Gamer culture will suffer if next gen blocks used games

We know any information about the Xbox 720 and PS4 should be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s hard not to be concerned about the latest rumor: According to Edge, the next Xbox will block used games from working by tying games to specific consoles. Despite being unconfirmed, the news resulted in disdain and frustration from gamers. Unlike most internet rage-fests, however, this one might actually be justified, especially to those wishing to prop up gamer culture.

Some of the problems with blocking used game software are obvious. It’s true that new games become rapidly discounted in the weeks and months after they’re released, which somewhat invalidates the argument that used games are the only way to make gaming affordable. However, without used game sales, many titles will become much harder to find, especially for niche games (Xenoblade Chronicles, which was just released in North America last year, is already one of this generation’s rarest games). That's an issue that's already being exasperated by the industry's growing adoption of download-only games.

Borrowing and sharing games among friends and family members has been a staple of gamer culture for decades, and Microsoft's move would significantly impede this pastime. Bringing your copy of Halo 4 to a friend’s house for an afternoon of co-op would be impossible unless you want to bring your console too. Lending your buddy the first two Dead Space games so he can decide whether or not to pick up Dead Space 3 won’t happen either; if he wants to get into the series, he needs to come to your house and play or buy his own copies, either of which is discouraging. Plus, sharing games has been a way to raise interest and expand the gaming audience since the dawn of the industry, and it would be a shame to see that tradition wiped out when the next generation starts.

Even multi-gamer households would be negatively impacted by console-tethered games. It’s unclear whether Microsoft’s rumored plan would tie a new game to the console itself or gamer profile, but either way, homes with multiple gamers or consoles could be put out, even if they only buy new games. What about spouses who have separate profiles on the same console? Or roommates on a budget who have their own consoles but share games? And how about siblings living under the same roof, whose parents are unlikely to start buying multiple copies of games instead of just one? For them to have to buy more copies of the same game is ludicrous. Will gamers in any of these situations buy more copies of games... or just not buy them at all? Is that really a question publishers want to force us to answer?

It’s not hard to understand where Microsoft is coming from, assuming this is true (and as a reminder, all we have to go on are persistent rumors). As a publisher, it must be incredibly frustrating to see retailers selling your product secondhand, cutting the price by a mere $5 or $10 and keeping the entirety of the profit. Publishers have already begun taking steps to discourage used game sales, with online passes from third-party and first-party having quickly become an industry standard. And that's in addition to always-on DRM, CD keys, on-disc DLC, and other schemes these companies have already put into place to protect themselves from secondhand game sale drain at the expense of their fans.

There’s no easy way for publishers to discourage used game sales, and the clear trend has thus far been to punish the everyday gamer. But here's an idea: Instead of taking options away, perhaps game makers should be focused on offering more incentives for buying new. Perhaps all of our fretting is for nothing, but if these rumors turn out to be true, we can only hope that Microsoft (and potentially Sony) would implement these features in a way that’s pro-gamer. It would be even better if they completely disregarded the idea of blocking used games, though. It’s not screwing retailers; it’s screwing us.

You know that kid at parties who talks too much? Drink in hand, way too enthusiastic, ponderously well-educated in topics no one in their right mind should know about? Loud? Well, that kid’s occasionally us. GR Editorials is a semi-regular feature where we share our informed insights on the news at hand. Sharp, funny, and finger-on-the-pulse, it’s the information you need to know even when you don’t know you need it.


  • dcobs123 - February 13, 2013 6:39 p.m.

    There ups and downs to allowing used games and companies totally have the right to block them, but doing so would just be disrespectful to gamers. Companies might see the used game market as a threat, but to put an end to what has been common practice for decades would just make it look they're pulling out all the stops to screw over their customers. A lot of publishers seem to be stuck in the mindset that they can do whatever they want and their products will just sell themselves. It's that kind of thinking that will only hurt them in the long run.
  • TheDudeFromNowhere - February 12, 2013 6:04 p.m.

    If used games are blocked in the next generation of consoles, I'll probably won't be playing games for several years..until I get my masters and a well paying job.
  • avery78 - February 11, 2013 3:56 a.m.

    If this did turn out to be true it would hugely affect my decision on a console. I currently swap games with my brother regularly and if it's one I really like I will go buy a copy myself. Without that neither of us would have played or bought certain games. Just have to wait until this is confirmed or denied though to pas judgement.
  • Rowdie - February 10, 2013 12:02 p.m.

