that I am paying all over again decades after release you say? No sales past the first week you say? Selling shit and expecting me to eat it I say!

    Oh I don't trade in games anyway, it's another massive rip off scam of the retailers....however as a kid I depended on trading in or outright swaps to fund my habit (back when shops were indie and knew your name and gave a toss about whether you came back next week or not).

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe the games have too little replay value. If they had replay value, there might be a reason to keep the game on the shelf rather than selling it for a fraction of what you paid.

  39. bitmap animal

    re: publishers who think they are OWED £40, £50, £60 a game

    The publisher does not get that money, it's very naive to think they do and is just said to stir up people who can't think how retail works.

    If a game in the shop sells for £50, the the government get £8.33 of that straight away in VAT.

    The shop then has to take its cut for running the store, buying the stock, dealing with returns etc.

    The distributor that buys the game from the manufacturer has to cover their warehousing and stock costs.

    The game publisher has to cover the development costs which on modern highly graphical games are very substantial. They also have to predict how many games are going to sell in the lead time it takes to manufacture more. If it flies off the shelf they are lambasted for not producing enough, if they produce too many they have to pay for all that stock.

    As with most thing you buy, there are a lot of people in the chain taking a percentage cut so a small increase in the development cost can soon have a real impact on the selling price.

    25 years ago a couple of people could develop a game in a few weeks. Most of the big selling games take large teams many months to produce.

  40. Sloppy Crapmonster

    Surely it's not the consumer's fault

    The publishers have been playing both sides of the fence forever. "We're selling you a license to play this game" versus "We're selling you a disc full of bits arranged a certain way" (ignore the fact that I'm buying a game and I will play it as I damn well please) and using whichever argument makes them the most money at the moment ("we'll sell you another license at $retail price" vs. "we'll sell you another disc full of bits at $retail price")

    The way I see it, the first video game system developer that makes a standard, licensable spec for games machines (e.g., the controllers plug in *here* and the graphics system is *this* and the media is formatted *this way*, etc., 3do was the last spec produced like this) wins. The PC is the closest we have right now and it's a clusterfuck as to whether or not any particular game works on any given machine.

    I just hope the "Steambox" rumors are true. Valve are the one company I trust at this point to produce a non-fucked spec for something like this.

  41. Pypes

    Having ones cake and eating it

    I buy almost all my games used. I have never once sold a game.

    I buy games when they are cheaper, and thus they don't represent a large sum of cash tied up in an "asset",But I think more importantly I buy them when there are enough impartial reviews and user commentary for me to be fairly confident I'm buying something I want to play.

    Nowadays where games cost the best part of a days wages, and the review sites that are in a position to do pre-release reviews are the same sites that never give less than 7.5 / 10 and are essentially an extension of publishers marketing departments, game companies are essentially asking average joe gamer to punt a huge wad of cash on something that he may not like, may only last 5 - 10 hours and that in the case of many "AAA" titles may require him to do some unpaid beta testing.

    If software is a service, how about not expecting gamers to front up "tangible asset" amounts of cash just to get an unbiased look, and how about an SLA that says it works as advertised and doesn't have any crippling bugs, or is going to have the servers turned off in 18 months, at which point half the functionality is lost. If it costs £40+ and comes in a box it's mine and I'll do what the fuck I like with it.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The sense of entitlement shown by games developers is pathetic.

  43. Kay Burley ate my hamster

    Produce a better product, if enough people are returning the game so quickly it's not a good game.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Not true.Many buy a game, complete it as fast as they can and resell immediately. You wouldn't say a film's crap because people don't go to watch it at the cinema more than once.

  44. heyrick Silver badge

    So far behind the times...

    ...I run a PS2 and I get games from boot sales and such. I'm not a big gamer, hell I usually place GTA3 with a variety of cheats so I can cause mayhem for the hell of it (not so bothered with doing missions and completing levels...). I've seen the prices of new games in the shops and I'm struggling to wonder if there is any way in hell I'd be able to justify *that*. The answer is a flat "NO". So I'll stay with older stuff and enjoy what I have.

  45. Charles 9 Silver badge

    Note to game publishers.

    If you want to kill the secondhand market, just makes games WORTH KEEPING!

    Believe it or not, some games just don't show up on the used game market often, and those that do command a high price because they're both in high demand and out of print. As a result, there's very little churn with those games.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Note to game publishers.

      That doesn't mean those games are better, it just means they are different. Single player story-based games take just as work to make, but are made to be completed, unlike a sport or multiplayer game.

      You play Scrabble over and over again. You do a jigsaw once.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Note to game publishers.

        Some of the games in that select fraternity ARE single-player or have significant single-player components. But they have such lasting appeal that they're seen more as collector's items than just games.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I still find it galling what they expect me to pay for a shiny disk in a plastic box with a bit of paper inside the cover."

    Yeah funny how the government tells you a piece of paper is worth £10, £20, 50 even - shock.

    Guess you have an issue that a painting is worth more than the cost of the canvas + paint? It's people's time you are stealing - but if your employer said we're not going to pay you this week because you only did a few reports guess that would be wrong...

