Fable III Developer Calls Used Games Market Worse Than Piracy

Lead Fable III combat designer Mike West thinks the used games market is much worse for developers than having your game pirated. Or so he tells Eurogamer in a short back and forth on the subject. West makes the comparison because Fable III is available on the PC this week.

Fortunately, says West, the studio has managed to cover cost with first-hand Xbox 360 games sales, which he claims are in "the millions." West also acknowledges that piracy will affect Fable III on the 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," he 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. 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," he adds. "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."

Still, West says that any sales made on Fable II are 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."

Developers and publishers don’t like second-hand sales for the most obvious of reasons: none of that money goes to them. And chances are if money did go to anyone, it would never find its way back into the pockets of developers because publishers would get it. Of course, developers would do well to create content for used games that would earn them money only they could get or ditch retail altogether; you can’t buy a digital download used, after all.

Whining about it won’t make it go away and picking on consumers who probably can’t afford a fresh new copy of the game isn’t a wise idea either.

Source: Eurogamer

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  1. Thad says:

    You know, there’s another way of looking at his words: he seems to be saying they’re doing fine, that piracy isn’t doing any significant damage, and that while he thinks used game sales are doing more damage than piracy, the bottom line’s still looking pretty good.

  2. Thad says:

    Sounds pretty casual to me, what with the shrugging and acknowleding it’s a no-lose situation.

  3. Grif says:

    Wait, what?

    A) If GameSTOP really was the one to blame, then there’s plenty of developers that would have gone under years ago, like I stated earlier.

    B) It’ll be hard for EA to give exclusives to the competition, when most of them are adopting the very same business model. If EA wants to make more money, they should concentrate on making GOOD games, and not have to lean on Pandemic and BioWare to do it for them. And for the love of pie, do away with that stupid-ass Online Pass crap.

    C) It wasn’t the game industry who decided to make graphics king, it was the retarded kids who play nothing but ADD Shooters that made it that way. Money talks, and companies will cater to whoever gives them the most money. That’s how business works. Which brings me to the next one.

    D) Rockstar tends to push the envelope, but I’d hardly say they "Try new things". L. A. Noire? It’s just Grand Theft Auto with a fresh coat of paint and a little Phoenix Wright thrown in., It’s hardly anything we haven’t seen before. Rockstar sticks with the GTA mechanic because it’s what put them on the map, and it’s what puts food on their families’ tables. The last "new" thing they tried is that weird table tennis game.

    E) For the sake of full disclosure, I really, really like L.A. Noire. It looks really good, and it’s genuinely fun to play, but again, it’s nothing completely new.

    F) Let’s play a little hypothesis. If you were the head of a development studio, and you had to work on another game, which would you more likely go with: A sequel to the game you released last year that bought you a summer home, or a completely new IP that could put you out of a job, and onto the streets? Granted, the new IP also has a chance to make it big, but 9 times out of 10, developers will see a sequel as a better bet. It’s the same principle that has people buying the same sports game year after year. They change the rosters, add a tweak or two here or there, and make more and more money off the same exact game they released the year before.


    "Power means nothing without honor and pride."

    http://grifsgamereviews.blogspot.com My video game review site.

    Atlanta Video Games Examiner for examiner.com

  4. kurifu says:

    Yes, it is exactly like saying buying a used car hurts car manufacturers. No one said they felt that selling or buying games second hand was wrong, just that it means less money to the content creators. Since game development is a business, expect that they will identify and consider these issues.

  5. rma2110 says:

    Here’s what I don’t get: Even though the games industry seems to think used games are the devil, they continue to lavish GameSpot with exclusives. Why? People who buy used games ae not the enemy, GameSpot is. They are the ones raking in the profits. If I were EA I would make sure the competeion got all the exlusives.

    The games industry is also the ones who insisted on making graphics king, mainly because they lack the crteativitiy to focus on the things the truly matter. Fun and gameplay. This graphical fixation is the main reason the budget for AAA now have movie-like budgets. Publishers are taking less and less risks and the same old same old will continue to be rehashed. Thank God we still have publishers like Rockstar who still have the guts to push the envelope and try new things. Soon the games indutry will become stagnant like the movie and music industires. A shadow of it’s former glory.

  6. Grif says:

    There’s also the probability that if used games WERE bad for the industry, there’s plenty of developers and publishers that would have gone under years ago. Not to mention we’d probably see another video game crash.

    On top of that, the developers and publishers get their money when a game hits a retailer’s shelves, whether that game actually sells or not.


