Epic Games President Michael Capps says the reason you’re not seeing Gears of War 2 on the PC is – get ready for a shocker – piracy and the used game market.
In an interview with GamesIndustry, Capps said the used game market is a “huge issue” in the U.S., which has resulted in the growing trend toward activation codes and installation limits. “We don’t make any money when someone rents it, and we don’t make any money when someone buys it used,” he said. “Way more than twice as many people played Gears than bought it.”
He’s reluctant to blame gamers for the popularity of the second-hard market, although he does point out that Epic has a “rule” against its employees buying used games. He also comes very close to equating used game sales with piracy, saying, “If people are playing games without buying them, then the games aren’t going to keep coming.”
“I think a little bit of it is education so people realize that the reason there’s no PC market right now is piracy,” Capps said. “I mean, Crytek just put out some numbers saying the ratio was 20:1 on Crysis, for pirated to non-pirated use. So guess what? That’s why there’s no Gears of War 2 on PC, because there’s no market, because copying killed it – and that’s gruesome to a company like ours that’s been in the PC market for so long.”
Perhaps his most interesting statement refers to legitimate used game sales, which he readily admits is the most profitable part of the videogame retailing business. “Our primary retailer [GameStop, perhaps?] makes the majority of its money off of secondary sales,” he said, “And so you’re starting to see games taking proactive steps toward that by… if you buy the retail version you get the unlock code.”
Why would Capps support actions that are essentially designed to punish his “primary retailer?” Digital distribution is growing by leaps and bounds but it’s still far from ready to assume dominance over regular retail sales, yet Capps doesn’t sound too worried about cutting his main distribution point off at the knees. Profit margins on new games and gaming hardware are incredibly tight, and unless that changes no game retailer is going to survive without rentals and used game sales. Why does this seem so hard to understand?