Used market killing single-player games, says ex-THQ exec

Publisher's former VP of core games wants next-gen consoles to block used games, says secondhand market damages the industry on a number of fronts.

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The rumors that next-generation systems from Microsoft and Sony will prevent owners from playing used games have proven unpopular with gamers, but the idea is getting some support from the development and publishing community. The latest voice urging the console makers to block secondhand games on their next systems belongs to former THQ vice president of core games Richard Browne.

Used game sales are driving a wedge between those who make games and those who sell them.

In an editorial published yesterday on GamesIndustry International, Browne said he "would actively encourage Microsoft and Sony to embrace the 'Nuclear Option'" and block used games, arguing that the aftermarket for games has a variety of detrimental effects on the industry as a whole. In particular, he said the idea of single-player games is dying, as publishers divert funds to create tacked-on multiplayer modes in the hopes they will keep players holding on to the discs rather than selling them back into the used market.

"Take a look at the most recent Ninja Gaiden game," Browne said. "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 Ninja Gaiden's universe. No doubt, the budget and resources for the team weren't massively extended when the request for multiplayer was added, so it absolutely must have materially impacted the people building the core game."

Browne went on to attribute a number of industry ills on the used game market, including lessened variety of titles available and a rash of independent developer closures.

Efforts to counter the used game market have been in the works for years. Publishers like Electronic Arts, THQ, and Sony frequently implement Online Pass programs where multiplayer features or other parts of the game are unlocked with a onetime-use code that comes packed with new copies of a game (or purchased for $10 through a system's online storefront). Other recent developers to speak out against used sales include Elite creator David Braben, Volition design director Jameson Durall, and Silicon Knights founder Denis Dyack.

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