    "Power means nothing without honor and pride."

    http://grifsgamereviews.blogspot.com My video game review site.

    Atlanta Video Games Examiner for examiner.com

  7. gamegod25 says:


    I am so sick and tired of devs whining about used game sales and being treated like a criminal. If you want to cut down on used game sales, DRM and making used gamers pay $10 to unlock content is not they way to do it.

    If you want people to buy your games new then improve quality, add more content, offer better pre-order bonuses, lower the price, etc. In other words give people incentive to buy your games new rather than treating everyone like criminals and pirates.

    As far as I’m concerned, once I or someone else purchases a game from you whatever we do with it afterwards is our business and you are not entitled to anything beyond the initial sale. If I buy a used car I don’t have to pay Toyota to be able to use the back seat, if I buy a used TV I don’t have to pay Panasonic to unlock the ability to change channels. I don’t like piracy any more than you do, but I have no sympathy when you treat me like a criminal because you feel entitled to money that you aren’t.

  8. SpiralGray says:

    Like many other people this kind of message from inside the gaming industry comes across as a lot of whining. "Wah, wah, wah, GameStop is raking in profits instead of us…" Everyone thinks it’s because of some higher motive (altruism, art, whatever) but what it comes down to is someone is making a buck instead of someone else. That’s called "free market capitalism", which everyone seems to be in favor of as long as they’re profiting from it but wants it curtailed as soon as it doesn’t tilt in their favor.

    The one quote in the article that really irked me was this one, "It’s just a depressing situation we’re in that people don’t think it’s worth spending money on computer games." Yeah, ’cause computer games are an essential. "Hey, let’s not buy groceries this week so I can buy Fable III."

    The game industry had better wake up and realize they aren’t an essential in the lives of most people, and when it comes down to it people will take care of the essentials first.

  9. Craig R. says:

    Here’s a hint to developers, publishers, and anybody else in the industry:

    Used games are NOT a problem.

  10. Samster says:

    This exactly.

    You know what? That TV you own to play your games on? You can’t sell that when you want to buy a new one. Why? Well, because you’ll be depriving Samsung of profit, and Samsung employees have wages to be paid and kids to feed and new TVs to design and make! What do you mean, your second-hand sale proceeds will go towards a newer model Samsung TV? I CAN’T HEAR YOU I’M NOT LISTENING LALALA.

    That car you own? Sorry, no second-hand sales allowed. Why? Well, you’re depriving Nissan of a sale! Sorry, you’re just going to have to buy another car.

    Brand new. Nissan employees have kids to feed, after all.


    See, when you apply this gaming industry argument to physical goods outside of gaming, it seems absolute nonsense. Games are not magically different products that can somehow escape the liberties of a free market – the very same liberties that enable these industries to make any money in the first place.

  11. Nerd42 says:

    How dare this guy say that liberty and private property are a problem. (not talking about the piracy, but about the perfectly legitimate second-hand sales)

  12. beemoh says:

    >Whining about it won’t make it go away and picking on consumers who probably can’t afford a fresh new copy of the game isn’t a wise idea either.

    Good thing the EG article is entirely devoid of whining, and only contains the simple acknowledgement of something that exists, then.


  13. sirdarkat says:

    Well Mike I have a simple solution don’t make shitty games.  I bought Fable 1 loved it, Fable 2 started the suck and Fable 3 was so much suck I drowned in it.  Luckily I learned my lesson and even if Fable 4 tempts me I will buy it used because I’m not dropping 60 bucks on a very high chance that the game is going TO SUCK AGAIN.  

    As for the PC comment PLEASE KEEP YOUR SUCK GAMES OFF OF IT.  Amazingly enough Steam doesn’t seem to think PC is dying; I personally chalk it up to the fact that the crappy AAA companies that spew the same drivel over and over have left it leaving only the gold nuggest that make it so much fun.  I have been exposed to more Indie awesomeness in the last few years then I ever was when the AAA companies thought PC was the way to go.


    But you know what just my opinion and its worth just as much as the ink used in this comment (please note that no ink was harmed or used in this comment)

  14. Samster says:

    I have a very bad feeling about how this arrogance in the gaming industry is going to develop over the coming years. Already with digital and DRM-heavy sales I can’t sell on something I own so that I can buy something new (maybe even from the same developer!), or loan it to a friend (maybe to convince them, HEY, this is worth buying!), or take it with me to another device that I own in many cases.

    I think it’s the biggest scam going. I feel exceptionally insecure about buying games digitally or through DRM-heavy services because you know what? Those services will not be around forever. I always opt for buying hardcopy retail versions if I have the choice.

