Most FPS games lose money, says TimeSplitters dev

Free Radical founder says Call of Duty and Battlefield are only profitable shooters on market, publishers afraid to pursue projects that don't follow established formula.

352 Comments

Call of Duty and Battlefield are the only first-person shooter franchises making money, TimeSplitters developer and Free Radical founder Steve Ellis recently told Edge. As a result, the longtime developer believes publishers are wary to green-light projects that buck established trends.

Publishers won't pursue a unique FPS, according to Ellis.
Publishers won't pursue a unique FPS, according to Ellis.

"I spent the whole of 2008 going round talking to publishers trying to sign up TimeSplitters 4," Ellis said. "There just isn't the interest there in doing anything that tries to step away from the rules of the genre--no one wants to do something that's quirky and different, because it's too much of a risk. And a large part of that is the cost of doing it."

Crytek UK (the name Free Radical took on when Crytek purchased the outfit) recently confirmed that TimeSplitters 4 was not in development despite the game having been announced in 2007.

"Nobody really buys any FPSes unless they're called Call of Duty," he elaborated. "I guess Battlefield did OK, but aside from that, pretty much every FPS loses money. I mean, [look at] Crysis 2: great game, but there's no way it came anywhere close to recouping its dev costs."

Ellis left Crytek UK in February 2009 to open a mobile game studio called Crash Lab. He explained that the FPS genre today has morphed considerably from what it once was.

"We've been through more than a couple of console generations and seen things grow and grow to a stage where it's not really the business we got into," he said. "It's not really what we signed up for at the start."

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Norrie91

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Edited By Norrie91

Its a sad day when more and more developers are admiting story based games don't sell well :(

I really hate most developers now. Forced Multiplayer, removing content for Day 1 DLC, half assed storys with no character development at all, no atmosphere.

Not all of us want a new COD every F***ing Day! And every game doesn't need MP to make it good!

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sykopat99

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Edited By sykopat99

@Norrie91

In most cases this is because of the publishers, not the developer.

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Drealgrin7

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Edited By Drealgrin7

H@sykopat99 @Norrie91 in all cases this is because of the idiot consumers. I guarantee 80% minimum of the idiots who complain about cod still faithfully buy it every year.

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Serpentes420

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Edited By Serpentes420

@Drealgrin7 @sykopat99 @Norrie91 Not this idiot. I rent it play the single player campaign for the few hours it takes and send that crap back to gamefly :D

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Uchiha_Sasuke1

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Edited By Uchiha_Sasuke1

Some of us gamers are suffering because of games being changed by unknown force. I think theres less organized gaming business going on and are more none cooperation based on all the years of study that videogame developers and law makers made.

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santinegrete

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Edited By santinegrete

If everyone in the industry thinks like this I'm guessing I'll see less adventure or story driven shooters like Singularity, Darkness and Metro and more militarized ones where you only shoot other gunmen. At least I'll be saving money because I just had enough of that. My wallet will vote that way and I hope disappointed fans of TS do so.

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Thunderstarter

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Edited By Thunderstarter

I miss Timesplitters; no other game allowed for such a customizable shooter experience. With the plethora of game modes, quirky characters, creative guns and stages, and even the ability to create your own stage from scratch gave the game extremely high replay value. It's a shame that the current market won't support it, but I definitely agree with Ellis on this one, and I personally would hate it if TS4 fell back on the shooter formula...it would ruin what Timesplitters stands for.

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jordanlynn321

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Edited By jordanlynn321

Timesplitters was never that great. I owned 1 and 2. There are still shooters that make money. Battlefield, call of duty, halo, crysis 2, far cry 2, portal 2, half life 2, left 4 dead 1 and 2, Rainbow Six Vegas, Deus Ex, F.E.A.R. 1 2 and 3, Bioshock 1,2 and 3, and Metroid. All successfull. I think there are TOO MANY SHOOTERS NOW!!!

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LtReviews

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Edited By LtReviews

@jordanlynn321

Do you even know what a shooter is?

Portal 2 is a puzzle game

Deus Ex is an action-RPG

Metroid Prime is an action-adventure

You are confusing first person perspective from an actual gameplay type.