    The premiss that we can no longer share I don't think should be put forth as fact. As digital content ownership evolves ability to exercise our fair use should come right along as well. Seems to me steam is currently working on a system to sell used titles as well, but more immediate that is the incredible sales they have. Nook has a system to share digital books. The Publishers and Manufactures are not a bunch of idiots. As clearly as they understand the lost revenue from used game sales they also understand the benefits of fair use. It's possibly the best marketing vehicle and it's free!
  • lotusfather - February 10, 2013 8:49 a.m.

    For myself (and I imagine many others) this will weigh heavily in my decision of which next gen console to buy. If Microsoft does block used games and Sony does not I will buy Sony's console and vice versa. If both block used games I will probably wait a good long time before I plunge into the next gen market, I am not going to pay 350/400+ for a console and then 60+ (DLC and the like is the "+") on games I can't trade if I choose to. I will wait 'til there is a significant price drop in the consoles and games I want before I commit to buying anything.
  • Ellaryn - February 10, 2013 6:01 a.m.

    They're just bringing digital PC gaming restrictions to the console. Similar arguments have been made before and that didn't stop companies from doing it.
  • Churchy99 - February 10, 2013 2:33 a.m.

    Thank you Sarah for writing this article. I am very much in agreement with you. Although we don't know if this is going to be the case on the next generation of consoles with a large fan base, the fact that the issue has been raised highly over the last couple of years is HUGE cause for concern. I think any publisher or entity who advocates this kind of policy is in gaming for the wrong reasons and their mentality is clear, they care about the money OVER gaming. I appreciate that you need to make money in order to stay afloat and to keep doing what you're doing, but these kind of policies and viewpoints only serve to make those that hold them seem like they don't really care about the games at all. And of course, not every publisher is like this but it's an alarming trend that's taking hold. One thing I don't understand about the anti used games argument is that it only seemed to become a big issue a few years ago. Considering that the used the games market has been around since the games market has, and that gaming journalism followed pretty soon after (with well over 10 years worth being popular in the online sector), it seems odd to me that publishers would start complaining about it now. For me, their argument just doesn't add up. I know I'm getting into subjective terms now but a lot of the companies who made complaints about the used console market (THQ being a prime example) were ones who didn't run their business well and were publishing games which I feel weren't of great quality to begin with. That doesn't mean that I am happy about the loss of jobs or individuals whose future is in the balance, but it isn't purely used game sales that are harming the revenue of publishers and developers. But unfortunately a lot of publishers make it out as though that is the only factor. In fact there have been many hardware/software developers and publishers that have lost money, had to downsize or have crumbled all together. But they didn't whine about used game sales like so many publishers today seem to do. And they didn't have digital distribution with which publishers can now take full advantage of. Physical retail titles that are coming up like Bioshock Infinite are going to be a day one purchase for me, because I know that Irrational are doing something interesting and are putting all their effort into making that the best game that it can be. There are plenty of others that are coming out this year that I won't be getting because they don't appeal to me and are being pushed by companies that aren't doing much to create a good experience. It could be that there are issues that I don't understand here on the argument. But this is the way I see it. People will disagree with me, and that's absolutely fine, If this is as huge an issue as publishers claim it is, then a solution needs to be thought about which is fair to publishers, gamers and developers. So far, it appears to me like there has been no effort made to even find one. If you want to increase sales, reward the gamer, don't punish them. IF any of the consoles block used game sales, it's a no sale from me.
  • Churchy99 - February 10, 2013 2:38 a.m.

    Bare in mind this just my opinion. It doesn't make me right or correct. It's just how I see things.
  • Divine Paladin - February 9, 2013 11:20 a.m.

    I remember pretty much an identical article being written about two months ago when people were concerned that the PS4 was patenting technology to block used games. Then others pointed out that Sony had done the same thing with the PS2 and PS3 with nothing being actually implemented. At least that rumor was almost justifiable. I've seen nothing outside of "they're doing it guize" to say that Microsoft's taking this path. Worst we'll get is more online passes. Best we'll get is one of the big three dropping the idea of banning used games about three weeks into the idea after they're boycotted.
  • Bear266 - February 9, 2013 11 a.m.