    Customers should own the COPY of the game that they have purchased. What they do with it after it has left the store is none of the original developer’s business. Why is it that only the games industry kicks up a fuss about this issue? Rentals, used book and used film sales mosey on by without a single flicker of anyone caring. Games are NOT special, and the games industry needs to stop holding its customers’ purchases to ransom. Instead of worrying about what customers are doing with their physical property, how about they start to address some of these inflexibility and ownership issues with digital/DRM content, and increase the incentives for buying first hand, so that customers naturally move towards value for money options?

  15. MechaTama31 says:

    OK, now you’re just being obtuse.  People who buy a game and trade it in get to play the whole game, as do the people who buy it used.  I was using that to show that your analogy is pretty weak, since it relies on there being only one concert viewing occurring per ticket, with that viewing divided among several people.  That would be the case with a real concert, but it is not the case with a used game.  Every owner of a particular copy of the game can play it to completion.  And as an aside, most venues prohibit the transfer or sale of tickets to other people, so it’s not a really good way to make the point you are trying to make.

    As for out of print games, I already said I support used game sales in those cases.  But you can’t honestly tell me you think they account for anywhere near the percentage of used game sales as people buying a week-old game for $5 off used, while there are plentiful new copies available.

    Games are not finite resources in the way you’re saying.  A game does not launch with some magical ceiling, beyond which it is "too full".  There is not some point where the publishers go "Woah, guys, we’ve sold x amount of our game already.  We’d better stop selling copies of it, because the game is full to capacity!  We cannot have more than x concurrent owners of this game, so everybody else will just have to wait."  If the game is selling out, they’re going to print more copies, because obviously it is making them money.  If their multiplayer servers are getting full, they will set up more servers, so as to keep players happy and retain customers.  Your arena cannot be overbooked, because the very act of selling a ticket is what creates a seat.  Now, this is obviously a simplification, and depending on the economics, the publishers may or may not actually print more copies or set up more servers.  But buying used is going to make the economic picture for that game look bleaker, since the publisher sees zero profit from that, and will result in the plug being pulled sooner.

    And yes it does add to the number of people you are supporting.  Your tech support will have to deal with the problems of every customer whose hands that game passes through.  And as for patches and updates, the number of people is irrelevant to them anyway, so I’m not sure why you even bring them up.  It’s the exact same patch, requiring the same work to go into it, whether it’s for 10 thousand people or 10 million.

  16. E. Zachary Knight says:

    And the people walking out halfway through the concert do not miss the last half of the concert.They get to enjoy the whole thing, and so do the 5,000 people who get in without paying you a dime.

    What??? Are you saying that if I stop a dvd half way through the movie, I am still geting to watch the end of it? How are people who leave a concert in the middle of the concert still getting to watch the last half? That makes no since.

    And yes games, at least printed retail copies, are a finite resource. At some point the game companies are going to stop printing disks.

    Again, the concert analogy is bogus, because the games are not a limited resource like the seats are.  You could have sold 15,000 "seats" if everybody who watched the concert bought the ticket from you.

    As I said, The arena only has 10,000 seats and only 10,000 people can watch at any given time. It would be illegal for me to sell tickets to 5,000 people knowing full well that the arena was already booked.

    No, in my very first sentence I address that, saying that your arguments only make sense if you are referring exclusively to multiplayer infrastructure, which is the only perspective from which you would care about concurrent users as opposed to total users.

    It applies perfectly well to single player games. Within every game sold is the idea that you are going to provide support, through patches, updates and technical support, for one household per game disk sold. When a game disk’s ownership is transferred through the used market, you are not adding to the total number of people you are supporting. You are still supporting the same number of people.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
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  17. MechaTama31 says:

    No, in my very first sentence I address that, saying that your arguments only make sense if you are referring exclusively to multiplayer infrastructure, which is the only perspective from which you would care about concurrent users as opposed to total users.

    Again, the concert analogy is bogus, because the games are not a limited resource like the seats are.  You could have sold 15,000 "seats" if everybody who watched the concert bought the ticket from you.  And the people walking out halfway through the concert do not miss the last half of the concert.  They get to enjoy the whole thing, and so do the 5,000 people who get in without paying you a dime.

  18. E. Zachary Knight says:

    I think you missed that my arguments are based on concurrent owners no total. And you really missed my concert analogy.

    In that analogy, you have enough seats for 10,000. 10,000 people buy tickets. If half of those people walk out halfway through the show and transfer the tickets to 5,000 otehr people, the arena owner and performer are not out any money as they never have more than 10,000 concurrent attendees.

