During his otherwise relentlessly positive design keynote at the 2008 Develop Conference, Frontier founder David Braben said that problem of pre-owned sales cannibalising the industry isn’t going to go away – and we need to work on the issue ourselves.
Rather than simply whine at the retailers for essentially cutting developers out by selling and heavily promoting pre-owned games, Braben suggested that the development industry needed to find its own solutions to the problem – and that we could help retailers too.
"We need to help retailers," he suggested. "In fairness, they’re probably doing it because they’re struggling. But there are ways of tracking and deterring pre-owned sales."
One option, he posited, was to use unique codes on boxes – such as those found on PC online games – to ensure that those games can’t be resold.
Perhaps more practically, he also suggested offering incentives along the same lines to not erase the value of pre-owned but to make it less attractive than it currently is.
"Another option would be to offer extras – or even part of the game itself – packaged in with the game as a unique code on a scratch-card. If you do this, then those extras could only be obtained once."
Braben said, however, that he felt online would be the main route to market – possibly within the next five years time, but likely to be so in the sixth generation of consoles. This will inevitably help solve the resale problem – but, as many would point out, retail is unlikely to die completely in the forseeable future.