Can An Anti-Used Games Policy Even Work?

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EDGE magazine seems pretty sure that Microsoft will require buyers of the next Xbox to always be connected to the internet and that the machine will lock each game disc down to it. As unlikely as I think it is that a console manufacturer would completely cut out second-hand gaming, it’s an issue that has to come to a head sooner or later.

I think that at some point, console manufacturers and other content providers are gonna have to realize that a large swath of the consumer base doesn’t value most games at $60. A lot of people game the used sales and trade-in system in order to save money. Getting rid of that system isn’t gonna convince all those people to fork over $60 for every single game. Many of them probably can’t afford to pay full price for all those games, or just don’t think it’s worthwhile.

I don’t think I’ve bought a single current generation console game used, but almost every console game I’ve played over the last few years has been a rental from GameFly. That’s the other problem — locking out second-hand play would basically kill the rental industry. I would probably just choose to play fewer console games overall in that situation, and I think a lot of people would.

In my opinion, price and the degree to which a game is playable before purchase are the two biggest factors here. Most of the time if I rent a game and like it enough I’ll probably wait until it’s less than $20 on Steam. I think Uncharted 2 is the sole game that has convinced me to run out and pay the full $60 for it after a rental, and I consider it nearly the best PS3 game ever at this point. If there’s one factor that has convinced me to buy games for which I previously wasn’t hyped, it’s been demos. Several of my full $60 purchases this generation have been made based on a good demo.

Back to the price thing though, you could say that games are getting more expensive to produce, but that doesn’t mean all of them are worth that price tag. I buy so many games off of Steam deals precisely because they’ve reached a price that I think they warrant. The overarching problem is that the production costs of these games has skyrocketed faster than the addressable audience willing to buy most of them. Whatever they do, publishers need to have more realistic sales projections for games that aren’t Call of Duty and Halo, and plan budgets and prices accordingly.

I’ll say this though: If Microsoft or Sony goes forward with restricting second-hand games (Sony is researching a way to do it without requiring internet), I hope each game’s activation code — which is basically a CD key at this point, entitles me to a digital copy. Better yet, just let me install the game from the disc onto the hard drive like I would a PC game and never require me to use the disc again. You’d at least get the benefits of both physical and digital distribution.

And this is all aside from the rumor about the next Xbox requiring an internet connection at all times. Even PC gamers — who almost invariably have an internet connection, get mad whenever a game’s DRM does this. Just imagine if a console did it. Even now there are still some 20 percent of console gamers who don’t connect their systems to the internet. There is also the problem of people who live in regions with bad internet policies like Canada’s data caps or Australia’s slow speeds. I think it’s just a few years too soon to start expecting every single one of your customers to have a good internet connection.

BULLETS:

  • Afterburner Climax — one of the better PSN and XBLA games, just hit iOS I believe.
  • Ex-People Can Fly Developers Unveil The Vanishing of Ethan Carter http://flip.it/O0xh2aloHal=
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2 thoughts on “Can An Anti-Used Games Policy Even Work?

  1. They would be stupid to do this. I don’t think it’ll happen.

  2. Chanchai says:

    Chanchai here,

    I think it is equally (well honestly more, but I’m over optimistic) that the technology and method is going to be leading to a form of first-party regulation and revenue-creation from resell actions and rental services.

    While the technology is built for physical media, I see it being applied the same way to downloaded media.

    I imagine both the publisher and the service provider (Microsoft/Sony) would take a cut from service charges on rights transfers for Resale as well as agreements through Rentals (including Redbox).

    Furthermore, I even see this as a way to regulate the secondary market of the games based on a post-release schedule. The newer a game is, the higher the transfer charge. In the shortrun it could even encourage a quick secondary market, but in the longterm it can be beneficial and a self sustaining revenue stream for either parties.

    The landscape for even digital rights license ownership is changing. Some areas are trying to make the resale option on digital, non-physical goods, mandatory. I believe it is already such in some European countries if not at least heading in that direction. As a result, I think these would be measures for such a world. Partly because the ideal for resell and secondary market is that the digital transaction works similar enough to the physical transaction.

    Anyways, this is how I am thinking about it today anyways. We will see what actually happens.

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