    Same thing applies to used games.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  19. sqlrob says:

    The second hand buying has been built into the market since the beginning, it’s a feature of copyright. If they’re not taking it into account for their business plans, they’re idiots.


  20. Adamas Draconis says:

    Hmmm..Isn’t that like saying that buying a used car is hurting the auto industry?  Sorry bucko, same arguments apply. After I’ve paid for something what I do with it is my own G0#^$MN buisness. Not the manufacturer’s, not the retailer’s, nobody’s but MINE.


    Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

  21. Sabrel says:


    Like I’m hurting the TV makers when I buy my buddy’s old TV when he gets a new one. Or how I’m taking the food out of the furniture makers’ mouths when I snag a couch on Craigslist. It is horrible how my greed has crushed those industries and left them unable to make ends meet….

    Wait a minute… That’s right… Resale of property has been a fundamental part of our mercantile system for CENTURIES, and businesses with actual skill have been able to survive it all that time. There are retailers that primarily focus on selling used items in a MULTITUDE of markets. Gamestop is not a sinister new idea.

    The games industry needs to get over itself. Every other industry on the planet deals with resale and they move along just fine. A seller is entitled to income from the first sale of their product and no more, period. As much as they want to whinge about used sales, they were never entitled to any of that money to begin with.

  22. Monte says:

    I find your logic to be completely irrelevant. One thing you do not address at all is that actual revenue involved. Fact is, whether its 1000 players (used) or 2000 players (pirated), the result is the same for the developers wallet… in both instances, no matter how many players are playing the developer still makes zero dollars. In terms of revenue their is no difference at all with your line of logic.


    However, i do think they is ground to claim that used games may be hurt developers more in the concept of "the lost sale". Now one thing that is often brought up with piracy debates is that One pirated copy of a game does not automactically equal one lost sale… afterall just because a person stole the game does not mean they had any intention of buying it otherwise… however, sometimes there are players that pirate games that they would otherwise buy if they did not have the option to pirate so SOMETIMES a pirated copy of a game does lead to a lost sale… the real question however though is how much. This whole line of logic also pllies to used games aswell, however i think the used games are more likely to result in a lost sale than a pirated game.

    When a pirate steals a game they are choosing between "free" and "$50"… given the choice they will pick free, however if the pirated option was not present, would they shell out the $50 to buy the game? in a lot of cases, probably not. $50 is expensive for a lot of people… so with this line of logic i’d say the percentage of pirated games that lead to lost sales is relatively small

    But what about used games? used games are often only about 5 dollers cheaper. The player is choosing between "$45" and "$50"… to save a few bucks a player will choose the used copy, however if a used copy was not avalible would they shell out the extra $5 to get a new copy? Frankly i’d say most players would; where as players might have trouble spending an extra $50 i’d say its quite easy to afford the extra $5… hell i think when most players pick up a used game at gamestop they went there intended to buy the game new and only saw the used game as way to save a few bucks… all in all, compared to pirated games, i’d say the number of used games that lead to lost sales would be relatively high.

    Though would i say used games are conclusively worse than piracy for the developers revenue? No, because one factor that remains is the number of Pirated games vs the number of used games… because there is only a finite number of used games, games are pirated WAY MORE OFTEN than used games are sold. Even if Pirated games had a 5% chance of leading to a lost sale, and used games had a 75% chance of a lost sale, the number of lost sales might still balance out because of the shear number of pirated copies vs the reltively fewer number used games

  23. beemoh says:

    That’s only really an argument if games require a finite resource to play, which, staying within the confines of gaming’s ecosystem at least, they don’t.

    There are two main reasons why people buy used games:

    *Prices for new games, which are ultimately controlled by retailers, are much higher than prices for used games, which are entirely controlled by retailers.
    *A game is unavailable, as demand has outstretched supply, which is also controlled entirely by retailers.

    Since it’s retailers who stand to benefit the most from used games, really a better example using your stadium analogy would be used games would be like an agent or other middleman dealing in used tickets forcing the ticket office to sell tickets at a specific price, counting how many tickets have been sold, then burning the ticket office down after 5000 sales.


  24. MechaTama31 says:

    Unless you’re referring only to multiplayer infrastructure, I don’t see how your analogy means anything.  It breaks down for single player games.  The 500 leaving customers are irrelevant.  You have 1250 people getting the enjoyment of playing your game, while you only get the economic benefit of 1000 customers.  The arena seats analogy is just plain bogus.  A game is not going to be "full" when too many people buy it.  And those people switching seats are not limited to only 20 minutes of the game/concert.  Every single one of them, however many thousands there are, gets the full benefit of attending the event, while you only see the benefit of 5000 ticket sales.

