Braben hits out at secondhand games at Develop

Thursday, 31st July 2008 07:49 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Speaking at Develop in Brighton yesterday, Frontier boss David Braben has decried the practice of selling used games in the UK, saying it’s “not tolerated by other industries.”

“More than half their floor area is dedicated to pre-owned and that is something as an industry we don’t see,” Braben said of UK retail chain Gamestation.

“Those same retailers are only carrying new copies of games from the past few months – if it’s a game that’s been out for two months and you want to buy one from a shop not Amazon and you don’t want pre-owned, it’s very hard.

“This is essentially rental, and it’s not tolerated by other industries… Why can we not introduce special ‘for rental’ copies?”

Thanks, Destructoid.

We had a one-on-one chat with David yesterday, the first fruit of which was this piece about The Outsider. We’ll have more from the interview soon.



  1. Blerk

    I think they should ban shops from selling second-hand games, they’re so ridiculously priced. I haven’t bought one in over ten years. And there’s always ebay for people who really do want second-hand stuff at non-extortionate prices.

    #1 6 years ago
  2. pjmaybe

    Bet he’d change his tune if devs got a slice of the revenue from resales though.

    I do actually like the current business model MS (and a few others) are using – dredging up old last-gen stuff to sell on the marketplace. I just wish they’d do it with some of the rarer stuff, so all those nasty little Fleabay gits got royally digitally shafted.

    #2 6 years ago
  3. CastellanSpandrell

    “Bet he’d change his tune if devs got a slice of the revenue from resales though.”

    Really? Do you think so?
    That’s his whole point.

    #3 6 years ago
  4. DrDamn

    The second hand market helps maintain the high price games go for in the first place. Lots of people are only willing to pay full whack for a game based on the knowledge they can sell it on when they are done. They are already effectively getting a cut of the second hand sale in the first place.

    #4 6 years ago
  5. Quiiick

    @ DrDamn

    Make new games less expensive (€30.00 instead of the now €60.00) and nobody will oppose to shutting down the secondhand games market!

    But as long as you want €60.00 for a new game: STFU!

    #5 6 years ago
  6. Shatner

    Make games less expensive?

    Games ARE less expensive. Certainly when you consider that, over 10 years ago, a new game cartridge was about 40-45 quid (or more for high profile titles). 10 years later you can buy first hand brand new titles for under £40. If you factor in inflation it’s very easy to show that games ARE cheaper than they were and, even if they were the same price, you’re getting a hell of a lot more game for your money these days. Demanding games to be cheaper shows a willful ignorance of how game pricing has come down over the years.

    The second hand market is parasitic. The retailer is selling the same copy of the same game repeatedly and pocketing *every* penny. Even when games are sold new for the first time the revenue is split between numerous parties such as retailer (who typically do the least work out of anyone), publisher and developer.

    The notion that second hand sales are providing some sort of economic or industrial service is patently absurd and very very short sighted.

    Second hand retail sales are a massive driving force for digital distribution.

    #6 6 years ago
  7. Blerk

    I don’t think all games necessarily need to be less expensive, but it’s apparent that the ‘one RRP fits all’ business model just plain doesn’t work for some titles, leading to poor first week sales and rapid discounting at retail.

    I can’t help but think that if more people realised that their game would sell better at £40 or £30 and released it at that price to begin with they’d end up better off in the long run.

    #7 6 years ago
  8. wz

    I doubt that a price cut would change matters significantly. If I am curious about a game and willing to buy it, I don’t care for the price tag until I’m at the counter. I don’t think EUR 10 would make a difference here.

    Maybe for the “Uhm, no idea, I’ll just pick it up”-titles, that’s of course right. But those are in the low-price segment anyway.

    (But then, I buy only about a game per 2 months, mostly for Wii, so that might explain my ignorance of pricing.)

    #8 6 years ago
  9. DrDamn

    “The notion that second hand sales are providing some sort of economic or industrial service is patently absurd and very very short sighted.”

