Pre-owned vs piracy. Which is worse?

With the PC release of Fable III around the corner, developers Lionhead Studios’ Mark West told Eurogamer that to them, piracy is actually less damaging than the pre-owned market. Stealing games online is still an issue but he believes the honest players out there will go out and buy your game if they like it whereas pirates are decreasing the opportunity for future titles. “It’s just a depressing situation we’re in that people don’t think it’s worth spending money on computer games,” he said. “What they’re doing is making sure there are fewer games coming out in the future and more people out of work, which is a terrible thing. Unless you sit down and meet a pirate face to face and have a conversation about what it does, I don’t think anything will stop them.”

Lionhead views pirates as a bit of a lost cause because they’re unlikely to every buy their games but luckily, the studio has been able to cover the cost of development with the earlier Xbox 360 release. Everything after that is purely a bonus. “For us it’s probably a no-lose even with piracy as it is.” West claims. “But, as I say, second-hand sales cost us more in the long-run than piracy these days.” It’s an odd one to get your head around but when you think that someone who is willing to buy your product does so at a cheaper rate by purchasing a pre-owned game and therefore all profits go to the shop instead of developer, it’s no wonder studios are livid.

That being said and slightly ironic is West’s comments about future releases or the lack there of due to piracy and pressumably pre-owned games too. If there wasn’t such a high volume of games coming out, more people maybe inclined to buy a full price version instead of waiting for pre-owned copies because they’d actually have the cash to pay for it. When you have so many games coming out all the time, it’s really quite hard to justify every purchase. Publishers have tried to discourage second-hand sales with free online codes allowing access to freebies and content for early adopters, penalising anyone who re-buys a game by making them pay for said code. It’s not always popular but a move towards reclaiming the profits.

What’s harder to get across or even solve is how everything about games has increased tenfold except the price. They’ve always been around the £40 mark if not more even back in the days of the NES. However gamers have changed. The market has changed and what people expect for their money has dramatically changed. Never before has the debate over a direct relationship between a game’s length and cost been so pronounced and with 59p games being all the rage with pocket gamers, some people doubt the value in full-price titles. There’ll always be the avid fans who will buy a game brand new around its launch but even with all the pre-order incentives and online passes, the option to pay less for something almost as complete is just too good to ignore.


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