    What really makes it worse than piracy in my mind though, is this: A pirate may decide he likes the game enough to buy it.  How often this actually happens is anyone’s guess, but you will see at least some sales to the pirates.  This will not happen with people who buy used, because they have already bought it.  They just didn’t buy it from you, and they feel no guilt about that.

    Now, I value consumer rights enough that I don’t think used sales should be prohibited or anything.  People should have the right to buy and sell used if that’s how they want to roll.  But they shouldn’t keep pretending that they are not damaging the games industry by doing so.  Their savings come at the expense of the people who make the games they are enjoying, resulting in layoffs and studio closures.  That’s a fact they need to face.

  25. hahanoob says:

    I agree, used games are not "worse" than piracy. Nobody but GP said that though (Actually I guess the Eurogamer title said it first and then GP took it a step further). The Eurogamer article quoted a Lionhead developer saying used games cost console developers more money than piracy. Which I have no trouble believing.

  26. E. Zachary Knight says:

    Here is the major problem with the "Used games are worse than Piracy" argument.

    In Piracy, someone plays your game without ever paying for it. This is additional players without matching funds.

    In Used games, someone pays for your game, then gives, trades or sells it to someone else. This does not add concurrent players to a game. When one player sells a game, that subtracts from total players. When another player buys it that adds that player back.

    For those who are more visually inclined:

    Piracy: 1000 paying customers + 1000 pirate players = 2000 players with only 1000 worth of revenue

    Used Games: 1000 paying customers – 500 leaving customers + 250 used customers = 750 players on 1000 worth of revenue.

    Think of used games like seats at a concert or sports game. You have 10,000 seats. Piracy is like trying to fit 15,000 people into the arena while used games is like 5000 people sharing their ticket and switching every 20 minutes.

    Used games are in no way worse than piracy.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
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  27. E. Zachary Knight says:

    What? That analogy makes absolutely no sense.

    REtailers have the least control over game prices. They are sold the games at a certain price. That is the floor price. That is where zero profit is made. They are given a MSRP by the console manufacturer and/or publisher. That is the ceiling price. No retailer is going to sell outside that if they can help it. Often that area of pricing flexibility is a matter of $5-10. That does not leave a lot of room for profiting.

    And yes games are a finite resourse. At least disk based games are. The manufactuer/publisher will only print enough copies to cover what they think will sell. If they sell enough at a certain rate, they may print more, but eventually printing will stop and the supply will reach its max. If that supply is not keeping up with demand, it is up to the used market to meet it.

    Now on the topic of price, used games are often an indication on the consumers willingness to buy a game. If the publisher will not let the stores drop the price of games or the game stores do not want to drop the price of new games and lose money on them, they have to make up the loss of profit by using used sales that have a wider margin of profit potnetial. They have a greater flexibility to price the games at a level that the market is willing to bear.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  28. Thomas P. says:

    I bought a used copy of Fable III….





    then I bought the DLC for it.


    How is that worse the piracy?

  29. hellfire7885 says:

    Sad things is it seems like some developers would rather their game vanish for good rather than as many people as possible get to enjoy it.

  30. hahanoob says:

    He’s not whining about it, just stating a fact. The number one retailer of video games in the country is more interested in pushing used copies of games to put money in their own pocket than selling new copies. It’s not really used games in general that anyone has a problem with either, it’s just polite to not name Gamestop explicitly or something.

    Nice sensationalized title too. I’m going to remove GP from my feeds, I keep getting suckered in by this bullshit. Worse than Kotaku. I guess you need something to do now that JT is gone and forgotten though, huh?

  31. Neeneko says:

    And this is why he is a developer, not an economist…..

    Used games sales do not ‘hurt’ developers… they are a critical part of the retail ecosystem.

  32. Rodrigo Ybáñez García says:

    How about rentals? Technically none of all that money goes to them except when they buy copies destinated for rental.

    All those used games were obviously bought and then sold. If their games sells millions of copies, why they whine so much? The money is in their pockets and the investment was more than recovered.

    If they really want to make people to stop buying used games, then low the prices at least a little more. The economy nowdays is not letting us to buy new games as often as we want.

  33. axiomatic says:

    Stop with the DRM, no physical copies, digital downloads only, and you hate Gamestop. Got it Mike, thanks.

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