In a recent interview at GamesIndustry International, Silicon Knights head Dennis Dyack levels the same industry-issued guns at used games sales: i.e., they’ll be the death of the industry with the added twist that he also asserts that they make game production more expensive.
It’s a very complete, very narrow freakout.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: physical game sales last year were down 8% overall for 2011. And part of this decline was offset by downloadable sales, mobile sales, and used game sales, according to the NPD, who tracks game sales figures.
According to Dyack, this is the sign of an industry eating itself alive and is leading to games having less “legs” than they did in the past (that is to say, how far out beyond the initial release date they’re able to sell). He has an interesting point there; theatrical film releases have seen the same trend over the last decade or so and have subsequently tried to use shorter windows to home video releases and gimmicks like 3D to increase revenue. The game industry has responded with online passes for muliplayer games and the like to make sure they at least get $10 out of you for the full experience.
As for the tail argument: isn’t it possible that the deluge of titles that we’re seeing year over year might lead gamers to concentrate on one or select releases during a narrow window because, hey, a handful of other titles they’re interested in are coming out the next month and the month after?
I do think there is a valid concern that some gamers will wait to buy used if it’s cheaper than new, I do think Dyack’s ignoring the impact that digital sales are having on the industry as well as much cheaper, more easily accessible mobile titles.
I’m also not sure where his assertion is coming from that used games are somehow causing game budgets to skyrocket, citing a feared $300 million price tag for future games. I’m just not clear on how one is connected to the other. Are developers really saying they need to dump more money into their game in order for it to survive in the market? Dyack says that developers will simply feel the need to do this as a matter of survival, but I don’t see how increasing costs will in any way substantively impact quality or gamer perception or willingness to buy a title.
It’s an… unbalanced view of the industry Dyack has there, but I invite you to check out the full text of his conversation.