Cliff Bleszinski: Don't Punish Pre-Owned Buyers

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Cliff Bleszinski: Don't Punish Pre-Owned Buyers

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Epic Games frontman Cliff Bleszinski thinks that the industry is rightly "scared" of used game sales - but that punishing the people who buy them isn't the way to go.

In case you haven't noticed, the pre-owned game trade has become a bit of a hot topic in the industry lately. Publishers and developers see no money from used game sales, but retailers like GameStop that encourage it defend the practice, saying that it lets consumers purchase more games.

One increasingly-common solution is EA's "Project Ten Dollar" approach, which gives people who buy new games free DLC that otherwise must be purchased for about $10. It encourages people to buy the game new, and lets the publisher get some money even from pre-owned buyers - and similar plans have been adopted (or considered) by EA Sports, Ubisoft, and Sega.

But in an interview with Joystiq about Gears of War 3, Epic Games headliner Cliff(y B)leszinski said that he and his company weren't sure if they necessarily wanted to follow suit with taking things away from the people who bought the game pre-owned.

"We want to find ways to positively incentivize first-time buyers to pick up the game new. Penalizing is not the best way to deal with things like that. You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar," said Bleszinski.

That doesn't mean that he's unsympathetic to the problem of other developers, though. "[The industry] is nervous, right? It's very scared about used game sales." Gears is renowned for its multiplayer experience, but Bleszinski acknowledged that other genres carried additional risks. "I wouldn't want to make a horror game right now - that's only single-player - because a lot of players are like, 'I rented it.'"

"You want to make a game that has a great single-player experience, but continues online, continues to breath." But, on the other hand, punching in a 15-digit code every time you get a new game gets old, he said. "I put the game in and just ignore the code. It could be like free beer for life and I'd be like 'whatever.' So there's got to be other ways to do it. We'll see."

I dunno, Cliffy. If it were free beer for life, I think I'd go through the trouble, personally.

Free beer aside, the man has a point, and I think lots of gamers would agree that punishing pre-owned buyers doesn't feel right. But the trouble is, how do you do that without DLC codes and the like?

(Joystiq)

Permalink

Free avatar items, themes and gamer pics would probably do it. Small, meaningless incentives that would otherwise cost the gamer a small amount of cash.

I honestly think it would work, people like small pointless free things.

Cliffy B:
It could be like free beer for life and I'd be like 'whatever.'

Going to have to go ahead and call bullshit on this one.

Legion has some good suggestions. I would also say that if your DLC is good value and of good enough quality then pre-owned players will buy your DLC and you will make money.

I don't mind ten dollar... it works and it's not "punishing" pre owned users per se.

Still I want to see Cliffys big idea before I say ten dollar's better.

The man has a point. I bought Gears of War 2 new and I got the Flashback Map pack as a part of it. That's something I could never get on a pre-owned copy.

The only problem is that Used games are put in the same category as piracy, which is just stupid. When you buy a game, you're buying the license to play it, as well as doing whatever the fuck you want to do with it. Why try to prevent consumer rights?

Holy crap - an industry personality that game buyers, even pre-owned buyers are still game buyers.

respect +1.

-m

I think one of the best things game developers could do is focus on the longevity of their games. Similar to a point Mr Bleszinski brought up, players may be less likely to sell games that have good replay value. With fewer games sold second-hand, this market will die down.

Support the games industry, not game outlets....

I'm of the belief that anyone who considers themselves a gamer has a responsibility to buy games new. Now, its one thing to buy a 20 year old NES game off ebay but to buy a game used 3 days after release for $5 less than new at Gamestop is a disservice to the people that made it. Gamestop is basically a pawn shop disguising itself as a legit retailer and they are ripping off the consumer and the developer/publisher with the way they do used games. It is our responsibility as gamers to put our hard earned money into the pockets of the developers that make these games so they can continue to make more, as opposed to making the Gamestop executives even richer.

When I picked up a copy of GoW2 on release date, I was just so fucking happy when they introduced 5 maps from GoW1. They are making me feel all happy without triggering some kind of bullshit detector like EA does.

And if you look at the Xbox Live online charts, Gears of War 2 is still going strong.

Sorry Cliffy, I respect you and love your games, but I disagree. Project 10 Dollar does reward people who get the game new. It just ALSO punishes those who get it used. Since I pre-order almost every game I'm going to buy, it doesn't negativity affect me.