And though Half-Life 2 is a shooter, I don't think anyone here would say they play it because of the shooting action. A "shooter" is a game that is PRIMARILY based on reflexes and precision in order to "shoot" through the game.

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TigusVidiks

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Edited By TigusVidiks

@jordanlynn321 Did you reed the story in the first place?He works for Crytek. And he 's saying thet Crysis 2 did't even cover the production expenses. He's basically right. The only profitable FPS out there are COD and BF franchises. Because coming out even won't cut it. Producers want profit. Deus Ex has not yet turned profitable. FEAR ? Dead as dead can be. Bioshock is the exception. You say ''all successfull!'' - what do you mean? The games were coll? Maybe, but that's not the point. Didi they make money? My guess is only Bioshock did, outside of the first 3 games you listed.

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Jedilink109

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Edited By Jedilink109

I think a lot of the problem is the ridiculous product models these big publishers keep doing. Activision and their insane Call Of Duty Elite nonsense. Pay an extra 50 for a game you already paid 60 for. Ugh. And on top of that I think that systems became much more powerful and developers weren't ready for such higher costs of development that more powerful systems require. Hopefully this longer life of the current systems will allow dev costs to be able to catch up and not be so much higher than potential profits, although I do think new systems will be coming out somewhat soon anyway so that won't happen. I think the technology is just more powerful than what allows for simple, cost effective development. That's why we keep seeing the same games and sequelitis. We keep seeing the same kinds of games and other games that pretty much rip off more popular ones in order to make more money. New and entirely innovative games and game ideas are often shot down unless they can be made on an "independent game" kind of smaller scale.

This is hurting the industry and is one of the reasons we keep seeing the same things year after year lately.

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jmc88888

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Edited By jmc88888

They can also outlast everybody with their free debt funding, so there again is an unfair advantage that helps sets the market and standards, that only a few can achieve.

Wall Street picks winners and losers. The winners are EA/Ubi/Activision, the rest, well you get the idea.

The whole gaming industry has gotten off track due to this free debt funding monopoly, which is only a microcosm of the entirety of monetary economics. (no monetarism doesn't denote money, it's a specific ideology, thus don't think I'm saying free games)

Yep and there was quite a bit more lost due to the idiotic comment system.

Wouldn't it of been better to have one nice post instead of all these ones that are still inferior to one bigger post? Well that's the unintended consequences of a piss poor commenting system, whose limits were decided upon wrongly.

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jmc88888

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Edited By jmc88888

Here is the inferior 2nd part of the post not allowed by the bloatware facebook/twitter waste of space that didn't allow me to copy and paste, causing me to lose the rest of it, thus had to be remade, in an inferior manner. Fix this crap.

So you have a case of family farm vs. big corporate agro farm. They cannot compete.

Sure indie devs can make nice games, but let's face it, they are games that are in genres mostly 10 years or older, which are cheaper to make, and when glitzed up, doesn't cost nearly as much.

Now you have people like EA trying to gobble up that innovation with their free debt funding (remember the 1st post) because they have deep pockets, and can assimilate the slow trickle of innovation that can in any way threaten their Wall street corporate debt.

Glass-Steagall

American Credit System (note: not monetary system Keynesian or Austrian)

America was not founded as an Austrian monetarism, nor the Keynesian retarded version of monetarism, it wasn't monetary system AT ALL. It was a CREDIT SYSTEM.

Otherwise you will continue to get such misallocations which manifest itself into society everywhere, including the gaming industry.

I had this 2nd part so much better, but again, the idiot constraints of this site prevented a much better overall, clearer, post. How about a infinite character limit, so I don't even have to copy and paste into 2-3-4 or more posts, and wait a minute, risking losing everything due to more rules that only hinder discussion and solutions.

So as bad as EA is, don't forget the broad spectrum of idiocy extends far beyond just EA.

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jmc88888

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Edited By jmc88888

BTW get rid of this idiot comment limited by characters and stupid twitter facebook crap.

It just lost the 2nd half of the post that rounded it all out. I'll try to remake it, but so many times crap gets lost because of this bloatware and copy and paste crap.

