Check out the companion piece to this week’s Weekend Rant, Andy Tran’s Why Durango’s exclusion of used games would be good.
If the rumors are true that the next Xbox, codenamed Durango, will block the use of previously owned games on the system, the consequences could be catastrophic. Many people think that this is great news – after all developers and publishers will make more money off of their games which in the long run can only lead to better products. Unfortunately this isn’t the reality of the situation.
When any consumer walks into a Gamestop they are greeted with a decision to make: buy used or new, which follows the companies motto, “Power to the Players”. The new games are more expensive, with pre-owned being about five dollars cheaper on average. There are benefits to both sides, with used games coming at a cheaper price and new unopened games giving money straight to the game’s creators. But the initial choice isn’t really what matters, it is what comes afterwards that’s vital.
How about we follow the path of a customer who buys a used copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Let’s say the customer buys the game solely on the recommendation of various podcasts and is really hoping for a great game. Out of questionable levels of expectation, the consumer picks the game up used. He takes it home and loves it. While online his friend asks what the game is and he tells him, “It’s great! You have to go get it!” The friend goes to the store and picks up a new copy, which means Rocksteady just gained a sale. Later that year they both find out about Arkham City both of them immediately pre-order it, meaning Rocksteady has now sold three games. I know this happens because I am the consumer in the story.
The point of the story was to illustrate just one way that used games drive new sales. Without having the choice of picking up that used copy, my friend never would have picked it up and neither of us would have have pre-ordered Batman: Arkham City. People also trade in games quite frequently. This occurs for a number of reasons. Maybe the owner is bored with the game, maybe they need more money to put towards a new game, or maybe there is some sort of deal for trading games in going at the time. The money that is generated by trading in a game is often put towards new games. My friend recently traded in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and put the credit received toward 2011′s smash RPG, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, both of which he bought new. He may not have ever purchased Skyrim had it not been for that little extra trade in credit he received from Modern Warfare 3.
Many gamers that oppose used games point to the PC market, where there are essentially no used games. This is the case primarily for two reasons. The first is that games are amazingly easy to pirate to the point where anyone can do it, unlike the console market where it is rather challenging and most people either can’t or don’t bother doing it. The second reason is that there are portals for buying games such as Steam and Origin. Steam in particular frequently has sales where games are priced at less than five dollars. These sales take the place of used games by offering a cheap way for gamers to get the games. As far as I’m concerned, used games must exist unless Microsoft is willing to host a vast digital store with frequent sales and price reductions.
All of this goes without mention of the the potential middle finger gesture to GameStop. Gamestop makes a lot of money off selling used games and for a company to take that away is like saying to a brokerage firm “We want you to keep buying stocks for people but you can’t have any of the money.” Chances are if the Durango doesn’t allow used games on the system, Gamestop will not sell it. After all if used games (their biggest profit) is taken away, then why sell it at all. All this does is hurt Microsoft and game developers.
If the Durango sees fit to end the used game life cycle then so be it, but Microsoft had better be ready. There will be a backlash so big that I doubt anyone will be able to predict its magnitude. This could change the face of gaming forever and it may not be for the better. As one final reminder, the Durango’s use of used games, or lack thereof of is purely speculation at this point in time. There are however, millions of consumers, myself included eagerly waiting to see which way the Durango goes.