Bethesda VP: used game trade is “absolutely” a concern

Tuesday, 16th April 2013 08:01 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Developers and publishers need to be included in the used-game revenue cycle, Bethesda vice president Pete Hines has said.

Destructoid asked the executive whether the sale of used games – which puts money in retailers’ coffers, but not the companies who make the games – is something he worries about.

“Absolutely it’s a concern,” he said.

“We have tried to mitigate it by creating games that offer replayability, by supporting them with DLC that’s worth hanging onto the game for, or offering tools that let them take things further.”

Hines said that there’s “no doubt” that gaming isn’t exactly a cheap hobby.

“Games are not cheap to buy because they’re expensive to make, and people are looking for ways to keep it affordable,” he said.

“I’m not sure anyone has figured out a solution that works for everyone, and there simply may not be one until someone figures out how to include developers and publishers in the loop on used games sales instead of keeping it all for themselves.”

Although the publisher has successfully leveraged DLC for several of its titles, it’s not keen to jump on the multiplayer and online pass scheme so beloved of rivals in recent years, saying that shoehorning multiplayer into a game like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim might have damaged its sales performance.

“The time and energy we would have put into adding online/co-op/whatever functionality to Skyrim would have taken away from the single-player experience. I don’t think the game would have been as good. We’d spend a lot more time working on how it all works when one person is playing versus two people, and the end result would have been a lesser game,” he explained.

“Todd Howard has explicitly said this in the past, so I’m gonna go with what he thinks. I think multiplayer really helps when multiplayer is important to the game experience the developer wants to create. If it’s not important, leave it out.”

We’re expecting big things from Bethesda’s partners this year, and the publisher recently announced it has ended development of Skyrim – so expect even bigger things from Bethesda Game Studios in the next few years, too.



  1. GameStunts

    In no other business does a company who originally makes a product get a cut of the sales of it every time after that, this is just a weird notion the games industry has.

    Ford doesn’t get a cut every time a car is sold on, they sell it once.

    The used games industry is crucial to the revenue stream of gamers as a whole. Publishers can already monetise used games via DLC, and if you even want to argue about server costs, games like Battlefield Bad Company 2 showed how that could be done with online pass codes. If you bought a used copy, you had to pay for a code to use it online.

    If we take a single player game like Skyrim. The fact that some college student with no money, a kid with their pocket money or just some thrifty gamer who cannot possibly afford the full price of a new release title doesn’t buy your game at full price isn’t a lost sale. THOSE people would never have bought the game new anyway. What those people provide is a crucial revenue stream to the people who do buy new games. By allowing them to trade in their games, knowing that there is a market for the secondhand ones, retailers can offset the cost of a new game to that gamer that does purchase new titles, with the assurance that someone will be looking for a secondhand one.

    That used copy just became another sale opportunity for your DLC, that you would NEVER have had.

    Wake up publishers, you’re not entitled to the money for a product once it’s sold. Make games that are so good, people just have to have them on release, or DLC that’s actually worth the asking price and not a puny set of 3 missions (I’m looking at you Saints Row The Third). For multiplayer, make a £5 or £10 online pass if you have to, I’m not going to argue that servers aren’t costly.

    All these micro-transactions, inflated price DLCs and crying about used games is creating an “us and them” mentality that is ultimately going to hurt you.

    From a gamer who buys new and used games.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. melonbuster1

    Next generation systems need to block or charge for used games.. like $10 bucks to used each game.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Jerykk


    Is someone who routinely buys and sells used games really going to be interested in buying DLC, though? DLC is often released weeks or months after a game launch and the majority of used buyers will have already sold their games by then.

    And the argument that used games help sell new games is a flawed one. For one, people who sell used games are more likely to buy used games, not new ones. Secondly, by creating a used copy, you’re effectively cutting out a new sale because people will always go for whatever’s cheaper and they’ve already proven their intent to buy the game. For example, GameStop is currently the largest used game seller and their used prices are a complete joke. Used copies of newer or more popular games are typically only a few dollars less than new copies. Hell, a used copy of Skyrim, a game that came out almost two years ago, is only $2 less than a new copy. But when a frugal customer walks in and sees two copies of the same game, one for $40 and one for $38, which do you think he’ll choose?

