Pirates are still a problem, but used games take more money away from developers.
As the lead combat designer for Fable III, Lionhead's Mike West has no love for pirates, but he now sees used game sales as an even bigger threat to the industry.
“Piracy these days on PC is probably less problematic than second-hand sales on the Xbox," West told Eurogamer. "I've been working on PC games for many years and piracy is always a problem. There are a lot of honest people out there as well, and if they like your game they'll buy it.”
While West now believes that piracy is inevitable, he still doesn’t like what it’s doing to developers.
"It's just a depressing situation we're in that people don't think it's worth spending money on computer games," he continued. "What they're doing is making sure there are fewer games coming out in the future and more people out of work, which is a terrible thing. Unless you sit down and meet a pirate face to face and have a conversation about what it does, I don't think anything will stop them."
“But, as I say, second-hand sales cost us more in the long-run than piracy these days.”
From a moral perspective, I’d have to disagree with that assessment. Pirates are essentially stealing from developers, whereas the people buying used games are at least willing to pay for their entertainment. However, studios don’t get any profits from those sales, so I do see where West is coming from. The sheer number of legitimate used game sales likely outweighs the number of illegal downloads, and the whole “I wouldn’t play it if it wasn’t free” argument doesn’t really apply to outlets like GameStop. With that in mind, used game sales could easily be a bigger drain on the industry even if no one’s going to get sued for acquiring a secondhand copy of Fable.