If you want answers, then ALLOW answers to be posted. Your comment setup, doesn't allow it.

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jmc88888

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Edited By jmc88888

It's all economics. Free debt isn't free. What you are watching are the consequences. Listen up or continue to not understand the obvious.

You see some companies can get debt funding like it's water, others can't. Anyone guess which ones these are? Hint: the ones that sell their soul to Wall Street and other economic 'hub' centers.

They push the envelopes and create a standard in some ways others can't match...but they become the same game over and over again.

The ones that want to take things in new directions, can't, because they can't be AAA like the others can (think all the ancillary things like explosions in action films), can't advertise on every channel for months, and thus the average person working like a slave doesn't have the time to spend to figure the difference.) They go by 'perception', like idiots, like how they've been ill-trained as sensory perception idiots, and like lemmings follow the path to their own detriment.

While the people here can obviously tell at least somewhat, most people don't care or don't have time to care and gain the knowledge necessary to judge these matters.

So in short, monetarism, just like everything else (monetarism is an ideology BTW) is crushing the game industry. Big, fat, lazy corporations with free debt money rule the scene at the expense of smaller devs who simply cannot compete with the standard set. The free debt money devs purposefully use this money PURPOSEFULLY to bloat their staffs and games with nice little side candy that does not really add to a game, but catches the eye of time constrained and idiot consumers who see on the surface that these games appear to be better, and thus those games are bought. After all it's their competitive advantage. A very unfair one, and one that does nothing but lead to misallocation. Again they use the free debt funding they sold their souls to wall street via the screwed up rules of monetarism to set the standard bar artificially high to differentiate their games and make themselves virtually untouchable against competitors. It doesn't have to be perfect, because if anything falls through the cracks, a little more free debt funding is created out of thin air to gobble up the company or copy the idea. In other words whatever threatens them can be neutered because they assimilate this into the fold because it is possible to do this since the pace of innovation that threatens them is but a trickle.

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jayjay444

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Edited By jayjay444

if it was only cod and battlefield making money on the fps market then why has halo made more money than the harry potter movies? some thing tells me your wrong........

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minivirus2

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Edited By minivirus2

He's more or less right, but I wouldn't say publishers aren't willing to take any chances. Borderlands did fantastic and part 2 will probably do even better. While it doesn't completely stray from the current mass-FPS mold, it's the most unique shooter I've played in recent memory. TS4 will have it's day... I hope.

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Apastron

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Edited By Apastron

This is gamers' fault in the end for not buying the likes of Vanquish and other FPS games that take a risk and dare to be different. We're our own worst enemy.

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ps3gamer1234

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Edited By ps3gamer1234

I will get Crysis 3

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OtherFabbros

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Edited By OtherFabbros

Sad but true.

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yomonkey

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Edited By yomonkey

if Crysis 2 didn't come close to making money,.. I can only think Crysis 1 must have done even worse... conidering it was pc only and most pc's at the time couldn't run it... too bad

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spammehardo

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Edited By spammehardo

@yomonkey and you would be wrong crysis 1 sold 3+million on just pc, crysis 2 only sold 3 million across all 3 platforms with the cost of porting it to 3 different platforms with a large advertising budget and sharing those profits with sony/microsft.

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Vodoo

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Edited By Vodoo

That is exactly why these publishers are so out of touch. They won't take a chance on the very thing that gamers are almost begging for. We're constantly saying how all these games are generic clones with no personality, and what do they do? They want to put out more of the same. I think the only way we're ever gonna see any innovation in gaming anymore is through programs like kickstarter. That's what we should all do.... fund game projects with the developers directly (consider it like a pre-order) and take companies like EA and Activision out of the loop entirely. I'd love to see EA and Activision gone, and all those studios they gobbled up go back to being independent and making games on their own terms again.

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edpeterson

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Edited By edpeterson

I'd rather play Time Splitters 4 than any other FPS on the market right now, the TS games are funny, fun, and allow you to make your own levels. How amazing would it be to share your own levels online? (I think this was done on TS 3 but I never got to play the online portion because I got the game too late :( ). Oh and they're creative too, which is something that seems hard to find in FPS games now.