    I’m all for consumer rights and all that but people should at least recognize the impact of their buying habits. DLC, pre-order exclusives, microtransactions and online passes all started popping up after GameStop became popular. It’s not a coincidence. Comparisons to traditional physical products aren’t really valid, since those degrade over time and require maintenance. They also take up space and in many cases (like with cars and houses), banning used sales simply isn’t feasible or practical. Digital products, on the other hand, suffer no such limitations. A used copy of Skyrim offers the exact same experience as a new copy. Finding space to store your old Skyrim disc is not the same as finding space to store your old car and house (and you don’t have to pay taxes just to keep your disc).

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Hirmetrium

    @3: While the car analogy isn’t perfect, it’s still very applicable. No other industry expects to have a slice of resale – so why are games (or software for that matter) any different?

    Rather than ask “how can I get a slice of used sales” publishers should be asking “how can I make a product worth keeping for a long time, giving the user lasting value”. Car’s now have 4 year free warranties and the like, with many extras for those whom purchase brand new – what have games done? shoe-horned more DLC and charges in. Micro transactions. Online DRM and server switchoffs, even on a paid for service like XBL. The list of consumer screwing continues.

    And people call gamers entitled. Publishers acting like everything on the market belongs to them, then complaining when it doesn’t. It’s disgusting.

    Not to mention downloadable games – they are dangerous enough, and the EU has already ordered that downloadable licenses be re-salable. I’m under no delusions who is in the right here.

    (HINT: It’s the people who buy games, the consumers, because without them there is no publisher)

    #4 2 years ago
  5. TheBlackHole


    Finally, a rational view. +1

    #5 2 years ago
  6. TheBlackHole


    “While the car analogy isn’t perfect, it’s still very applicable”

    No it’s not. Car’s degrade, games don’t. End of comparison.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Gheritt White

    @6: Also, the price of a car when bought new has increased in price over time. On the whole, games haven’t increased in price since the turn of the century and on PC they’re actually cheaper than ten or fifteen years ago.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. dizzygear

    “Is someone who routinely buys and sells used games really going to be interested in buying DLC, though? DLC is often released weeks or months after a game launch and the majority of used buyers will have already sold their games by then.”

    As someone who routinely buys used games the answer is no. The reason is that getting the full DLC package more often than not ends up costing more than the game itself.
    Another reason is that DLC almost never ever drops in price even years after the games release.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. DrDamn

    I have sympathy but I don’t think that trying to get a cut of second hand sales makes much sense, too difficult to police, unusual from a consumer perspective and a solution to delivery of a digital product in a physical way.

    As a product games are different to a lot of others – for reasons given above by others – and has to be looked at differently. The product is digital not physical and the costs are heavily in development not so much in manufacture.

    They need to look at delivery and pricing.

    Pricing needs to come into it because current prices do in some ways take into account the resale situation. The validity of this from a publishing perspective has diminished as prices have remained stagnant and dev costs gone up. It is still a factor though. A lot of consumers are willing to pay £40-£50 on a game with the knowledge that they can sell it on and recoup some of those costs. Less are willing to pay the same (or more) for restricted digital content.

