Obsidian CEO: Online Passes Are ‘Gimmicks’

In this day and age the issue of second hand sales is a hot topic, with every developer and publisher having their own view of dealing with the problem.

Step forth Obsidian Entertainment CEO Feargus Urquhart, who has weighed in with Obsidian’s approach to online passes and second hand resales:


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.”

The head of the Fallout: New Vegas developer goes on to say:

With a role-playing game, it is the same thing. We come up with things to make players want to keep on playing it. It was never developed this way, but it’s funny how it has become a way to do this.

By having a good and evil track, like Knights of the Old Republic II, I can play as a light or dark Jedi. I may play through as a light Jedi, but I know that I could play through as a dark Jedi. So I think, “I’m gonna do that some day.”

So I put it back on my shelf and I don’t take it back to GameStop.

He’s got a good point – I’ve had a ton of games that I’ve been reluctant to trade in because I’ve wanted to play through it in a different way.

Creating great gaming experiences – which in turn will make people reluctant to trade in their games – is a great approach to preventing used game resales, one that many other developers should probably attempt to emulate.

Source: Gamespot



  1. I would much prefer that games took this approach – Although, it wouldn’t stop me from trading it eventually.

    It would make me hold onto it for longer than just finishing the campaign & being done with it though, so i think that they are onto something!

  2. Speaking as someone that doesn’t buy pre-owned or sell my games I have to say that I do see the lure of online pases for online gaming. For me, although it might not be great for the consumer, it makes sense as a business model. Plus, speaking as someone who likes to support the developers I’m all for it, although I find DLC is the best way to support developers, I only purchase DLC for games which I adore, otherwise they can leave it.

    However at the same time, I agree wholeheartedly that if you make a better game people will be more reluctant to sell them.

  3. Thank you, a developer that see’s sense. Don’t make your games short and crap and people won’t get rid of it. Simples.

    • Best comment I’ve seen today. Sums it up perfectly :)

      • It’s not exactly the short crap games that have the passes. It seems to be the opposite.

      • I suppose that comes down to opinion more than anything. There are very few games that have come out this year/gen that I would consider ‘keepers’, though most of them over the past few months have had some sort of online pass glued onto them.

        As much as the COD guys get a lot of flak, I have to commend them for not adding an online pass to one of the few games where that sort of approach would seem justified (given most players skip the single player and just jump into the online).

      • It takes about a year before you find most cod games second hand in 2 large number so it’s not really an issue for them. I’m sure you’ll see uncharted 3 second hand in large quantities soon which is a game that is of a quality that deserves to be kept.

    • *rapturous applause*

  4. I would be interested to know just how many sales there have actually been of online passes. IE. not including downloads that utilised codes. I honestly have not spoken to or met anyone who has bought one or knows someone who has bought one. If I cannot afford full price for a game I’m unlikely to buy it 2nd Hand then spend the difference for a code. I’d just wait till the game is worthless and pick it up on Amazon for a tenner.

    • The only one I have bought was for WWE Smackdown2011 and that was only because it was in a PSN sale for about 4quid instead of 8.

    • Isn’t putting people off buying 2nd games the whole point of them?

      • Yeah, but my point is that if someone can only afford pre-owned they are not then going to buy a code, they will wait until the price hits rock bottom. Essentially the company has still not made any extra money as the store is simply cutting it’s losses with the title by that point.

      • The company already made the money- amazon took the hit, not the game publisher.

  5. He speaks common sense. If you game has little to no replayabitly, it will most likely get traded it. If you game has lots of replayabitly, it won’t get traded it.

    Online Passes are gimmicks. I understand that games with MP need OPs to help cover the server costs but doing a B:AC is too far.

  6. Odd point, as Bf3 has passes whereas CoD relies on user inertia drivin by frequent DLC releases etc to make people keep it & not trade it, but aside from that it does seem to be a fad, although rather than driving more new sales it could have the unintended consequence of less new sales as people can’t subsidise their purchase if the bottom drops out the market.

  7. it’s ironic that online passes are used mostly on what are virtually disposable games, games you’re meant to abandon as soon as the next, almost identical, iteration is out 12 months later.
    games that pretty much depend on trade ins.

  8. “In this day and age the issue of second hand sales is a hot topic, with every developer and publisher having their own view of dealing with the problem.”

    The problem is that they consider second-hand sales a problem.

  9. I guess no one has shown him the projected sales data from the online passes. :-) As far as I know, Obsidian is not known for games with an online presence and that seems to be where the passes come into the mix.

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