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Industry vet Richard Browne: The “real cost” of used games sales is loss of variety, single-player

Thursday, 12th April 2012 18:20 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Richard Browne, former Eidos developer and former VP of Core Studios at THQ and Universal Interactive, believes “the real cost” of used games is not to the publisher, but to the consumer  as well as the direct cause of the “death of single-player gaming.”

In an editorial published on GI International, Browne said used games have “never been an issue” with publishers as they “don’t hate used games, but the practices of GameStop,” such as forcing customers to purchase a game used instead of new.

The direct result, according to Browne, is the loss of single-player games for multiplayer implementation.

“How do I stop churn? I implement multiplayer and attempt to keep my disc with my consumer playing online against their friends,” he said. “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.”

Browne cites as an example of two single-player games which, in his opinion, had multiplayer tacked on in order “stop the game churn”: Ninja Gaiden and Uncharted 3.

“What on Earth was the point of taking the completely single-player experience of Uncharted 1 and bolting on an entirely new game to Nathan Drake’s second adventure? The multiplayer game – brilliantly executed as one would expect of the Naughty Dog team – had absolutely nothing to do with the single player experience, and from my perspective had absolutely zero interest from me as a consumer, and I’m not alone in that,” said Browne.

“Take a look at the most recent Ninja Gaiden game. Why does that multiplayer mode exist? What effect did having to build it have on the single-player experience? There is no reason for the multiplayer game to exist; it makes no sense in NG’s universe. I’m not singling out Ninja Gaiden here, as the number of games that have gone the same route over the past couple of years is substantial. But is it good for the consumer?

“Absolutely not – in general they’re getting a poorer single-player game. But again that’s the tip of the iceberg.”

Browne also pointed out, developers such as Tim Schafer don’t “stand a chance” when pitching a game to publishing executives because while he is “a genius”, in the publisher’s mind the game will “sell a few hundred thousand copies and then get endlessly churned.”

“In the end, Tim has gone on to write smaller games, digitally delivered and is now using Kickstarter to fund his latest and greatest product and I think that’s fantastic,” he said. “Do I think it’s fantastic that I’ll no longer be able to buy another Brutal Legend-style Tim Schafer game? No I don’t. Is that beneficial to the consumer? Absolutely not.”

To Browne, the true cost of used game sales is the variety in the market is dwindling as games which were successful in the past as a single-player offering, are now being “redesigned out of their element to introduce multiplayer features.”

Publishers do this, he said, so that risk is eliminated, yet, the direct result is less variety and choice, and in his mind, the anti-used system rumored for the next Xbox console would eliminate part of the problem.

“Personally I hope, and would actively encourage Microsoft and Sony, to embrace the “Nuclear Option” and put an end to this,” he concluded. “Give us no used games, give us digital access to software on the day it launches to retail.

“I don’t think we’ll see even a minor drop in sales; in fact, I think we’ll see it rise.”

Richard Browne has been part of the gaming industry for over 20 years and is currently the director of Chemical X Productions.

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12 Comments

  1. LOLshock94

    awwwrrrr stfu

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Zeydlitz

    This deduce contain an error on very begining — used games not decrease first-party sales, but increased it! Used game could be thinking as “low-cost” version of game, and lower cost == increase purchase base of product. The crowd, buying new game are decrease not much, it’s part of percent, but new people, that could spend on game only limited money will overcome all this decrease with ease. Well… The gross money in game market is constant, does not depends on such low tricks as used games at all. But lowing cost will increase this value. Lower to much and some money will be unspend, of course, but we speaking of small values.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Alpha

    #1 Wow productive.

    I agree one hundred percent about the Uncharted thing, but I NEVER buy a game based on the multiplayer, I just find them tediously dull :)

    However used games are popular and I think that blocking them is going to put off a portion of the console buyers and there’ll be the typical furor and frivolous lawsuits and anonymous will probably get involved to have a pop at Sony and so on..

    Is it really worth it?

    #3 2 years ago
  4. AHA-Lambda

    Good piece, nice to hear this opinion from someone in the games industry when most really aren’t willing to say this. Nevertheless, essentially the argument here is AAA development and its risks, where the argument of used sales comes hand in hand.

    I pretty much agree with him on all those points except the last. If the industry does want to “kill” off used games sales then it needs to do it completely and adopt an iTunes or Steam style model. Having discs locked to an ID will not work!!

    Seriously, if it wasn’t for the used market I think the AAA sector would have crashed long ago…

    #4 2 years ago
  5. G1GAHURTZ

    Richard Browne, former Edios developer…

    What is Edios?

    #5 2 years ago
  6. LOLshock94

    last year multiplayer was killing gaming this year its used games….there all a bunch of freaks that repeat the same shit as someone else did, next year piracy and the year after it will be about how hardcore gamers are killing multiplayer games are some shit

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Mr-Brett

    Did actually read it?

    LOLshock : “last year multiplayer was killing gaming this year its used games”

    Article : “The direct result, according to Browne, is the loss of single-player games for multiplayer implementation.”

    #7 2 years ago
  8. LOLshock94

    I dnt hv 2 rd it 2 no wht h3s tlkn abt

    #8 2 years ago
  9. The_Red

    I have been a critic of used games sales but he makes a rather interesting argument. “Used Game Sales” are NOT the problem. The aggressive way the likes of GameStop are forcing them is.

    Sure, GameStop does support new purchases thanks to “Exclusive Pre-order” deals but they and many others push used games more compared to new titles in their stores. At least that’s what I’ve seen. Also, the whole trend IS hurting singleplayer games. Look at Skyrim and Batman AC. They are the ONLY best selling singleplayer games on the market and both of them are 50-100 hour games with open worlds. Other single player only titles just come and fail at retail. Most simply bomb (Enslaved) and even the most successful ones don’t sell that much (Bayonetta, Vanquish, DarkSiders).
    Look how Mass Effect was forced to add a pointless multiplayer. The same goes for Ninja Gaiden 3 (As mentioned in the article) and Assassin’s Creed.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Gekidami

    ^ Thats actually always been devs gripe with used games sales and its a perfectly valid one; Someone walks into a shop wanting to buy a specific, newly released game, sees it on sale second hand cheaper, so obviously they’ll get that over the new one (they’d quite frankly be mad not to), and bang, no profit for the devs and publisher, all to the retailer. Its quite clear that its in the retailers best interest you get games second hand rather than new, so they’re going to pushed used.

    Some devs talk about it here:
    http://gamepolitics.com/2011/08/23/developers-respond-gamestop039s-used-games-market-comments

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Gigabomber

    Problem is that tacking on a poor multiplayer experience backfires with games like Deadspace 2 and Ninja Gaiden 3. People love to point to the tacked on multi as the reason for poor review scores and not to keep them on the shelf. Bottom line is that there are too many games that just aren’t worth buying flooding the market and turning us away from flopping down the 60, just in case, including some of your beloved Schafer’s recent bite-sized offerings (Brutal Legend. He’s bringing that up?). The DLC frenzy is a backward way to go about keeping your fanbase, as exhibited by the disappointed faces of people that pre-ordered Saints Row 3 and MW3 elite: games like this with fatal flaws are KILLING sales. Bethesda’s annual release of games packaged with their DLC included for the original retail price doesn’t help.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Mr-Brett

    Lolshock: Well clearly you do since you obviously have no idea what it’s about :D

    #12 2 years ago

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