    If there was no possibility of a second hand sale or trade in there are people who would not buy the game in the first place – you’ve got to accept that is correct surely?

    #9 6 years ago
  10. DrDamn

    I agree that effective prices have come down somewhat over the last 10 years, but the market has also grown and potential for profits are bigger. I’m all for digital distribution too, it makes playing the games a hell of a lot more convenient for a start, but not at the expense of effectively raising the price of games for the consumer.

    For example GT5p. Download = £24.99, Asda = £17.97 + possiblity to sell on / trade in.

    #10 6 years ago
  11. Shatner

    If you go in, buy a game with the knowledge that you plan to sell it on later then you’re doing the people OTHER than the retailer more harm than if you never bought the game in the first place. That attiude benefits the consumer and the retailer. Everyone else gets shafted.

    Incidentally, there is actually a legal precedent the forbids copyrighted material being resold anyway. It’s just rarely enforced because of the (unjustified) public outcry that would occur. People tend to assume when they pay for software they own it. Not so. They have purchased the media the software comes and a (conditional) licence to use the software. The rights to sell it on are actually forbidden to the consumer. The ownership of the software remains the publishers.

    Still, so long as you get your digital fun for a bit less, who cares what people and companies you’re slowly putting out of business, right?

    These arguments are nonsense. Particularly when those that believe they are doing people a favour by breaking copyright law and denying people revenue.Especially when they’re acting principled to boot.

    #11 6 years ago
  12. absolutezero

    Jesus fucking wept.

    #12 6 years ago
  13. Blerk


    #13 6 years ago
  14. pjmaybe

    TBH with the amount of milking various companies do with some of their older IPs they’d have a bit of a bloody cheek moaning about punters selling their old games on.

    #14 6 years ago
  15. Retroid

    Game etc. do take the piss with their pre-owned sales, but FFS, EVERY OTHER INDUSTRY has its second-hand sections.

    Perhaps if Braben had produced a game I enjoyed since Zarch… reminds me, I must give Lost Winds a go :)

    #15 6 years ago
  16. Hero of Canton

    Game etc. do take the piss with their pre-owned sales, but FFS, EVERY OTHER INDUSTRY has its second-hand sections.

    Yeah, I see fucktons of second-hand CDs and DVDs when I wander into HMV.

    Oh wait.

    #16 6 years ago
  17. DrDamn

    Second hand sales of CDs and DVDs have been killed by reasonable prices. Oh wait. ;)

    #17 6 years ago
  18. reask

    It,s A rip off in certain shops.
    Gamestop in my town are more expensive than xtra vision.
    Still it is handy when you,re looking to get A game you want and you cannot afford 70 euro.

    #18 6 years ago
  19. ohsonice1959

    I hate to say this (SHATNER), but every other industry supports second hand sales from books, tapes, dvds, cars, houses, used industrial equipment so stop with the stupid arguments. The real question is why are the used games so high in price when they pay pennies on the dollars for them when you turn them in?

    And lets be real the games haven’t gotten any better over the years if anything we are seeing more and more shovelware. Originality doesn’t exist it is just like Hollywood they made this we should try it too. IP does not exist in the entertainment world, the few that could actually be called IP you can count on a single hand, the number of redo’s is astronomical. I think Wolfenstein was the last original IP created everything since then has been rewrites and just graphic evolution.

    The WII should be outlawed for the lame games that they have produced and now EA is going to produce games for it talk about a death knell.

    This is a cash cow for the industry as most used games are only 2 dollars cheaper than a new one, so you buy the used one and when it doesn’t work you return it and they give you a brand new replacement, duh! yeah I have bought several games took them home and turned them over and tried them out and have gotten eternal load screens and this disc cannot be played in this player errors. took the disk back and received a brand new copy.