    Like others have said, this is being blown out of proportion - at least until more is known about how it would work. The way I see it, the biggest impediment for doing this would be the network requirement but that's not to say Sony and Microsoft won't do it because of that. Every other issue raised in this article may have a solution. The first problem mentioned about not finding niche games would be a non-issue as long as all games are made available for download. This will also keep prices down for niche games. Obviously, how long these games are available might depend on licensing and the ability of future systems to play older games but emulation could take care of that problem. The next issue was borrowing, sharing or renting a game. As long as the intent is to test out a game, this could be done by allowing a trial of the game when it isn't the owner playing the game. Plus, demos could be available for download. Within a household, the full game could be accessed by multiple profiles as long as one profile on a machine is the owner. This could probably even work across multiple systems as long as they are on the same network. Even bringing a game over to a friend's house is still possible as long as the owner logs in. Finally, look at the mobile industry as an example of why this could work. No one is up in arms that you can't share or get used copies of games for your smartphone and that industry seems to be doing just fine. Granted, prices aren't as steep but with publishers assured of getting more revenue, this could lead to lower prices for games. And that would be a huge boon to consumers.
  • yapper31 - February 9, 2013 10:58 a.m.

    i understand what they are attempting to accomplish here. my only question is what happens when i get another red ring or w/e microsoft next issue is. does that mean all the games i actually bought wont work on my system because they are tied to the one that just broke? i just made the switch to PS3 in december after never owning anything since the original xbox came out. i dont see myself buying the next xbox installment.
  • RabidTurtl - February 9, 2013 5:48 a.m.

    Not gonna lie; don't really understand why the arguments made in this article are suppose to be huge issues. The "no used games" is something PC gamers have dealt with for quite a while. We even have many of our games tied to accounts. I hear Steam is quite large. The article mentions rare games being harder to find; that is grasping at straws. If the no used games is true, then Sony and MS are going to have a network setup in which you will be able to download your games without a physical disk. That has already started this generation with major releases on PSN and XBLA (at least, I think XBLA does this, don't have a 360). This means there won't be a "rare game", at least during the console's lifetime (more on that below). Instead, this means you won't be spending over MSRP for a "rare game", or have to pay an arm and a leg to import from another region for a game that is already fully translated - just make an account for that region. You probably wouldn't even need to modify the console to play the downloadable game, like you do with current region lock consoles. If anything, no used games on a console There are arguments to be made against the blocking used games, especially on consoles. It means you can't keep playing your games 15 years from now; once MS and Sony go on to the next console, the servers for this coming generation will probably go down. Maybe not immediately, but its death will be near. The games won't survive on the following generation; newer consoles generally aren't made to be backwards compatible anymore (that costs money, and if console makers want to keep selling to the masses, they have to pretend they are cheaper than PC gaming so backwards compatibility gets cut). And if Nintendo has shown anything, there is money to be had selling retro games on the newer system. And it must be mentioned that not everyone has an internet connection (or at least, not a stable internet connection), which is a requirement for a "no used games" console. Even if people have an internet connection, many don't hook up their consoles to the internet or have a good enough network based on the physical location of their modem/router and their console. Wireless can be extremely finicky (a pipe in your wall can mess up the signal, and some appliances can affect the signal) and not everyone is willing to run a 100 foot Ethernet cord around their house. Considering consoles are suppose to be the "simple setup" gaming systems, this is a lot of work just to get it going.
  • TheLeagueOfNinjaSquirrels - February 9, 2013 5:12 a.m.

    If this rumour does turn out to be true, I believe it could be the biggest mistake ever made by the industry. Why? Simple, lending games to friends help sell games. I purchased Skyward Sword for the Wii when it came out. I lent the game to a friend when I finished it who then went on to buy his own Wii to play the game on because he enjoyed it so much. He is now a fan of the series and as a result purchased a 3DS to play Ocarina of Time 3D and got Twilight Princess brand new for £12. He would never have brought any of these if I hadn’t lent him that game in the first place. Also, second hand games aren’t this great evil publishers see them as. I got a second copy of Assassins Creed for £8 from CEX. I only got this because it was cheap. After playing it I then went on to buy all the others in the series brand new. So if it wasn’t for the second hand version, I would never have got into the series. The same goes for Dead Space and even Pokémon Pearl. If this does turn out to be true then I question how well new IP will sell. Yes games like GTA and Call of Duty will sell like hot cakes on day one but what about games that aren’t as well know or brand new ideas. Are you going to pay £40+ and hope it’s good because you can’t sell it on if it isn’t? Lets just hope its rumours and not fact because if it is true then I will be sticking with my Xbox 360 a lot longer then I expected.
  • Bloodstorm - February 9, 2013 9:22 a.m.

