The Death of Used Games Is a Rumor That Won’t Die

Enjoy your right to buy and sell used video games now, because Microsoft's next Xbox may not allow it, according to yet another report.

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Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

Enjoy your right to buy and sell used video games now, because Microsoft’s next Xbox may not allow it, according to yet another report.

Edge, a well-respected gaming magazine and website, cites “sources with first-hand experience” of Microsoft’s next console, who say game discs will only work for the original purchaser. Microsoft may require users to enter an activation code, the sources say, which would presumably tie the game to a single user or system. The next Xbox may also have a persistent online connection.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that Microsoft might nix used games in its next Xbox. A year ago, Kotaku wrote that the console would have some sort of anti-used game system, citing “one reliable industry source.” VG247 floated the idea of an always-on Internet requirement last April.

Microsoft may not even be the only one planning such a system. Last March, Kotaku reported that Sony’s next PlayStation would have a way to cut off the used game business. People who tried to play a previously-owned game, sources said, would be limited in what they could do with the game. Sony has already applied for a patent on a type of RF tagging that would match a game disc with a single console.

At this point, I’ve seen enough reports to believe that something is happening beyond the “Online Pass” concept of existing consoles. Publishers have griped about the used game business for a long time; it looks like they’ll finally get some more tools to shut it down. How exactly it’ll work remains unclear, but here are a few hypothetical issues that come to mind:

  • If the used game trade goes away, a fairly-priced digital market must replace it. No one complains about how you can’t buy or sell used games on a PC, an Android phone or an iPad. That’s because people are still getting good deals. Sale prices or even giveaways are common for older games on phones and tablets, and prices are much lower in general. On PC distribution services such as Steam, players can save money buy purchasing bundles of games, or by pre-ordering a popular title. Weekly and seasonal deals entice shoppers to make impulse buys. An anti-used game system on consoles won’t work if it’s just a way to lock people into $60 price tags.
  • Any anti-used game mechanism needs to be nearly invisible to the average player. Vouchers don’t work. They place an extra burden on the best customers, and they increase the amount of time between buying a game and actually playing it. That prep time is already too high on current consoles and can’t afford to be longer.
  • I fear that the days of consoles as collectors’ items may come to an end, especially if online authentication is the rule. Servers don’t stay up and running forever, so if a steady Internet connection is required, we could be looking at a future where your old consoles just don’t work 10 or 20 years down the road. Most people won’t care by then, but as someone who occasionally dusts off the old NES and Genesis, I don’t like where this is going.

Microsoft’s next console is expected to launch later this year, and may be announced before or during the E3 trade show in June. Sony is holding a press conference on February 20 where it will likely announce its next console. We’ll soon see what the future holds for used games.

15 comments
atanchak
atanchak

The main reason I buy used games is the simple fact that they are CHEAPER than new games.  In this economy I can not justify spending $60 dollars on a new game, when I can wait a month or so and get that same game used for $30.  The whole fight against used games was not brought about by Microsoft or Sony, but by the game publishers who don't see a dime of the sales of used games, thus, they see used games as a loss of profit.  If the new xbox will block the use of used games, then they better lower the price of used games to something more reasonable (say $45 or so).  What I believe will happen (as was stated to a friend of mine in an email from Microsoft about this issue) is that when you purchase a used game you will then have to purchase a use code through xbox live using microsoft points.  Once the use code is downloaded, the game can be played as intended. 

SusanCaplinger
SusanCaplinger

By tagging a game disc to one system....will they reimburse the user for ALL disc when that particular console fries itself or is found not to have enough memory, or the next generation of console comes and makes not only that console, but all those games useless?

spookiewriter
spookiewriter

I think this argument will be won once we stop getting physical media. After streaming becomes the norm, the companies will have an easier time controlling the 2nd hand market.

jecky11hyd3
jecky11hyd3

I'm curious, if a game is tied to a single system, what happens if the system you own suffers the RROD or get's stolen and you have to get a new system? I did not buy Diablo III because of their stupid always on internet connection nonsense so I guess I will not be buying the next xbox or PS4 if they're also going to do the same thing.