Well I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the best possible way to get people like me to buy new games would be to lower the prices. Obvious, I know, but as long as you have a used game market at pawn shops driving prices down, I can't be bothered with buying a 60 to 70 dollar game that would literally bankrupt me for the week. The used game market exists because of the way the games industry is run, companies need to look at their own policies and realize that those have to change if they want to get more revenue.

Trust me, the one thing I cannot stand is when a new game comes with DLC, it actually makes me avoid buying the product new. Call me old fashioned, but I remember my days as a kid, fishing through the used PC games in EB. Please stop trying to destroy my childhood memories. Sorry, game companies, but you DO NOT have a right to completely control the game market.

But you also have to consider that some people can't afford to keep buying all of these big blockbuster titles brand new, it costs a lot of money. Pre-owned is sometimes the only way somebody can enjoy gaming and I don't think you can deny them that just to be greedy.

buy teh haloz:
The man has a point. I bought Gears of War 2 new and I got the Flashback Map pack as a part of it. That's something I could never get on a pre-owned copy.

How is that not exactly the opposite of what he's saying? That's punishing the purchaser of pre-owned content even worse than Project Ten Dollar because it means the pre-owned purchaser has no chance whatsoever of experiencing the full content released. Hell, at least Project Ten-Dollar gives you the opportunity.

Matt_LRR:
Holy crap - an industry personality that game buyers, even pre-owned buyers are still game buyers.

respect +1.

-m

A pre-owned buyer isn't really a buyer. None of that money goes to the game developers, just the retailers, and considering the relationship between retailers and publishers borders on actively hostile it's practically like funding "the enemy".

I don't understand what Cliffy is getting at with, "more flies with honey than with vinegar..." The free $10 worth of DLC is honey to entice people to buy the game new.

Legion:
Free avatar items, themes and gamer pics would probably do it. Small, meaningless incentives that would otherwise cost the gamer a small amount of cash.

I honestly think it would work, people like small pointless free things.

That's a good idea.

But Cliffy B, a relatively well known Game Development personality, said something that doesn't make him seem like an asshole. This makes me happy.

... Epic Games headliner Cliff(y B)leszinski ...

I don't get it. Is that a joke that's gone straight over my head? Or a typo?

On topic: Surprising piece of thoughtfulness from Mr Bleszinski. I remember what he had to say about Mirror's Edge...

DRD 1812:

Matt_LRR:
Holy crap - an industry personality that game buyers, even pre-owned buyers are still game buyers.

respect +1.

-m

A pre-owned buyer isn't really a buyer. None of that money goes to the game developers, just the retailers, and considering the relationship between retailers and publishers borders on actively hostile it's practically like funding "the enemy".

I don't understand what Cliffy is getting at with, "more flies with honey than with vinegar..." The free $10 worth of DLC is honey to entice people to buy the game new.

In this response: someone who has bought the industry complaints hook, line, and sinker.

Used game buyers are game buyers. Period. Who the money goes to and in what quantity on any given transaction are entirely irrelevent factors. The fact is that used game trades and sales help to drive new game sales, and provde more people the opportunity to play more games, leading them to become fans of series they otherwise could not afford to have gotten into. A used game buyer is a potential lifetime customer, has increased their buying power on future purchases, and has committed no illegal or immoral act. Punishing them is unfair and greedy.

A used market is a product of a healthy industry, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong.

-m

Kwil:

buy teh haloz:
The man has a point. I bought Gears of War 2 new and I got the Flashback Map pack as a part of it. That's something I could never get on a pre-owned copy.

How is that not exactly the opposite of what he's saying? That's punishing the purchaser of pre-owned content even worse than Project Ten Dollar because it means the pre-owned purchaser has no chance whatsoever of experiencing the full content released. Hell, at least Project Ten-Dollar gives you the opportunity.

It's best to know what you're talking about. You get the map pack free from buying the game new. You can still get it off of the marketplace, but it'll cost you.

Here's how I see it, feel free to yell at me all you want it's not going to change. I look at it from a math stand point. If I buy a used game, I save five-ten dollars, and if I were to buy x amount of used games, I could get another one with the money I saved. It doesn't mean I won't buy new games, I'm going to get Reach the second it's released, but with the times being like they are used games seem good to a consumer like me.

