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Braben: pre-owned keeps prices high, "kills single player games"

Also, "there's no point railing" about Kinect's broad appeal

If you know anything about Frontier Developments boss chap David Braben, you'll know he's no fan of pre-owned game sales. In 2008, the outspoken Elite creator accused HMV of "essentially defrauding the industry" by moving into the trade-in market; he's back at the drum this week, arguing that pre-owned bears some responsibility for high premium prices and the perceived decline of single player titles.

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Frontier's Kinect Disneyland Adventures brings the theme park to your living room.

"The real problem when you think about it brutally, if you look at just core gamer games, pre-owned has really killed core games," Braben told Gamasutra. "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. I won't buy a pre-owned game out of principle."

"Of course, none of that revenue or chart position gets recorded, or VAT," he went on. "It's borderline whether that's legitimate. But 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.

"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."

There's been some suggestion that retailers are ready to meet publishers halfway on second-hand sales, with HMV, Gamespod and Xpress Games mulling over the idea of cutting publishers in on the profits. Read our feature on how to 'kill pre-owned' without screwing consumers for more.

Braben also spoke up for Kinect - no huge surprise given Frontier's recent output. Core player mistrust of the peripheral and Microsoft's agenda is unfounded, he argued; the expansion of Xbox 360's audience to include those deterred by traditional controller-based play won't steal thunder from Halo, Gears and co.

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Kinect Star Wars is now firmly a family-oriented game.

"Core gamers are immensely conservative," he said. "They don't think they are, but a lot of us are. I remember the people ranting about GoldenEye and how the controls were impossible, and I actually thought it was great. I mean, at first I found it quite hard to get used to the controls... but I mean, I see my dad, when he's trying to play something like Halo or Call of Duty, and he spends the whole time looking at his feet or the ceiling.

"Because it isn't intuitive - and everyone in the room laughs, and he feels a bit uncomfortable, and then he won't play it again. And that's the problem - it's counter-intuitive, and we've really got used to that over time.

"So we're finally seeing that new audience... but core gamers really resent that audience coming into 'our' arena. How dare they! How dare these noobs, these people who aren't inculcated! My dad! My dad!

"But also, widening the audience is not a bad thing. It would be like people who like watching violent movies complaining because Strictly Come Dancing is being shown. Yes, that may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the real point is that, in the long run, it makes TVs cheaper, it makes the service more ubiquitous, and it broadens it - maybe you'll have a TV in more than one room.

"So there's no point railing because you're doing something for someone else, and it doesn't mean less for the core gamers."

Thoughts on all this?

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