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2nd hand market is dead or dying as very soon (just a matter of years) it will all be Internet based and online activation etc.

  48. JimS

    Short gameplay = less new sales

    When you can buy a game in the morning, finish the SP and return it by the afternoon, it's no wonder the second hand market is buoyant. Not everyone wants to play MP, especially when it's full of hackers and gobby, overweight 12 year olds on a sugar kick.

    It would be interesting to see what the second hand market is like for games such as ME3 in comparison to MOH or COD type games.

    I doubt most game devs will get it though, the industry used to be quite innovative, it's just stagnated into quick release COD v6535423154 clones, now with spotted hankies as paid DLC!! Mind, thats probably more the bean counters fault than the actual devs. Nothing like a slimy bean counter to make a mess of an established concept.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      "the industry used to be quite innovative, it's just stagnated"

      People have been saying that for as long as I can remember. It's just a complaint people like to make.

      Also, the game developers typically have NO (or minimal) creative input, they make what the designer designs.

  49. JeevesMkII

    It's really quite simple. Make good games and you won't see 20 copies of them in every bargain bin.

    The very best games I've ended up buying multiple new copies of. I think Fallout 2 currently has the record, since I now own three distinct copies of it. Once on full price big box release, a second time on white label DVD since I (ahem) pirated the original from a friend Fallout and wanted a legal copy of it, and now a third time on steam because that's where all my games live now.

    Make games like Fallout and Theme Hospital, games that I'll still want to play 15 years from now, and the second hand market won't be a problem. Release more crap like Rage, just to name one recent unfortunate purchase, and you'll get exactly what you deserve: no more original sales after the first week.

  50. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I like my games to be like my computer

    Not bleeding edge and a bit cheaper...

  51. Luke McCarthy

    It's easy to blame retailers

    But if gamers are so eager to get rid of games soon after buying them, surely that's the game developers' fault for making throwaway games that aren't worth keeping?

  52. This post has been deleted by its author

  53. MJI Silver badge

    A few points

    I buy few day of release games, just the ones I really like. (hello Naughty Dog). Rest are when cheaper, can get good play value from cheap games if good, the Platinum collection is worth looking at, as are Steam sales.

    Last year, 4 at over 30, 3 good, 1 not so good, about 5 in sales, 3 or 4 PSN, and 3 or 4 Steam sale.

    Second hand is a good way to get older out of print games, bought Resistance fall of Man, and Killzone this way.

    A short campaign is not necessary a problem, an exciting one can be played multiple times, done a few 3 or more times. 20 hour campaign may get played less than a shorter one. 4 plays through Uncharted Drakes Fortune and you still see new things, you also get to work out the layout of the areas better.

    Multiplayer, well don't go around thinking you will be rubbish give it a go. My current favourite is KIllzone 3 and a lot of players I know are in their 40s and 50s, very few kids. Now age means slower reactions, but a lot more experience, better able to work out maps, better thought of tactics, more patience, so someone nearing 50 can wipe the floor with a teenage COD veteran, we do remind the kids that they have been wiped out by someone the same age or older than their dad! It also means that the Asian clans who run through maps mob handed do not necessarly win.

    Car analogy, my 11 year old car still needs parts from the dealer, the manufacturer still makes some money from em.

    As to selling games - few really poor ones went on Ebay but a lot didn't sell, good games get kept - someone may want to play them.

  54. teebie

    To paraphrase

    "This system is immoral because it doesn't give me the ability to take your money regardless of whether or not I deserve it".

    If you see copies of an CD in the secondhand shops in the week of release its a shit album and the artists should be ashamed to have released it. Same situation applies here.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wasteland 2

    I've never stopped buying games, but I'm pretty picky. Fallout 3 and GTA3 SA have probably each taken me about 150 hours of gameplay. Baldurs Gate 2 has probably taken over 300 hours to date. I'm still playing the D&D Online MMO where after spending $60 US to buy most of the in-game content, I can freeplay as much as I like, and that's been well over 300 hours.

    I watch people playing latest gen shooters and I can fall asleep doing so. The engines are incredible, but the games are for the most part short, inane and incredibly repetitive. I tried playing Doom 3, where you have to head-shot the almost black zombies shambling towards you in the almost black room. I spent half an hour in the game hoping for duct-tape so I could attach my torch to my head (i.e. have light AND a gun!) and when it turned out that this wasn't to be, I uninstalled the game and sold it. That was the last FPS I paid money for.

    If you want an old-school RPG, read the article on Wasteland 2 recently published on the reg, and head over to Kickstarter to pledge/pre-order it. This is a game with an initial development budget of 1.5 million dollars. No 5 minute rendered cut-scenes with voiceovers by Hollywood A-listers, no 'cutting edge 3D engine' requiring latest gen hardware on which to run the bloody thing. Just a turn-based RPG with a post-apocalyptic setting and hopefully a gritty feel to it.

    If games don't cost $100 million to develop, you don't have to recoup $100 million in sales before you can move onto the 'hookers and blow' part of your game publishing lifestyle.

  56. DJ2liveUK

    Why not charge additional for parts of the completed game as DLC....? Oh wait some of the developers are already doing this.

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