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.
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.

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