Do used games matter?
In wake of the Xbox One reveal, Microsoft has received a firestorm of negative publicity on the internet, most of it surrounding how the new console plans to circumvent problem of pre-owned games. At almost any store that sells video games, customers can trade in their games and get a bit of money back. Retailers then sell these pre-owned games at a slightly lower cost than buying the game new. This has created a problem for developers and publishers. Normally, when a new game is purchased the retailer receives a portion of the profit, the rest of it going to the developer and the publisher. For used games, all the money goes straight to the retailer. In other words, if you buy a game used, the people who lost sleep making that game get none of the money for it. Profit-minded companies such as EA have been trying to circumvent the sales of used games for years, Microsoft has now revealed their plans to either prevent, or profit from used games.
Microsoft has been made contradicting statements on the issue; the most consistent reports indicate that Xbox One games will require a mandatory certification process that locks a disc to a specific Xbox account. Microsoft has clarified that players can play their games on a friend’s console as long as they sign in to their profile. Supposedly Microsoft will give retailers the ability/technology to “de-certify” a game, essentially unlocking it from a specific account allowing the game to be resold. This “unlocking” process however, will apparently cost retailers around $50 per game; this would drive the price of used games absurdly high. Let me be clear that this has not been confirmed nor denied by Microsoft, who has been vague on the rumor. I suspect they will clarify this issue in a few weeks at E3. If there is any truth to this rumor, it looks as though used games will on their way out as Microsoft’s “solution” would make used games too expensive to be practical.
This issue was not limited to Microsoft either. Sony was recently targeted by a twitter campaign, urging that their new console the Playstation 4, have no restrictive “DRM” measures. For those who don’t know, DRM stands for Digital Rights Management and refers to any practice that forces players to register their game to a profile or console for “authentication” for example, the Xbox One. Sony has allegedly considered implementing DRM for the PS4; their fans have responded in kind. This is clearly a hot issue for gamers, but I feel the need to ask why. Used games can be convenient, but I’ve found that most retailers sell a used game for no more than $5 cheaper than buying the game new. Are consumers really that adamant about saving money, or is there something else going here?
I seldom buy used games. I tend to buy a few games every year, rather than buying every new game that comes out. I don’t trade games in often either, if I end up taking a game back I feel I probably shouldn’t have bought it in the first place. It’s occurred to me that there are plenty of gamers who benefit from this system more than I do. Newly released games have a higher trade-in value than older games. There are retailers who will offer special promotions that take advantage of this: “Trade in two new games, get another new game for free.” Many gamers take advantage of these offers during busy gaming months such as March or November, buying two new games, completing them very quickly and subsequently returning these games for a third they intend to keep. I imagine many gamers did this last March. For example: someone may have bought Tomb Raider and God of War at the front of the month, completed them in a few weeks and returned them both for a free copy of Bioshock Infinite.
Everyone has their own purchasing style, and that’s why I think people are angry at Microsoft. The restrictive measures of the Xbox One is telling gamers that they will change and buy games the way Microsoft wants them to. Gamers see the Xbox One as an attack on their free will, and while this is an extreme description I feel that it’s something worth standing up for. Microsoft is imposing their vision of how games should be bought, a vision that happens to maximize their profits. It seems so unnecessary to do this because used games aren’t exactly hurting the industry.
Gamers have the right to buy games however they choose. Forcing people to buy all of their games new is no better than forcing people to buy all of their games digitally. Used games aren’t financially significant to the industry nor have they been around for more than two generations of gaming consoles. However used games matter because they allow gamers to shop how they choose. How the “Big Three” deal with used games ultimately shows what their priorities are. The Xbox One shows that Microsoft cares more about profit than customer convenience. The Wii U proves that Nintendo doesn’t care how you buy their games, as long you enjoy them. As for Sony, I would speculate that they would use DRM if they get away with it, but I’m not sure if they can given the backlash against the Xbox One. I would find it laughably ironic if the PS4, a console all about “sharing” restricted their games to a single profile. Used games clearly matter to gamers, whether they matter to Sony and Microsoft is another story that we”ll find out in a few weeks.
Posted on May 30, 2013, in Editorials and tagged DRM, mandatory certification, Microsoft, Nintendo, pre owned games, PS4, publicity on the internet, Sony, trade-in, twitter, Used Games, Xbox. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.