Take-Two: Quality key to combating used sales

Chairman Strauss Zelnick advises developers to address trade-in problems with great DLC and high-quality titles, not punishments for buying second hand.

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Used-game sales have been a big issue for all publishers, especially as more retailers jump on the second-hand bandwagon. Once the domain of specialty retailers, such as GameStop, in 2010 firms including Toys 'R' Us, Target, and Best Buy have all added used-game offerings in an attempt to boost their own bottom lines.

As a result, publishers have become increasingly strident in their attempts to stem the second-hand sale of their titles. EA and THQ have started including one-time use codes to unlock online multiplayer modes in new copies of games, with Ubisoft promising to follow suit.

Take-Two chairman and soon-to-be-CEO Strauss Zelnick.

Talking in New York this morning, Take-Two's chairman and soon-to-be-CEO Strauss Zelnick said he did not think this was the right approach. Saying that given the law clearly established that used-game sales were acceptable--thanks to the first-sale doctrine--he said the focus should be on making quality games that players want to keep. "It's irrelevant to be critical of the used-game marketplace," Zellnick said.

Attempting to dissuade players from selling their games through punitive measures wasn't the right approach, he said. "You don't want to use a stick punishing users for buying used; you want to give them a reason to buy new," he said. "You want to create something that's of benefit to consumers."

It is the first six weeks that are particularly important for used sales, said Zelnick. He believes the way to combat such sales in this period is all about making quality games and informing gamers that there is more quality content in the pipeline--be it free or paid for. "By letting consumers know there's more stuff to come, it stands to reason they'd hang on to their titles," Zelnick said.

He also indicated that a Western massively multiplayer online game was not part of Take-Two's plans in the near future. Managing servers and call centers was something the company "knew nothing about." The idea of making a $100 million investment to launch something into the US marketplace was too risky and "isn't consistent with our approach to business," he said.

"How many MMOs have worked in US market? WOW and Everquest. How many have been launched?" he asked. "We didn't like those odds."

However, the door is not shut forever. The company recently launched NBA 2K Online in China in partnership with local social media company Tencent, with an official license from the NBA and an "exceedingly modest investment." If the project works, Zelnick said, Take-Two would look at expanding the game into Korea. If that venture is successful, the company would consider moving it into the US, having built up expertise in managing a persistent online world and keeping a large customer base happy.

Discussion

38 comments
thibbledorfP
thibbledorfP

Finally one CEO with some common sense and consumer awareness, after all the rubbish certain CEO's like to say regarding gaming issues.

whataguy69
whataguy69

I agree 100% with this. Look at what happened to Medal of Honor. High expectations, but sales were sub-par. You can't fool consumers.

BloodMist
BloodMist

Leave it up to the boss of a great publisher to add a little sanity into what is obviously a very insane market these days.EA in particular is going back to a lot of the dirty, lame little tactics they have been known for throughout recent times, and are really starting to annoy me.It's truly disgusting that they've sucked Bioware into that crap.

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

Because of EA's policy of 2nd hand games, i have 2nd thoughts of getting their games. See what i did there? BTW Thank you Take 2, you and your rockstar studio never lets me down!

drdoris
drdoris

it would appear that i have been slightly misunderstood. i am not against the 2nd hand games market at all, i often buy used games myself. i just meant that i see why developers and publishers don't like it, because the end result is the same as piracy-one game gets sold and the pubs and devs profit once, and then many people play that game and the pubs and devs receive no more renumeration. and to draw a parallel betwixt the 2nd hand game market and abstracting motorcars is asinine.

xatman911
xatman911

Good idea here. I mean look at LBP for example. Not once have I thought about selling it due to free DLC. If I wanted more than free than I could purchase additional DLC packs. I have a big choice there. Or they can do something like that first time buyer get all future DLC free (major exansion may be paid but no more than 25% of the game market price) and 2nd hand buyers pay once (like EA Cerebus network) to get all the content like 1st time buyers.

X-RS
X-RS

Strauss Zelnick, your ROCK!