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WCK619

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Edited By WCK619

Mr Eddie Ma-cooch needs to do some fact checking before he posts BS.

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inb4uall

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Edited By inb4uall

Yeah well i still won't buy a crytek game until ts4 comes out.

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clqtte

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Edited By clqtte

To comparison, all FPS are the same in game play.

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drknessfeeds

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Edited By drknessfeeds

Why are they comparing Crysis to Timesplitters, they make a new Time Splitters I will definatly buy it.

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mos2000

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Edited By mos2000

Whoa, hold on; nothing factual backs up his claim in regards to Crysis 2 when it comes to recouping development costs:

-Crysis 2 sold 2.6 million world wide at $60 a pop. That's a total of $156 million.

-On average 61% of this goes to the publisher. This takes us now to about $95 million. -

-As far as dev costs, the publisher normally fronts that. Crysis cost $22 million to make. It's fair to say that Crysis 2 is anywhere between 30-35 million. This now leaves $60 million left

-Because the game sold close to 3 million copies and had an avg metacritic of 85, there's likely additional bonuses the devs get. Remember, the costs have been covered by the publisher, the rest is extra...

Here's the problem when loosed lipped, un-factually proven BS is spewed then cited like it's gospel: when coming from who many may believe is a reliable industry source, readers might fall victim to the "used games and single player are killing game sales" horse@#$% being promoted now.

You also got ask GS - I know these are blogs, but is there a spec of journalism or follow-up to these types of statements? Why do we have to do the work that should be done by the contributors to challenge shotty comments.

SMGDH.... Steve Ellis is just another sell-out trying line their pockets even further, by degrading the level of quality we receive, but still charge us AAA prices.

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deactivated-5893d0a8c8591

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Good. Maybe developers will start making something other than so many shooters.

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Yojimbo25

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Edited By Yojimbo25

That's your excuse for not making Timesplitters 4?

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h224justin

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Edited By h224justin

Halo????

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FallenOneX

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Edited By FallenOneX

@h224justin

I see your point, but exclusives like Halo just don't count. Even though, the Halo series has started adding more MP options akin to what the competition has been offering. The standard platformer isn't selling like it used to, but Nintendo can still bet on a Mario game to make money.

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dawnofhero

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Edited By dawnofhero

Why did GameSpot erase all the previous comments? And what's with this new format? I don't like it...

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steelmouth

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Edited By steelmouth

@dawnofhero yah i think they massed up with this new format and deleted previous comments

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GamerLegend10

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Edited By GamerLegend10

Damn, i would rather have Time Splitters 4 over the next 10 cods...i hope they can make it happen someday.

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adamomars

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Edited By adamomars

@doug123 A bat eh....better than forcing me to play Timesplitters! ha!

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RobertBowen

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Edited By RobertBowen

I can understand what Steve Ellis is trying to say here.

Game development AND advertising budgets have sky-rocketed over the years, so in order to see a decent profit on a game, the big publishers now have to sell upwards of 5 million copies to cover ALL of their costs. People forget that while a game may cost, e.g., $50-$100 million to make, you can add on another 50 per cent for advertising alone, and then more for the physical reproduction and distribution chain. When you pay $60 for a game, it's not all going back to the publisher - the retailer takes their cut, the console platform holder (like MS or Sony) takes their license fee, etc.

Ten years ago, they could get away with selling under a million copies and still be profitable, because development (and advertising) budgets were much lower. So there was lower risk investing in more original IPs. But now everyone has seen the success of juggernaut franchises like Call Of Duty, and want a slice of that pie. So some emulate it in the hopes part of that fan-base will migrate to their game and they'll reap the rewards.

But it just doesn't work like that. People invest time (and money) into CoD, and get good at it, and are therefore LESS likely to migrate to other similar games. Which means you have to attract a lot more customers 'outside' of that fan-base. That's why CoD clones tend to fail while CoD continues to attract multi-million sales.

Timesplitters 4 couldn't attract the necessary interest or investment from publishers because they knew the end sales weren't going to match a franchise like CoD. EA would not have been interested because they already have the Battlefield and Crysis franchises under their umbrella, and they wouldn't want to see another FPS game cutting into the profits of those titles. 2K Games has Bioshock and Borderlands, and so on.

