Obsidian’s Feargus Urquhart: Online Passes Are “Gimmicks”

Obsidian’s Feargus Urquhart had some strong words for game developers who seek to curb sales of used games by requiring the purchase of online passes to access content (ala the Cerberus Network in Mass Effect 2). Speaking to Gamespot, the guy leading the makers of Fallout: New Vegas very frankly called that tactic a gimmick, arguing that there are better ways to encourage people purchase – and keep – new games.

[O]ne of the recent issues is not putting the full game in the package and requiring downloadable content to move on. Also, including DLC in the package that will have to be repurchased for secondhand buyers. I think you have to go in and forget those gimmicks, and say, “How do I make them want to keep the game on the shelf?” I think each genre has a way to do it. Battlefield and Call of Duty have it in multiplayer with maps, rankings, leveling up, and unlocks. There are different things, but the idea is making people feel, “I want to keep on playing it.”

He specifically singled out games like Knights of the Old Republic, which offer Jedi or Sith plot paths, as a way to accomplish this. Needless to say, the whole interview is fascinating and well-worth a full read.

For what it’s worth, I think he’s right… to a point. Everything he says does a lot to keep players interested in keeping the game’s they’ve purchased. But it does nothing to address the reasons players buy or sell used games. After all, eventually they’re going to run out of DLC, and maybe the gamer wants to make room on their shelf for something else. Something they’d like to pay a little less for. Unless the selling of used games is made illegal – not bloody likely – there’s nothing developers can do to prevent gamers from trading in the games they’re no longer into.

Which is a long winded way of saying I think that online passes are here to stay. But what do you all think? Are they a small price to pay for a haircut off the cost of a new game, or are they an onerous nickle-and-diming by developers?

Via Eurogamer

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4 Comments on Obsidian’s Feargus Urquhart: Online Passes Are “Gimmicks”


On November 5, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I think there trying to take company’s like gamefly out of business, whats the point in renting a game if the online aspect you pay for threw xbox live is now blocked from you and content starts being taken away.


On November 6, 2011 at 12:51 pm


No they’r trying to kill the used game market to prevent people getting ”free copys” of there games.

By free copys i mean that used games earn no profit for the game makers only the store profits from selling used the games.

Some game developers/publishers have already come out and said that they consider used games to be essentially piracy which is just oh so wrong for oh so many reasons and used as an excuse to up the prices of games (see Console vs PC prices)

Denying users features of there games is just the 2nd wave of the game companys trying to crack down on used games.

In the future we’ll see even more radical cut downs on features (to the point where used game buyer may not even get the complete game).


On November 6, 2011 at 7:37 pm

@ Warp
I was always told the price for console vs pc was due to Sony and Microsoft licensing costs, this happens cause the console makers tend to not make vary much in the selling of the hardware so finding another source of income threw game sells.

I for one don’t see used games hurting the market at all, if anything its helping the companys that made the game, look at it from the perspective of a person that plays video games for a minute, Here you have a game you would like to play but never would spend more then 20 dollars on but the price brand new keeps staying around 39.99, so you buy it used and guess what?! you want some of that 29.99 dlc content on it cause you just do so what do you do?! you buy the dlc thus giving that company money.

So why attack used game sales?! I think its stupidity, they are attacking there customers instead of building up on there own products.

But also I can see how game rentals effects them since no one is going to buy dlc for a 5 day rental like gamefly, sure you can hang onto the game as long as you like but most people I think will never spend any more then the monthly cost of renting it and that’s where I could see a problem.


On January 20, 2012 at 5:49 pm

It’s a topic that has always bothered me deeply. I fail to understand where some industry figures take the idea that they are somehow, in contrast to *any* other business, entitled to a share in the second-hand market? You make a product, you set a price for it and put it up for sale. If a customer decides the price is right, he buys it and it’s his. It’s called the first-sale doctrine, and it’s the law.

Now, the publisher made their cut when they sold the game to the first owner. There’s no point, when trading a game in or buying a used one, where a legit copy suddenly turns into something unethical or illegal. It’s a copy that was sold, and a profit that was made.

Publishers seem to assume that their customers *want* to do this, or even do it maliciously. Think about this: whether a game is a financial success or failure is determined early in its lifespan. After a month, two at the latest, the sales have declined so much that they’re not going to make a big dent anymore. So if publishers perceive a financial loss from the “competition” of used copies of their own games, it would clearly be about copies that change hands during those first months. Then change your perspective and think about the players. I’m not up-to-date on all these average prices, but let’s say a player buys a new game for $60-$80, plays it for a couple of weeks, then sells it to GameStop. While GameStop might resell this for around $40-$50, the original buyer probably won’t get more than $20 for it. That’s $40-$60 bucks down the drain for a few weeks of gameplay, for every game they do this with. Do publishers honestly believe that their customers are keen on spending that kind of money on a product they *know* they’ll be tired of after a few weeks?

No. The reason is quite simply, as Urquhart states, that the games are a disappointment. They’re simply not good enough and don’t provide enough content, so players grow tired of them quickly and don’t care about them anymore once their initial shine has worn off. This is definitely a more recent trend in the games industry, and goes along with the other feature somewhere on this state, that it didn’t use to be that you have to pay for every little addition to the basic, main game. Games used to be huge worlds that were fun to explore, and in which you could try out new stuff for months, then take them off the shelf again after a few years. Some games certainly still have this, but most games today are polished exclusively to that initial shine, with no substance behind them to make people care and actually want to *have* a game in their collection.

That’s the basic, underlying problem. Games are no longer designed and marketed for the dedicated gamer. I’d even say, they’re completely geared towards the “piracy sector”, where games are downloaded because they are free, a quick look had at them, then they’re tossed away to make room for the next. Games that look cool and are fun for the first few minutes but quickly make clear that this isn’t something you’ll want to play ever again.

Stop designing games that try to appeal to the pirates—they’re not your customers, if you haven’t noticed, they don’t usually buy your games—but target them at your core audience, make it so that they simply *have* to add it to their collection. As with most issues in any business, it all boils down to one or both of two possible problems: if your product doesn’t sell, either your asking price is too high for what it offers, or the product is .