Atari has joined the growing chorus of publishers claiming that second-hand game sales are hurting the industry, but says its long-term strategy for addressing the problem means it's not all that worried about it.
The growth of the pre-owned games market has been a thorn in the side of many videogame publishers, who claim that used game sales at retailers like GameStop have inflicted grievous losses upon them because they earn no money at all from the sales. Retailers counter by pointing out that profit margins on new games are virtually non-existent, and say that used game sales provide the income necessary to survive and grow. Consumers, meanwhile, see it as a matter of choice: They bought the game, and therefore they have the right to resell it.
GamesIndustry reports that Atari CEO David Gardner didn't break ranks at the Atari Live event yesterday, although he did go a little further than most of his counterparts in at least acknowledging the consumer as part of the equation. "Second hand game sales represent consumer choice and desire," he said. "Obviously, it has economically been extremely painful for the industry... the publishers don't benefit."
His plan is to extend the game experience through online components that are only available to the original owner, giving customers an incentive to buy their games new and keep them longer. "As games change and they become more and more network centric, the disc in the box becomes only one part of the experience," he continued. "As that experience grows then it becomes not such a problem."
Atari President Phil Harrison echoed Gardner's comments and expressed confidence in the company's strategy for the future, saying, "There's no doubt that second hand games sales have a macro-economic impact on the industry and a lot of people get miserable about it. But it's no coincidence that the most valuable games, the ones that have the most lifetime as a game experience, are the ones that don't get resold, that don't get traded."
"The games that have the embedded community, the embedded commerce, the extended, expandable experiences, are the ones that you would never want to trade, the ones you want to keep hold of," he continued. "And that's perfectly in line with our future strategy so we're not that concerned about it."