    In terms of delivery they need to re-examine what digital delivery is and how they can generate more sales and revenue by being creative and offering more value to the consumers. Bundle deals, competitive pricing, bundled licences (particularly for social games), splitting elements of the game (SP/MP). I can see a PS+ like model becoming very important as content becomes more prevalent too. Low cost to publishers, high value to gamers, a good deal. Essentially understanding that there are different types of customer out there for each of your products and trying to force them all to be their ideal customer isn’t helping.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. LostInTheVoid

    I think it comes down to the state of the economy at the moment £30-40 is a lot of money to be spending on a video game people simply can’t afford those prices so they buy second hand for less. If you look at what Gabe did with steam creating a marketplace that prices things sensibly and offers a good service you’ll get more sales. Game Devs should really be cautious with what they say and do. Developers may not be happy that they don’t get some of the money from second hand sales but if they don’t do something to lower the price of selling games to shops then shops wont exactly want to lower them anytime soon.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. zinc

    Well I’m a psn+ member, who recently got mass effect 3 free & who has just dropped £20 on dlc for it.

    Now I could have gone to the shop, traded in an old game, picked up mass effect 3 & then bought the DLC.

    Except one option seems to be the death of videogames & the other perfectly fine. What’s the difference?

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Joe_Gamer

    Make a game worth keeping and gamers will keep it…

    Games DO deteriorate in value over time, the used market is primarily physical discs that can easily become damaged and have a well studied/documented lifespan, yes the games “bits” don’t change, but the amount of time you have left where the game will remain functional is reduced over time. Most people don’t think about it much because the lifespan of discs(when cared for) exceeds the lifespan of the consoles we use to play them.

    In human nature “new” has a quantifiable value as well, the older an entertainment product(or any product) becomes the less value we assign to it, regardless of the quality, function or level of preservation. This is human nature and is probably a subconscious expression of something buried deep in our lizard brains that we all know, NOTHING lasts forever.

    Multi-player games deteriorate the most, a year after release the online community is a tiny SLIVER of what it was at launch, servers are getting shorter and shorter lifespans and “new” multi-player games come out at a faster and faster rate. Any multiplayer game other than the newest iteration of whatever franchise is being milked the hardest is practically worthless

    Even digital goods which have NO deterioration will drop in price over time.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Cobra951

    @1: Your first point alone slams the door on the bullshit. The rest of your thoughtful post is not even needed, but appreciated nonetheless.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. nollie4545

    A move aimed at stopping the use of second hand games would cut margins for retailers who sell them second hand, and also perhaps curtail the sales of new titles as people trade in to buy them.

    I see no difference to someone buying a game second hand 6 months after launch compared to me buying it 6 months late from steam for usually less than half price.

    Like someone else said, no other industry gets a second stab at second hand sales, why should the game industry? Do you see the film/movie industry trying to put a halt to it?

    #14 2 years ago
  15. fearmonkey

    Actually I am one of those people that buy a used game for cheap and take a chance on it. I wouldn’t have bought it new because I was unsure of the game, but if I liked it, I almost always buy the bigger DLC for the game (No map packs or character DLC, missions or gameplay DLC only).

    Shadows of the damned was a game that I would have never bought new, but I took a chance on it and I enjoyed it. I now will keep an open mind regarding future games from that developer. I have countless games that are that way. I never liked Saint’s row 1 and 2, but Steam had a free weekend for Saint’s row:the third, and I tried it, and I really enjoyed it, so I bought it and all the DLC. I got the game on Steam for an amazing price and the developer still made money on me. IF they kill used games, but make the prices cheaper, I may take a chance on the game. If they keep the prices like they did with the xbox 360, barely any discount, and kill used sales, then I probably will NEVER try a game i was unsure of.

    I picked up Singularity used and loved the game, if they would have made a sequel, I would have bought it new. I wouldn’t have bought the game new as I was unsure of it, I didn’t like Quake 4 or the last few Raven games unfortunately.

    I buy used games all the time off of Gamefly and rarely gamestop. If the game is great, Ill probably buy the DLC, if it sucks I didn’t really lose much. Demos most of the time do nothing for me, I hardly ever buy a game based on a Demo. If they kill used sales, they should probably look at something like shareware again, where they give you a decent amount of gameplay for free. I am just not going to take a chance on a game im unsure about if I can only buy it new or near full price and have no way of selling it if I ever did take that chance.

    #15 2 years ago

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