    #19 6 years ago
  20. DrDamn

    I think Shatner makes a valuable point that the devs / publishers should make more money. It’s just where the fault lies which he has wrong.

    The second hand sales and new purchases due to knowing you can sell it on afterwards are markets which devs/publishers don’t cater for properly. In order to get more money from this you can’t simply outlaw the practise as that completely misunderstands the issue. All these people aren’t going to then just buy the full priced title.

    The industry needs to look at sensible ways to sell the products through to these people. For example :-
    * Downloadable titles cheaper than a boxed copy
    * Episodic content
    * Split content – single player and multiplayer sold in separate packages
    * DLC

    #20 6 years ago
  21. ruckus

    If the publishers are worried then maybe they should ask for a bigger cut from the retailer – since the retailer makes more by reselling. As for the consumer being morally wrong to resell his purchase, that’s just evil. I thought despite bigger profits they were all struggling with ‘piracy’ are we going to see a ELSPA campaign linking the second-hand market to terrorism or paedophilia or some other FUD nonsense.

    #21 6 years ago
  22. TheDifficult3rdAlbum

    When I bought my used car and my used house, I guess I should have given a bunch of money to Ford and Barrett Homes who built the things respectively in the first place 10 years previously.

    Hmmm. Or maybe not.

    The fact is, the second hand market enables people to buy full price games on release, because they know they can sell on their games once they’re done with them.

    I would not buy a brand new car or a brand new house if I’m then unable to sell it on in the future. Otherwise I’d either have an increasing bunch of cars and houses that I’m legally unable to sell on – or, more likely, I’ll just not buy that new car or new house (or, to complete my point, that new game) in the first place.

    #22 6 years ago
  23. Psychotext

    Most people have a limited amount of money they’re willing to spend on games per year and selling / buying used games can help with that. They’re not going to miraculously buy more new games if the used games market didn’t exist… if anything they’ll buy less and ensure that they’re worth the money.

    As other commenters have said, there’s plenty devs / publishers can do about this. Not least making their game longer than 6 hours and actually trying to give it some replayability. When people are able to complete a game and sell it in one day it will of course make sense for others to grab it used for less.

    As it goes though, I haven’t bought a used game in years – mostly because I usually can’t find them for much cheaper than brand new. Certainly not out of some misplaced sense of ethics towards a business.

    #23 6 years ago
  24. DrDamn

    The standard retort to that is you aren’t buying the game, just the right to play it. The disc is just the not very ideal mechanism used to enable this. Hence the difference with the car / house etc. As Shatner pointed out you don’t actually have the legal right to sell it on – you do with a house / car.

    The fact that realistically you can sell it on adds greatly to the value, and thus the acceptable cost people are willing to pay.

    #24 6 years ago
  25. Shatner

    Comparisons to other industries is very convenient. Especially when, as a consumer, most people are choosing only to see the factors that serve their argument rather than the whole picture. Of course, if they looked at the entire manufacturer-to-consumer cycle of such things they wouldn’t bother to make such inapprorpriate comparisons in the first place. So many whiney consumers seem to forget what “luxury goods” are these days.

    Additionally, if you don’t own the right to resell something you really have no platform to bitch about how you go about reselling it. You’re starting off with no rights. You can’t whine about how it’s not fair that the rights you don’t have don’t serve you well enough.

    #Well, evidently, you can. But nobody other than equally ignorant, out of touch consumers would ever regard such a sentiment as remotely credible.

    At the end of the day, it’s about selfishness and greed. You want your fun cheap and low risk. But don’t try to wrap that sentiment up as principled or ethical.

    Incidentally, very funny comment about “publishers asking retailers for a bigger cut”. The retailer doesn’t offer ANY cut to the publisher on second hand sales. The retailer keeps it all for themselves. Again, a good demonstration of just how skewed people’s common percpetion of this situation is.

