David Braben, the founder of Frontier Developments and a long-time opponent of the pre-owned games market, has written up six potential fixes to the “problem” – while also sinking his boot into the presently in-vogue “online pass” method.
In a blog post on Develop, Braben’s six options range from the sedate, such as to continue down the “online pass” road, through to the costly, such as uniquely tagging all discs and potentially allowing publishers to restrict access.
Braben’s opposition to the online pass method – which effectively slugs buyers of used games with an additional charge if they want to play online – is its execution.
“Our fragmentary response to the problem, one-time codes and so on, is in danger of reducing the incentive to keep them anyway, devaluing a collection if it is bound to numerous different accounts and codes, with no certainty that in the future these codes will continue to work,” he said.
And Braben’s six proposals are:
1. Carry on with the array of ad-hoc one-time codes, online ‘passes’, DLC, to tilt players toward new purchases.
2. Introduction of cross-industry serial numbering of discs. This shouldn’t mean the complete freezing out of pre-owned – it would be up to developers and publishers what to do – but it does give the option of a whole range of possibilities, including ones currently covered by the one-time codes.
3. Industry participation in pre-owned sales. This has to be with the retailers’ agreement, but this may come, as long as there is an upside to them, and that upside could be as part of holding off on the worse excesses of (2).
4. Bring in ‘Not for Resale’ SKUs. Why is there no parallel with DVD sales? It is because they do not allow resale or rental – and in fact have special ‘for rental’ SKUs at a significantly greater price.
5. Make the discs just data discs costing say, £5, perhaps containing an extended demo, but requiring online validation to become a full game (eg by withholding the executable file), even for the first user.
6. Move to online-only. This is where the retailers seem to want us to go after all, so perhaps it’s time to make the jump.
EA and THQ have already products in the market which use their respective takes on the online pass scheme. Take-Two, Activision and Ubisoft have also expressed interest in the sub-product.