But at least we have a well-respected Game head speaking out against EA, I'm glad for that.

First time I feel like aknowledging Cliffy B. He's right on the money. Punishing isn't the way to go, small rewards (that don't give you a skill advantage) are the way to go.

GamesB2:
I don't mind ten dollar... it works and it's not "punishing" pre owned users per se.

How is it not punishing pre-owned customers?

Legion:
Free avatar items, themes and gamer pics would probably do it. Small, meaningless incentives that would otherwise cost the gamer a small amount of cash.

I honestly think it would work, people like small pointless free things.

True, but the problem with 'Project 10 Dollar' and what Epic did with Gears 2 and even what Cliffy is talking about to an extent is this:

What if you don't play online? Or, more to the point, what if you don't HAVE an online console connection?

I do, and I'd expect most people here do. But unless it's something like physical items in a collector's edition, digital content is not always the way to go. Maybe if you have a one time use unlock code in the box that you register on a website, that might work. But again, only if you have net access in your home. It's great to assume people do and I for one think it's essential. But I'm not everyone.

The other thing is talking it up. People need to know about the existence of it. Something THQ did rather poorly with UFC Undisputed 2010.

And finally, make sure those codes don't expire anytime soon. I understand the appeal of not having those codes last forever, but people buying new copies of Dragon Age will be interested to note the codes for Shale/the Blood Dragon armor expired at the end of April. That could be some agreement worked out with Gamestop; after all, being at war with the main company that distributes and sells your game isn't exactly a very profitable sounding idea. Still, it's something to keep in mind.

Ultimately, content you can buy at a set price discourages but will not eliminate used sales. Reason being: Gamestop/whoever can just price drop the game. In Canada, pre-owned copies of UFC 2010 are 49.99, new are 64.99 at EB Games/Gamestop. So with the Edge card, you're saving upwards of $20 versus new, and the online code is $5. So you're still saving plenty.

DRD 1812:

Matt_LRR:
Holy crap - an industry personality that game buyers, even pre-owned buyers are still game buyers.

respect +1.

-m

A pre-owned buyer isn't really a buyer. None of that money goes to the game developers, just the retailers, and considering the relationship between retailers and publishers borders on actively hostile it's practically like funding "the enemy".

I don't understand what Cliffy is getting at with, "more flies with honey than with vinegar..." The free $10 worth of DLC is honey to entice people to buy the game new.

So you buy all of your cars new right? And every apartment or home that may interest you is brand new, specifically made for you to purchase new right? You don't have to answer me, I know the answer. Project $10 would be illegal in ever sense of the word if our laws could keep up with the pace of modern technology and development. Please don't tell me that you think it is ok to have features like cruise control or air conditioning enabled only if you buy a car new, the first sale doctrine was made for a reason and eventually I hope to god our laws catch up because this should be straight up illegal... $10 fucking dollars to play multi-player, yea you continue ruining what others have enjoyed for years while not sending publishers out of business buy eating up this shit /end rant

Brotherofwill:
First time I feel like aknowledging Cliffy B. He's right on the money. Punishing isn't the way to go, small rewards (that don't give you a skill advantage) are the way to go.

GamesB2:
I don't mind ten dollar... it works and it's not "punishing" pre owned users per se.

How is it not punishing pre-owned customers?

How, exactly, does PTD punish those pre-owned purchasers? They can still buy the DLC later if they have a need for it, and if the game has been out long enough, it wouldn't be hard to argue that they're paying the same cost (or possibly even less all the same) as the person who bought it new. And that assumes that they're genuinely interested in the DLC to begin with.

All PTD does is reward people for buying new by providing them with a bonus. Not providing said bonus to people who are not interested in following the requirements needed to get said bonus is not a punishment. By the carrot and stick analogy, PTD uses only the carrot, and the stick is nowhere to be seen.

Matt_LRR:

Used game buyers are game buyers. Period.

No. They aren't. Period.

Who the money goes to and in what quantity on any given transaction are entirely irrelevent factors.

They are? So all of those publishers and developers didn't go out of business because they didn't have enough money? Why did they go out of business? Not enough moxie?