I do think publishers should be making more innovative titles like Timesplitters for smaller budgets, aimed at more 'niche' markets. But the problem is that if they have just 5 smaller budget FPS titles in their catalogue, the FPS market will become even more crowded as a result, and they could still lose revenue. So they tend to gravitate towards a couple of 'big' FPS titles in the hopes they will see more revenue.

This is not about how 'good' or 'popular' a franchise is - every game has its loyal fan-base - but about how many units are sold, and whether or not it makes enough profit at the end of the day to justify the investment. Some developers/publishers are satisfied with lower sales (and lower profit margins) if they have managed to keep the development costs down, which is why we do see other successful FPS games attracting sequels.

But anyone who thinks Borderlands or Bioshock makes the same amount of money as Call Of Duty needs a wake-up call. Those games are successful because they appeal to a 'different' audience, in their own market niche, and I would be surprised if their profit margins weren't a lot lower.

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adamomars

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Edited By adamomars

@RobertBowen

I didnt read this.

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steelmouth

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Edited By steelmouth

@adamomars @RobertBowen

i didnt read it ither

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charlyk88

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Edited By charlyk88

Well call of duty has 9 games with black ops 2, but 10 counting the call of duty 1 expansion called united offensive, of course they follow the formula, call of duty fans buy them all even if the game is sh..If they do other style of games that they used to, they will only have failure. Because they forgot how to make a game. Always the same engine, the same characters but in others timelines. It's weird but is not really completely the company's fault. The gamers who support them making more repetitive games too. They like explosions, they have it.

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Sigil-otaku

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Edited By Sigil-otaku

Sure, that's why they are making Crysis 3, because the first 2 weren't even profitable :/ Also Halo is probably massively profitable, awesome games and awesome sales of that series.

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danwesoly

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Edited By danwesoly

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEWSqcSjjYo&feature=youtube_gdata

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ChiefReaver

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Edited By ChiefReaver

This Ellis guy has obviously never heard of Halo.

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JLCrogue

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Edited By JLCrogue

As a consumer, I'm more likely to buy Timesplitters 4 than Crysis 3. Timesplitters was an awesome series and I really hope that they'll eventually come out with a Timesplitters 4.

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Uchiha_Sasuke1

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Edited By Uchiha_Sasuke1

There's still rainbow six that I'm waiting to stand out from the rest of the fps also. Its true that the videogame industry is now being run by fps games. I think that developers are spending their time on a lot of sequels for one console. They should plan ahead by giving more to the next system.

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FollowY0urBliss

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Edited By FollowY0urBliss

THIS, MY FRIENDS, is one of the reasons that the next gen consoles should have a method of RESTRICTING (not blocking) them from being able to play used games. The developers and publishers make absolutely NO profit everytime a used game is sold.

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ChiefReaver

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Edited By ChiefReaver

@FollowY0urBliss

Developers shouldn't make any money off of used games. They've already made the money off of that disc.

Ford doesn't make money from used cars.

Record labels don't make money from used CD's.

Used game sales are just an excuse for publishers to squeeze even more money from us.

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Superzone

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Edited By Superzone

This is why the popularity of CoD annoys me so much. It scares other developers away from trying something new with the FPS genre. And you can't really blame them either. Why spend tons of money and time working on a fresh FPS game when everyone is just going to flock to the new copy and pasted CoD game instead? It sucks. F you CoD, you need to just go away already.

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lock445

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Edited By lock445

If people really care about games, and not about money, they would go the indie route and actually advance the FPS genre, which in dire need of progression.

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gdw0908

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Edited By gdw0908

@Raxyman, @Orgil220 @pakhair - I agree with you guys; the derivative games are those that lose money. Borderlands was my snap argument for this - and I bet BL2 is going to be a smash hit if the first one was any indicator. My HS friend is also the producer for BL2 - and said the response they have gotten for the changes has been really promising... so looks like I'm getting the big CE version :)

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a_ndy

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Edited By a_ndy

I imagine the real reason nobody wanted to buy Timesplitters 4 was because of that disaster called Haze. Free Radical was pure gold until then.