Edge online published information today that the next Xbox will require an internet connection to operate as well as utilize activation codes for physical copies of games. What that adds up to is no used games for gamers in search of a bargain.
While the information reportedly comes from “sources with first-hand experience of Microsoft’s next generation console” and not an official Microsoft release, the rumor mimics a lot of trends in recent video game sales. More and more titles from high profile developers/publishers like EA and Activision require activation codes for certain game modes, usually online multiplayer, as a way to grab a chunk of the used game sales they miss. Other developers, such as Sony, have licensed remakes of older games into collections as a way to put titles back on shelves with a “New” sticker. And frequent DLC content updates can bring in dollars for used games just as easily as new copies.
But apparently nothing is quite up to snuff if rumors like an Xbox barred from used games keep coming up. Sony’s next console has also been the subject of speculation that used games could be next on the endangered species list.
From a business perspective, the move makes sense. Every sale beyond the first puts money in the pocket of someone besides the developer as their rights currently only extend to the initial sale. Afterwards, the game is property of the physical owner, who can sell it as they please. Used game sales represent massive amounts of cash developers and publishers miss out on, representing about 40% of Gamestop’s sales. (Those numbers have taken a significant dip, however, due to digital sales and developer efforts to cut into used profits.)
Thus, barring used games entirely could open up a swell of new funds for an industry where even failures need to amass huge revenue to keep a developer afloat. But it could also be illegal.
Let’s not forget the court ruling in July 2012 that said the right of exclusive distribution for software disappears after the initial sale and that used licenses could be sold legally. Basically, that little activation code can be given to someone else without money going back to the developer because it belongs to the buyer, not the person who made the software. Granted, the decision was made in the European Union’s Court of Justice and has yet to result in a similar ruling anywhere else, but the precedent nonetheless exists. Microsoft or Sony attempting to gain total control over the used game market could result in a similar case.
And never count out the mod scene. Xboxes and Playstations that try to limit player’s ability to play games would almost immediately crack apart at the hands of the internet’s tireless pirates (pirate in the dashing rogue sense, not the stealing jerk sense). Even with modifications rolling out to open these hypothetical platforms, sales would almost certainly take a hard hit from customer backlash, especially if either Microsoft or Sony regulates used games and the other doesn’t.
The worst part? None of this even approaches the horror and problems with an always connected console, but let’s pray to our respective deities that we never see that.
So what do you, the customers, think? Would you buy an Xbox or Playstation even if that meant no more used games?