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The War on Used Games Continues

First off, yes, every time I write about used games I am using that image because I think it’s awesome.

There is going to come a time when people who work (or worked) for large public companies will learn to shut their face when it comes to topics that tend to piss off the buying public. The customers. The reason for their working existence.

This is one of those times.

Richard Browne, a former THQ Exec, former Eidos developer and a veteran of the gaming industry of over 20 years, has unleashed his anger on used games in an op-ed piece on GI Biz. It’s worth a read. Here’s some of the juicer bits:

A colleague of mine brought to light how bad this has become just the other week. He went into his local GameStop and was point blank REFUSED the option of buying the game he went to get new. After pressuring the sales assistant for a few minutes he finally got his new game – but only after the assistant got his manager’s approval to sell it to him. That’s the state of retail today, and it’s not healthy for the consumer at all.

This is the type of stuff one would expect to see on a 24 hour news channel on a slow news day. There’s no way to prove what Browne says here, but as someone who has spent his fair share of loot at game stores, including GameStop, I have never heard of such a thing. Have you ever read an anecdote by someone who is “in the games industry” about how they went to a game store and the dumb as a stump store clerk didn’t know anything, and that person had to set the customer straight. That’s what this reads like.

An employee refusing to sell a new game and the manager being called out?

Come on.

The real cost of used games is the death of single player gaming. How do I stop churn? I implement multiplayer and attempt to keep my disc with my consumer playing online against their friends. It works wonderfully for Call of Duty – no doubt it can work wonderfully for me. The problem is, at what cost? Countless millions of dollars would be the answer. Let’s take a great example, one of my favorite game series released on this generation – Uncharted…

Browne goes on to talk about how adding multiplayer where it’s not needed is damaging. On this I totally agree. We have said as much here at NHS on countless occasions. But again we go back to expectations.

Used games have been around for DECADES. The gaming industry has survived so many waves of new pirating tactics and the evil that men do…so much so that these companies had the ability to go public and make shareholders some coin. Lots and lots of coin.

But it’s not enough. Laying the issue of tacked on multiplayer that damages single player gaming at the feet of used game sales makes absolutely no sense. It’s shooting in the dark.

This all started to crash when developing budgets went through the roof. The cost to make a blockbuster skyrocketed and thus did the expectation for the return on investment. Prices jumped to 60 bones. And for what?

Take Browne’s other scapegoat: Tim Schafer

The real cost of used games? Let’s take someone like Tim Schafer. Tim works his genius in the video game medium primarily through selling fantastic stories in fantastic worlds, and primarily these experiences are single player games. Tim walks into publisher X and puts his latest, greatest piece of work on the table with a decent mid-range budget. It doesn’t stand a chance.

Used game sales are the reason Tim’s games aren’t being made by huge companies with huge budgets? No. Schafer’s games are niche products, as brilliant as they are, that will not appeal to a mass market where selling 300,000 units isn’t enough. It has nothing to do with Joey NoJob buying a copy of Mass Effect 3 for $45, used.

Browne is so adamant about this that he supports the idea that Sony and Microsoft should not allow used games to work on the new machines. He calls it “the Nuclear Option”. Oh, it is that, Richard, it is that.

And when THAT doesn’t fix the industry’s bloated, self-important miasma? What then? What will be the next thing that “is killing the industry?”

Because right now, according to Richard Browne, it’s you. It’s you and your cheap ass ways during a monstrous recession that’s making companies fail, people to lose their jobs and corporate CEOs to have to explain how it all slipped away.

You and your habit for cheaper videogames.

Way to go. Nice job, gamer.