Jebril
Jebril

@Gelugon_baat That would still be punishing though which this guy said he was against. I like Take Two games and I like what this guy was saying, he'd strike more at home with me if he realistically started talking about lowering prices. The 60 dollars a game model doesn't work for people and it doesn't work from a developer's perspective. Sometimes to make more money you have to lower your prices....they're just too afraid they'll not gain enough sales to make up for the lowered prices. Which IMO is stupid, if they released a quality title at a low price it will sell. Titles like Braid and Castle Crashers sold because they were affordable and fun, despite being overpriced for their content $15 is something people can afford for a game that's more fun than most $60 games.

pharomarc
pharomarc

@drdoris "i personally can see no practical difference between piracy and the used game market." Really you think there is no difference between piracy and buying a second hand game. I bet you think buying a used car is same as stealing the car and the used car dealers are but a chop shop operation I mean the car manufacturers are not really getting money from the sale of a used car, come on now.

stziggy
stziggy

Here's a wild idea: LOWER PRICES on the new stuff! I buy used because I can't afford new. @drdoris What's next? Do you want to outlaw rummage sales? Can you imagine a day where you buy a used toaster and you have to pay Sunbeam a fee to toast your bread on high?

blakeney
blakeney

We all knew TakeTwo as publishers, are the best we have. News like this just brings a smile to our faces as we feel that feeling we get, called reassurance! :D

qubeley
qubeley

Finally someone from the industry has some sense - it is the quality of game and its replay value that keeps a game selling. Punishing second hand buyers is just greed from the industry.

drdoris
drdoris

interesting. i personally can see no practical difference between piracy and the used game market. in both situations one game is bought and then played by more than one person, it makes no difference to those who have lost revenue whether the non-buying people play at the same time as in piracy, or that they play one after another as is the case with used games. several people are still playing a game, yet the publishers only profit once. the only difference between the two is that retailers like game et al make huge profits from 2nd games, whilst publishers make nothing and with piracy neither make anything. yet everyone seems to loathe piracy whilst not seeing a problem with 2nd hand games. it strikes me as an odd situation.

akiwak
akiwak

It takes TIME and MONEY to build quality games. Those are two things small start ups don't have. I agree that the bigger publishers should focus on quality over quantity in order to affect their bottom line. EA and THQ have the resources they just need to be able to work smarter at backing up their talent. EA has just had a hard time trying to come back from being a company that churned out sequels and is still adjusting to try and figure out how they can dig themselves out. They can no longer go out and buy talent since most of it has already consolidated. Remember when EA was trying to buy out Take Two.......

Barighm
Barighm

I've always liked Take Two. Too bad they're afraid to get into the MMO market. This means Borderlands will never be an MMORPG which is dumb because there is very little competition for MMO's on consoles (aside from the big shooters). It's a market waiting to be tapped.

deviant74
deviant74

100 for the game 50 for the dlc that comes out in 11 months 200 for the adds. Then give the game out for free. Make everyone buy 6 months or a year on there card. Have all the bugs fixed in 2 months. set the zones at 200 players max for little to no lag fps. Set it in 1920 and for every year, 10 years goes bye. This game should have been done 5 years ago. It should be 1960 right now and I should be a big crime boss with a nice big house on the ocean front. And it over looks my pool and my yacht that is guarded by a lot on npc I hired. I got the Yacht insured for more then I payed for it. If some one does steal it I make money. I should be looking at my grand kids on the beach while they are finding sea shells. Since I'm almost 70 now I have been playing by controlling my youngest son. I'm still glad that Las Vegas fiasco finely paid off in the end. Well I guess you not put out that game has saved me a lot of money and time. What did I do with all that money and time. Did you guys put out that CoD game or Halo?

jphenicie
jphenicie

they should just leave the business model alone and make games people want to keep forever!

Zoomer30
Zoomer30

The only other way to "combat the problem" (still do see where the issue is) is to limit the number of copies they make. The game pubs do this to themselves, they just flood the market from day one, so naturally when some people finish others of "lesser means" will be able to get it cheap. The game devs/pubs need to stop being so damn greedy and stop trying to stop 2nd hand sales and try to stop the out and out piracy, that is the real evil, the people who steal the game.

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

Remember when the only place to sell a used game was a pawn shop, or the kid at the lunch table that couldn't afford to buy games as much as you could? I do, and back then, it was great to be the guy to trade games with. We need to go back to doing that type of stuff. Then again, back then you didn't have so many consoles to choose from.

Videodogg
Videodogg

If i buy a new game it is my property to do with as i please. The game was sold and purchased. The company got my money. I will sell it if i wish, to whom ever i please...and I get some of my money back...and i might buy a new game with that money. There is no argument or discussion. Its my game, my money.