    "Simple, lending games to friends help sell games" That is pure speculation, not fact. I'd wager that at least 90% of the time a game is lent, the person who was lent the game plays it to completion, returns it to the lender and never buys the game. I know many people who never buy games, and only get them from Gamefly. How does that help the Developer any? Then there are those that buy used games exclusively, which helps the Developer little. We all want to hate the publisher, but love the developer, but the developer usually does not thrive without the publisher. The publisher might have just dollars in their eyes, but there is a certain return on their investment they need to make, to pay the developer, and to allow the developer to make more games. If they don't get that return, developers rarely get a second chance. Problem is, gamers have become whinny, self-entitled people that think they should get things cheap if they want to, but software is expensive to produce, be it video games or bookkeeping software. We pay extremely less for games compared to professional software, but that doesn't make games any less cheap to produce. What it means is they must sell a lot more to make their money back, and used games, game rentals, and even lending games to your friends does not help them at all.
  • Bloodstorm - February 9, 2013 9:24 a.m.

    but that doesn't make games any more* cheap to produce
  • ra82064 - February 8, 2013 1:52 p.m.

    This is just plain stupid publishers care about only one thing money as long as they make money the world is a better place in their eyes but really it's hell for gamers
  • Bloodstorm - February 8, 2013 3:25 p.m.

    Takes a ton of money to pay employees and make games, so yes, they only think about money.
  • morgartjr - February 8, 2013 1:23 p.m.

    Sarah, you are looking at it from the wrong direction. MS doesnt care if you can get an import game, or a niche game. The publisher does. And ultimately, if its a niche game, they dont care if they get a few people that want it outside of their target region. Borrowing and sharing games among friends and family members has been a staple of CONSOLE gamer culture for decades. Again, MS isnt the one forcing this change. Publishers are. They dont want you taking YOUR copy of Halo4 to a friends house. They want your friend to buy themselves a copy. They dont want you to lend YOUR copy of Dead Space 1/2 to a friend. They want him to BUY a copy. It's been this way for years on PC, and Steam has helped alleviate some of that pain, but the issue still cannot sell old copies or lend them to friends. Its how it is. You say that multiple consoles would be out...well Steam allows me to put my games on my laptop and PC without issue, i just couldnt play them both at the same time. I could see it being both user account that can be signed on to on either console, and the games follow to each one, or a console account, meaning games would have to be purchased for each console. Who says they wont give a discount for multiple copies like Steam does on many of its games? friends and I pitch money together and get 4 packs when available, because its cheaper. The pubs dont want roommates sharing games. THEY WANT EVERYONE BUYING THEIR OWN COPY. It sucks major ass, and ultimately it will spell the end for some pubs who make bad games, or some who make good games but wont budge on pricing, but they dont see that. They just see "lost sales" and this is their move to get rid of "lost sales". You say "for them to buy multiple copies of the same game is ludicrous...well, thats what PC users do if they want to play with each other, even if they are in the same house. Blizzard doesnt mind, they are still making plenty of money. Who wants on disk DLC? not me. Those things were put in place as a stop-gap to prevent what they see as a loss of income. They ruin gameplay, whereas buying a copy or not buying a copy doesnt ruin gameplay for people who actually want to buy a copy of the game. To publishers, its screwing people who arent buying a copy of their game...and if youre not buying a copy, they dont care about you. Thats the simple fact. We act entitled like we deserve those things, and they act like they deserve as much money as we give them. The only way to avoid this is to NOT buy anything...and we see how well that happens in the various "boycots" that have happened in the past few years. They know we will buy them anyway.
  • russman - February 8, 2013 12:48 p.m.

    With new games costing $100 in Australia second hand games are the only way many Aussie gamers get access to buying games. So unless game companies are going to make 1st hand games affordable many people will be left alienated by the next generation.
  • chiz - February 8, 2013 12:46 p.m.

    I think that you'll still be able to create multiples save files on the same console. So parents will only need to buy 1 copy.

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