Industry legend and Frontier Developments-founder, David Braben is a man unafraid to speak his mind, and the latest thing that has gotten his goat would appear to be pre-owned games. According to Braben, pre-owned games are ruining the industry, with singleplayer "core" experiences suffering the most.
"The real problem when you think about it brutally," began Braben, in an interview with Gamasutra, "if you look at just core gamer games, pre-owned has really killed core games. In some cases, it's killed them dead. I know publishers who have stopped games in development because most shops won't reorder stock after initial release, because they rely on the churn from the resales. I won't buy a preowned game out of principle.
"Of course, none of that revenue or chart position gets recorded, or VAT [value-added tax]... it's borderline whether that's legitimate. But it's killing single player games in particular, because they will get preowned, 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."
According to Braben, it's the lost revenue from retailers recycling pre-owned material that has not only lead to a certain sense of creative stagnation, but has also kept prices up.
"People will say 'Oh well, I paid all this money and it's mine to do with as I will', but the problem is that's what's keeping the retail price up -- prices would have come down long ago if the industry was getting a share of the resells.
"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."
We're no strangers to the notion that pre-owned titles are bad from an industry perspective, but the idea that inflated prices would drop were the pre-owned market to disappear seems a little fanciful if we're honest. It's not as if there's a towering precedent of trust in such goodwill in the age of Day 1 on-disc DLC, online passes, and punitive DRM.