Lionhead senior developer Mike West says that sales of preowned Xbox 360 games are actually a bigger problem than piracy on the PC.

Piracy on the PC is a problem. We all know this. What we didn’t know, however, is that it’s not as much of a problem as the legitimate trade in legally-owned product known as “pre-owned game sales.” That’s right, kids, carting the old crap that you’re never again going to play down to the store so you can afford to buy the hot new EA Sports release does more damage to the industry than simply downloading it from some skeevy torrent site. Or something like that.

“Piracy these days on PC is probably less problematic than second-hand sales on the Xbox,” West told Eurogamer. “I’ve been working on PC games for many years and piracy is always a problem. There are a lot of honest people out there as well, and if they like your game they’ll buy it.”

But there will also always be those who insist on pirating games and technologically, he added, there’s really nothing that can be done to stop them. Fortunately, West said that the success of Fable III on the Xbox 360 essentially insulates it from PC piracy and that any sales on the platform are basically just “a bonus.”

“For us it’s probably a no-lose even with piracy as it is,” West said. “But, as I say, second-hand sales cost us more in the long-run than piracy these days.”

Other developers have in the past equated used game sales with piracy but I think this is the first time I’ve ever heard someone say it’s actually worse. I can sort of see where West is coming from; the 360 market is much larger than the PC and game trade-ins are not just legitimate but encouraged by many retailers, so dollar-for-dollar Lionhead and Microsoft may actually “lose more sales” to the pre-owned business than to piracy. But to say that it’s “more problematic” than the flat-out-illegal act of piracy is an odd claim, especially since piracy has for years borne the brunt of the blame for the collapsing PC game industry. I’m honestly not sure what West is trying to say. Are pre-owned game sales really all that ruinous, or is piracy perhaps not quite as bad for the business as we’re sometimes told?

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