    #25 6 years ago
  26. DrDamn

    You are taking too much of a conceptual – how it is meant to be – view, Shatner. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the legal right to sell it on if the fact that it is common to do so is already factored in to the price *charged* and the price people are willing to pay.

    #26 6 years ago
  27. Stupot24

    Shatner, I have never read such courageous suckling of the corporate teat. Its not money these companies have “lost”, its money these companies can see hanging just above their heads but cant quite reach so they need someone (us) to bend over so they can stand on our backs and grab it with their greedy mitts, rub it on their bits and horde it away.

    These same companies talk of building franchises but want to cripple themselves by removing a mechanism that allows them to reach a greater audience.

    If I had to guess I would say you are involved with games and would benefit directly from the dismantling of the second hand games business, if not then you must have a heart as cold as David Braben himself.

    It seems only yesterday that the industry was lamenting the lost of independant games stores, somewhere I think David Braben must have visited in his lifetime. Oh how I long for the return of solid gold games, a right dirty hovel of a place but without which I would never have experienced classics like pete sampras tennis with the double controller socket in its cartridge or secret of mana or been able to retrieve a copy of f-zero after I had used my own as a hand-to-sister projectile. Yes these are old games but this was back in the day where they are the equivalent of todays second hand games market.

    #27 6 years ago
  28. Shatner

    My heart isn’t cold, quite the opposite. I just don’t see why people shouldn’t be paid for the work they do.

    All this pious talk of “Well, it doesn’t matter that it’s not right to do it because it’s being done anyway” are just pleas to convince yourselves you’re not taking money from people that have earned it. It’s not some faceless corporation that is being affected as much as individuals who work for a living and are entitled to be paid for the work they’ve done. Useing the “corporate” imagery makes it nice and easy for the complainers to dissassociate the human factor in all of this and make it sound like they’re some brave David against a soulless goliath. Again, a wilful and convenient piece of rhetoric to make those doing the ripping off feel better about what they’re doing.

    It’s funny. Because the instant the gamer consumers get the faintest whiff that THEIR money isn’t being put to use how they like then they squeal and use terms like “theft” and “stolen” all over the place.

    What a conveniently self serving view.

    Law is law. It’s really that simple. Go read the copyright notice on any of your games.

    I wonder how you guys would like someone coming into your house, taking your goods, selling them without your permission and keeping the proceeds.

    #28 6 years ago
  29. Psychotext

    Not sure what you’re going on about Shatner… you’re selling the physical item you own, which has nothing to do with copyright (which remains with the IP holder)

    #29 6 years ago
  30. Whizzo

    Go read the copyright notice on any of your games.

    You know what, I just did on my copy of Battlefield Bad Company (360) as that’s a nice and recent game. Nowhere on it does it say I can’t resell it, apparently “Unauthorised copying, reverse engineering, transmission, public performance, rental, pay for play or circumvention of copy protection is strictly prohibited” so I’ll make sure I do none of those things.

    The warning about TKs is damn good though.

    #30 6 years ago
  31. Shatner

    Psycho, so long as you sell the physical item you own and not the software code that sits upon it that you don’t then there’s no problem.

    Again, choosing only to see the side of the equation that suits your actions and ignoring the factors that don’t. This doesn’t mean those factors don’t exist – just that you’d rather pretend they didn’t.

    Don’t forget that printed materials also hold copyright and remain the property of the publisher, not the consumer.

    Sure, sell what’s yours and keep the money. Selling what isn’t yours – well, that’s a type of theft isn’t it?

    #31 6 years ago
  32. DrDamn

    “All this pious talk of “Well, it doesn’t matter that it’s not right to do it because it’s being done anyway” are just pleas to convince yourselves you’re not taking money from people that have earned it.”

    It’s not legal but it is right. It’s right because the practice of selling on games is known about and has been going on for years and years and *therefore* the cost of that to the publisher is factored into the original price of the game in the first place. To claim any different is blinkered in the extreme.

