Sunday, May 26, 2013

Why used games can be the demise of the next generation of consoles

With the recent announcement of the Xbox One, may questions have been asked. Particularly, one question is causing a big "fire storm" as I call it: used games.

Used video games have been around ever since the first gaming consoles were released. Initial buyers bought newly released games new, and sold them when they saw no value to play the game anymore. Another person could then bought the used game, saving money while also offering the same enjoyment of the game.

While I personally like to purchase new, unused games for my PS3, I can understand where folks are coming from (the ones buying used games). Whether it is financial reasons, or something else, used games have been a staple for the industry ever since it started.

The current generation of consoles, and the ones in past generations deal with used games really well. I can easily take my PS3 discs and sell them if I desire, and the second hand buyer can purchase the game and play it on their consoles, with no problem at all.

The problem with this was the publishers. When you buy a new game, the publisher gets a cut of the profits made from the game. A publisher makes no money from a sale of a used game. To try to counteract this, publishers tried creating "online passes", which basically gave you the ability to play a game's multiplayer portion online. The pass was only valid for that one gamer, and people who bought a used game had to pay ~$10 for a license to play a game online.

Of course, this caused a stir within the gaming industry. This practice was never popular, and hampered new game and used game sales for sure, but the practice continued until just recently. Big publisher EA games announced that they will be removing the online pass requirement from all of their future games. Existing games will still require an online pass. However, this change from EA gives speculation that they might switch to micro-transactions instead, but that is a different story. It is expected that game publishers still using online passes will follow suit and abandon this practice.

In the 5th paragraph, I wrote that game publishers gain no money from used game sales. This is true, but this might change with the new generation of consoles. Xbox One is said to charge users a fee for buying used games. You must pay the fee to play the game on your account. Because of this, games installed on your Xbox will be tied to your Xbox Live account.

The amount you must pay is not known quite yet, but we do know that both game publishers and Microsoft will get a cut of the fee paid. There is some good news though: users can play games on other Xbox One consoles, as long as they are signed in with their Xbox Live account. Still, however, for everyone else wanting to take part in used game sales will have to pay a fee of an unsaid amount. Microsoft has tried to retract their statements, saying that they were "possible scenarios", but the damage has been done. Hundreds, if not thousands of potential Xbox One users have said that they will no longer consider the next gen Xbox because of this fee, and most of not all have said they will get a PS4 instead.

Not to bash Microsoft, Sony is now in a very tight situation. Full details on the PS4 don't be revealed until E3, but if they don't play their cards right, they might also shoot themselves in the foot. Sony will basically have to say they won't charge any kind of fee, or both of the major console manufacturers will have lost the race. If Sony says that they won't charge such a fee, Microsoft will probably retract their statements entirely, to stay in competition.

The only competitor left in the console race is Nintendo, but I'm sorry to say that most don't see the Wii U as a competitor to the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. However, Nintendo could win the next gen war if they basically set back and do nothing. The Wii can gain popularity if both Sony and Microsoft shoot themselves in the foot. The Wii U as far as I know has no restrictions on using used games in the console.

Of course there is plenty of time before either the PS4 or the Xbox One are released, so you can bet on details about the used game policies of both consoles changing, hopefully for the better. Let me know of your thoughts below.