The fact is that used game trades and sales help to drive new game sales,

Is this true? Why would a used-buyer suddenly become a new buyer? Why would you ever voluntarily spend $60 on something you can get for $30?

and provde more people the opportunity to play more games, leading them to become fans of series they otherwise could not afford to have gotten into.

While this is true,

A used game buyer is a potential lifetime customer, has increased their buying power on future purchases,

Buying power is meaningless if you don't give your money to the people who actually make the product.

and has committed no illegal or immoral act. Punishing them is unfair and greedy.

Not giving someone BONUS material is not punishing them. By this logic any incentive, bonus, gift, or rebate is just another way to screw over someone.

A used market is a product of a healthy industry, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong.

A healthy retailer industry. You can talk about how "the rising tide lifts all the boats" for as long as you want, but it's still a fact that used-copy money does NOT go to the publishers. That's tantamount to buying an armful of corn from a downtown farmer's market and paying the guy who owns the parkinglot.

Honestly, the whole $10 DLC thing doesn't bother me too much. As long as it's something like Mass Effect 2's Cerberus Network, where the content isn't an essential or even particularly important part of the game, it's really not too far off of the avatar items or Legion's other suggestions.

Of course the reason I'm more or less ok with this concept might have something to do with a magazine article I read before the 360 and PS3 came out that suggested the possibility of future generations of consoles having certain safeguards in place that would prevent playing pre-owned, rented, or borrowed games on the systems.

I say as long as the developers don't take this $10 thing too far, there's no reason to get worked up about it. But since the key parts of human nature are Greed and Stupidity...well, it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep an eye on the situation.

in Gears 2 didn't you need to buy the game new in order to get the flashback maps for free? So didnt they do the same thing EA is doing?

Brotherofwill:

GamesB2:
I don't mind ten dollar... it works and it's not "punishing" pre owned users per se.

How is it not punishing pre-owned customers?

It's DLC outside of the main game. You don't need it, if we believe the statistics most people won't want it.

It's not subtracting from the original game, it's just adding extra incentive.

(Except the sport titles that block online gameplay... that's too far)

latenightapplepie:

... Epic Games headliner Cliff(y B)leszinski ...

I don't get it. Is that a joke that's gone straight over my head? Or a typo?

On topic: Surprising piece of thoughtfulness from Mr Bleszinski. I remember what he had to say about Mirror's Edge...

It is just because he is commonly referred to as Cliffy B, rather than Cliff Bleszinski

My lord this was a disappointingly average 100th post.

He makes a good point, dont punish the people wanting to buy bargains, but, entice them to buy new...I think, although I hate saying it. Project $10 is actually not a bad idea

DRD 1812:

and has committed no illegal or immoral act. Punishing them is unfair and greedy.

Not giving someone BONUS material is not punishing them. By this logic any incentive, bonus, gift, or rebate is just another way to screw over someone.

A used market is a product of a healthy industry, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong.

A healthy retailer industry. You can talk about how "the rising tide lifts all the boats" for as long as you want, but it's still a fact that used-copy money does NOT go to the publishers. That's tantamount to buying an armful of corn from a downtown farmer's market and paying the guy who owns the parking lot.

So having access to multi-player is a bonus? Used car/computer equipment/everything doesn't go the the original manufacturer. The fact is if publishers/developers can't make a game worth keeping then original buyers have every right to sell that game at it's full value with out a diminished worth because they are disabling features. It has started out as vanity items which is a bonus, to map packs made on release (which is borderline a "added feature"), to multi-player which in no fucking right mind is a bonus, and is very much part of the core game play.

incentivize

Is that a word? Spell check says that it is not...

OT:

I'm fine with Project Ten Dollar and stuff like that.

Il_Exile_lI:
I'm of the belief that anyone who considers themselves a gamer has a responsibility to buy games new. Now, its one thing to buy a 20 year old NES game off ebay but to buy a game used 3 days after release for $5 less than new at Gamestop is a disservice to the people that made it.

Except that by saving 5 bucks I can buy dinner for the night too. Sure you can say that everyone has a responsibility to buy new. I say the game companies have the responsibility not to try and fuck me. Which companies like EA are doing

you also should punish buyers of your games with crappy DRMs to try and protect from pirates on the pc should you cliffy.........(sorry epic have been talking shit about pc gaming for a while and this is sorta on the same lines as that)

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