Lionhead: Pre-owned worse than PC piracy

There's a new enemy number one.

Fable III developer Lionhead has told Eurogamer that second-hand (pre-owned) sales on Xbox 360 are today a bigger problem than piracy on PC.

Fortunately, Lionhead has already managed to cover development costs with first-hand Xbox 360 sales, which are "in their millions".

Nevertheless, piracy will still affect Fable III on PC, and there's "not much you can do about it".

"Piracy these days on PC is probably less problematic than second-hand sales on the Xbox," declared lead Fable III combat designer Mike West. "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.

"The pirates, whatever you do on whatever system, they will crack it. It might take no time... I think the longest it's taken to happen is two days. Someone will crack it somewhere and there's not much you can do about it.

"It's just a depressing situation we're in that people don't think it's worth spending money on computer games," said West. "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."

West said that any sales Lionhead make of Fable III on PC this Friday and beyond will be "a bonus".

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

Most of today's key video game outlets - Game, HMV, Amazon - and even some supermarkets (Tesco) buy and then resell used games from customers. Game publishers have developed a number of initiatives to counter-attack this, the most popular being EA's Online Pass, which bundles a free code with new games that can be redeemed to enable multiplayer or receive downloadable content. Whoever buys the game second hand won't get a free code, which means they'll have to buy a replica online for around $10.

Why do game publishers and developers not like second-hand game sales? Because they don't get any money for the transaction - the shop reaps all the rewards.

On PC, Fable III gains higher resolutions, a harder difficulty level, 3D support and a mode-based control system. The latter alters the mouse and keyboard inputs depending on whether you're using ranged attacks, magic or melee. Heroes can even strafe while aiming their gun, rifle or crossbow. West offers a much fuller description of the Fable III PC additions, as well as a postmortem of Fable III on Xbox 360, in his Fable III PC interview with Eurogamer published this morning.

Fable III scored 8/10 on Eurogamer on Xbox 360. "Many more RPGs will follow between now and whatever Lionhead does next with the series, but few if any will possess half as much heart, and most importantly, whatever else they have to offer, none will have Albion," concluded Eurogamer reviewer Tom Bramwell.

The first 15 minutes of Fable III on Xbox 360.

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