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Braben: Used sales are killing single player games

Elite creator blames pre-owned for The Outsider cancellation.

The market for used games is helping kill off the core-orientated single player-only game, according to UK industry veteran David Braben.

Speaking in an interview with Gamasutra, the Elite creator and boss of Kinectimals developer Frontier Developments argued that stores are less likely to re-order single player titles as gamers are more likely to trade them in once they've finished them. As a result, developers are less inclined to make them as they don't see a return.

"The real problem when you think about it brutally, if you look at just core gamer games, pre-owned has really killed core games," he said.

"In some cases, it's killed them dead. I know publishers who have stopped games in development because most shops won't reorder stock after initial release, because they rely on the churn from the resales.

"It's killing single player games in particular, because they will get pre-owned, and it means your day one sales are it, making them super high risk. I mean, the idea of a game selling out used to be a good thing, but nowadays, those people who buy it on day one may well finish it and return it."

Braben suggested that if gamers held onto their purchases and helped stunt the growth of the used market, the prices of new games would start to fall.

"People will say 'Oh well, I paid all this money and it's mine to do with as I will', but the problem is that's what's keeping the retail price up - prices would have come down long ago if the industry was getting a share of the resells.

"Developers and publishers need that revenue to be able to keep doing high production value games, and so we keep seeing fewer and fewer of them."

All this is part of the reason why Frontier's action adventure The Outsider was recently sidelined mid-development.

"The fundamental nature of it is of a story-based game, and from a design point of view, the story itself doesn't lend itself very well to being a multiplayer game other than as a tacked-on affair, which we've seen with quite a few games, and it's not generally worked," he explained.

"It just becomes a higher and higher risk. I would very much like it to see the light of day - it's a really good game which we're very proud of, and the story is fantastic. But justifying that is much harder at the moment.

"That's not to say that it won't see the light of day, and I plan to work on it at some point and show what we have publicly."

Braben's stance is at odds with that of Alan Wake developer Remedy. Last month, its head of franchise development Oskari Hakkinen told Eurogamer that the success of solo experiences like Skyrim has encouraged them not to give up on story-led titles.

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Fred Dutton


Fred Dutton was Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.