OJ_the_LION
OJ_the_LION

I'm sure Guild Wars, City of Heroes/Villains, and Final Fantasy XI fans would take some issue with his comment that WoW and Everquest were the only MMOs to work in the US, but anyway. I like his way of thinking. Punishing people for exercising their right to buy and sell used games will just engender hatred (and possibly lawsuits). As it is right now the game industry is one of the few that has actual fans of some companies. Implementing some of these draconian punishments against players just to maximize profit will destroy the good relationship many of these companies have with their consumers. It's best to reward people for buying new--and it works, i haven't bought a used Take Two game since GTA Vice City, all of them have been new since then.

gshell
gshell

i can appreciate that comment. i will continue buy most of my games used because i'm cheap....i bought nba live 10 used and i got hit with the $10 fee and i was pissed so now when it comes to EA i won't buy their games unless it's a supreme deal (i.e. dragon age 2, definitely getting because of dlc) or a price that i deem suitable (i.e. just ordered madden 11 from ea website and got it for $21 with discount and eapartners code).

alexLmx6
alexLmx6

In the sea of madness that is the games industry, we finally find a rock of sanity. I've been saying this ever since this whole used games fiasco started: A publisher/developer attacking the used games industry says one thing loud and clear. They aren't confident in the quality of their games, because they are expecting enough people to quickly get bored with it to cause them to lose money. So, if the people who made the game know that it sucks, and are clearly telling everyone that, why on earth would I buy it new in the first place?? Hopefully publishers will get the message sooner rather than later, and make more games we will want to proudly display on a shelf because the disc never leaves the drive.

Krelian-co
Krelian-co

wow a ceo who makes sense thats hard to find

GoingPostal13
GoingPostal13

@BlazemanZ what you're missing is that trade-ins drive new sales. There isn't a massive untapped pile of gold that people have hidden away that they'll spend on new titles simply because there are 2nd hand alternative. Stopping pre-owned sales will not suddenly spurn a huge increase in new purchases anymore than stamping out piracy will - providing compelling reasons to purchase decent DLC for 2nd hand sales, or providing content that makes you want to hang-on to your new purchases will. Strauss Zelnick speaks sense and it's a refreshing change to see someone who could well be a big company CEO realise that fact.

santinegrete
santinegrete

@AcidSoldner: Thanks for telling it in less words, really. No I do understand. But how to do that? Free DLC to complement the life of the game, maybe? -along with the top notch quality this chairman is talking about-

Megaman_Omega
Megaman_Omega

"Well i hope the gaming industry stops this looking down on trading used games. What the big deal? " If a person buys a game used then the video game industry earn no cash from that sale (as opposed to buying a new game), that's the big deal.

Evenios
Evenios

Second Hand Lions.... Well i hope the gaming industry stops this looking down on trading used games. What the big deal? Once the person has bought the game and they do not want it they should be able to sell it and it should not have any resistrctions on someone else buying it (unless its for a MMO that comes with a one time use key or something) Its just mostly Game Publishers (Like EA) who wants to squeeze every doller they can. Not everyone has the money to pay 60 bucks for every new PS3 or 360 game that comes out. Give us a break. And a lot of the games out now are the same old same old, you really want to make money? sell games that have something different!

ToTs_00
ToTs_00

"How many MMOs have worked in US market? WOW and Everquest. How many have been launched?" he asked. "We didn't like those odds." I like this guy a whole lot!!!!

AcidSoldner
AcidSoldner

This guy knows whats up. We shouldn't be punished for buying used but rather rewared for buying new and keeping them.

johnrayjr
johnrayjr

About freakin' time! When gamers sell a $60 game two days after launch, they've made a decision about it's quality. The developers don't get to cry about it; they made a forgettable game. More quality, less whining. Kthxbai.

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

I'm still a firm believer in it being everyone's right to buy used and sell their copy of a game on, but the problem is as more companies see they want a piece of the pie, it makes used games more and more expensive, effectively putting me off a lot of them until they're genuinely aged a lot and therefore have naturally gone down in price anyway...

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

Finally ... a voice of reason.

GoingPostal13
GoingPostal13

Chairman Strauss Zelnick clearly has far too much common sense to become a CEO.

Narroo
Narroo

The guy sounds like he has some common sense, yay! Also, can the First Sale Doctrine be used to justify personal modifications to items. [Granted people usually use that to pirate stuff, but for the innocent users...]