David Braben, founder of Frontier and creator of Elite, has criticised the way retailers are handling videogame sales; he strongly believes its becoming a danger to studios.
His main gripe is that the shops aren't "distinguishing between pre-owned and new," meaning sales data is becoming useless. Braben wants a two tier system for games.
"The shops are not giving us a way of distinguishing between pre-owned and new. So the shops are essentially defrauding the industry," Braben tells .
"We've got a lot of retailers eating our lunch and refusing to sell full-priced games. I've been in a shop where I've tried to buy a copy of a relatively recent game, and I've taken an empty box off the shelf and they've given me a pre-owned copy. That, I think, is disgraceful," he said.
"Not holding stock of new games, substituting them with pre-owned games at the same or much the same price... That is really destroying the shelf-life of our games."
HMV has recently announced that they'll be investing more in videogames sales to compete with the likes of GAME or GameStation here in the UK. They already operate a trade-in service where customers can cut down the cost of new games by handing in ones they don't want anymore.
"There are a lot of studies that suggest it's anywhere between 8 and 12 or 15 times a pre-owned game goes round. If you think that the industry's getting a tiny percentage of those 12 or 15 sales - typically from the sale of a GBP 40 game, the industry only gets GBP 20 anyway, in round figures. That is lost to the system," he continued.
Braben believes a solution would be for the industry to adopt a similar system to what the videos industry uses with rentals; basically one lot for rental only and another lot for one time purchases.
"My argument is that for every game there are two versions. One is personal, not for resale and it's made abundantly clear you can't sell it. And it's made available for something like GBP 25. And a resale and rental copy, which in film is actually about GBP 80."
"The key thing is to find a way where actually we give the benefit to people who have original copies," he argued. "It's a very small step to make games distinguishable - it can be done with serial numbers. I'm not talking DRM or anything draconian, but we can give stuff to the person who has a new game, and we can start tipping the balance."
Digital distribution is looking all the more sweet for development studios and could force almost all of them to go "100 per cent online, and I also find that a shame," said Braben.
Shops "essentially defrauding the industry" with pre-owned sales
31 October 2008 | By Simon Priest