    If all games were sold as install once discs or DRM’ed downloads only and the current prices were maintained then sales would plummet.

    #32 6 years ago
  33. Shatner

    “It’s not legal but it is right”

    No. If it’s not legal then it’s not right. At least not by the laws of the land. Do gamers believe they are above the law? It certainly would seem to be the case by reading the comments here.

    Just because there’s a common amount of lawbreaking practiced by a large number of people does not make the illegal suddenly and magically become legal.

    I’m still reading nothing other than people’s skewed justifications as to why it’s ok to rip off other people and break the law in order to get their fun for a few quid cheaper.

    Companies don’t prosecute (although it is well within their right to do so) due to the sort of outcry that consumer would inevitably give because they’re so used to having their self-serving practices go unchallenged they believe it is “right”. Your classic line that I quoted demonstrates this perfectly. Anyone remember the furor over Lik Sang’s closure. They were prosecuting for selling goods in territories they were forbidden to. Legally they were 100% in the wrong and they broke their sales contract with their suppliers. But popular “opinion” made them out to be the good guys and the prosecutors the bad guys. The law exists for a reason.

    Good to see such well principled members of society! I’ll be sure to sympathise with them when they insist they’ve been ripped off or had something stolen from them by some faceless corporation in their usual one-sided melodramatic way.

    I note nobody has bothered to respond to:

    I wonder how you guys would like someone coming into your house, taking your goods, selling them without your permission and keeping the proceeds.

    Which is precisely the behaviour the sale of second hand goods equates to.

    #33 6 years ago
  34. Psychotext

    Nobody has chosen to respond to it because it’s a ludicrous comparison.

    #34 6 years ago
  35. DrDamn

    You keep ignoring the point I am making too. Is this known but illegal practice factored in to the price of games in the first place by the publishers, yes or no?

    #35 6 years ago
  36. pleasant_cabbage

    I tend to agree that knowing I can sell games on makes me more comfortable in buying games (especially ones I’m not certain I want but also ones I know I do).

    I’ll take a tenner hit to see if I like a game or not, but I wouldn’t take a £40-50 hit to do the same.

    Games ARE still too expensive (they used to be incredibly so, now just very much so) ;)

    #36 6 years ago
  37. Psychotext

    …there’s the assumption it’s illegal again. Yet I’ve seen no proof of this provided. Unless you’re talking of unenforceable EULAs which conflict with your basic legal rights?

    #37 6 years ago
  38. Spiral

    I wonder how you guys would like someone coming into your house, taking your goods, selling them without your permission and keeping the proceeds.

    Which is precisely the behaviour the sale of second hand goods equates to.

    No it isn’t. If I accepted their money for my goods and they then went on to sell them and kept the proceeds that would be the same.

    #38 6 years ago
  39. Truk

    Wow Shatner, you do talk a lot of crap. If the resale was illegal, do you not think EA or Activision or Sony wouldn’t have had their day in court? Even if their licence states that, which I can’t ever remember reading, I’d imagine any such case would quickly be thrown out of court for breaching a large number of other laws and rights. I think you may be getting confused with copyright laws, which have *nothing* to do with resale.

    I’d agree that second-hand sales are a nuisance. It’s massively imbalanced towards retailers, both against publishers and consumers, and it’s actually likely to end up hurting retailers in the long run, both through direct loss of income for publishers – and therefore fewer games to sell – and from publishers pushing more towards direct sales.

    #39 6 years ago
  40. Stupot24

    Shatner? Are you David Braben?

    #40 6 years ago
  41. Retroid

    “Hero of Canton said:
    Yeah, I see fucktons of second-hand CDs and DVDs when I wander into HMV.

    Oh wait.”

    I said IN THE SAME SHOP, did I?

    Oh, it appears I didn’t. So bugger off.

    Cheaper games in the first place would help knock the second-hand market on the head in highstreet stores (Game especially take the piss and I hate ‘em for it).

    #41 6 years ago

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