JeffFrank
JeffFrank

It's simple folks... if they initiate this type of restriction in the next console, buy from a competitor!

supamonkey77
supamonkey77

Well I guess I'll be bowing out of that market:-). Even though we are a double income household, my wife and I can never Justify those expensive purchases, We bought a Wii just two years ago and a PS3 a year ago. (Both Black Friday deals) . Don't see the point/Justification for a Brand new Console that's just come out, and of the 30 odd games we own for both, perhaps 10 might be new purchases(either Black Friday and/or Just Dance series for her).  For us a good rule of thumb is $30 Max for a new game and $20 max for a used one.

I think we'll buy the Wii U sometime in 2016 (and have a family) so she can continue with the Just Dance series and I will just shift to free to play online games like battlestar galactica or path of exile

AFD
AFD

Thank God books aren't treated this way,at least hard copies If xbox does this, they should also develop a sim card like smartphones have, so that if your xbox breaks down or you simply want to upgrade, you can do so without losing the games you already "own." Otherwise, this change is a total ripoff of the customer.

nerdsumer
nerdsumer

I have several friends on their 3rd or 4th xbox after several RRODs... What happens when your console breaks?

RugeirnDrienborough
RugeirnDrienborough

The demise of the entire computer-game industry would have significant beneficial effects, including conversation, exercise, local travel, outdoor activities, socialization and reconnection with reality. So, if something looks like it might slow down computer gaming, I'd be all for it.

MKE.Dave
MKE.Dave

I see this as driving a deeper wedge between MS & Sony (serving the hardcore gamer) and Nintendo & Ouya (along with phone/tablet/browser based games, serving any gamer). Wii U's price point makes me hesitate to put it with the second group, but at least you can buy used games for Wii U.

I can't imagine how much money Sony & MS are pumping into these devices; do they really think it's a good idea to close off their own markets even more?

mse13
mse13

How do these patents from Microsoft or Sony not violate the 'First Sale Doctrine' as outlined in U.S. Copyright / Trademark Law? This makes no sense to me how these companies can at all impose limitations on a re-sale market when the law clearly indicates that once the Company is paid under a first sale (either to a retailer or directly to a consumer) they cannot then come back 3 years later and say: "hey consumer/retailer, we saw you re-sold our product, we want another cut" (or "we are not letting you do that")...

What about eBay, GameStop, GameFly, RedBox, Netflix -- all those companies have very powerful backers -- in what planet would a re-sale market be prohibited without massive lawsuits from these companies (and others, including the Federal Trade Commission)?

Can you please explain how the 'First Sale Doctrine' can be disregarded in this case?

spookiewriter
spookiewriter

@RugeirnDrienborough I love people whose ego's allow them to decide what everyone else has to do. Do computer games make you personally stop conversing, doing outdoor activities or socializing.

I must say that you are the megalomaniac with a tenuous hold on reality if you think your personal life-living philosophy is the only correct one. Control freaks like you are a much bigger problem (and annoyance) than any computer game.

newmanjb
newmanjb

@mse13 I'm not a lawyer but the argument that software companies usually make is that they're not actually selling you a copy of the software, they're selling you a license to run it. So while you may purchase the physical disc, the actual software that runs on it binds you to whatever end user license agreement the company comes up with. That can, of course, exclude the resale of that digital content.

mse13
mse13

I suppose that makes sense -- also I just saw another market news source with the headline "GameStop plummets after report that next Xbox will block users from reselling titles" -- so however the software companies are able to get around those copyright rules its apparent they have legal grounds to do so.

I am just shocked (or maybe ignorant/late to the game) to learn about this now given all the companies whose businesses center on re-sale and rental -- you see one line about it in Netflix "risks" section in their SEC filings but I would have thought Wall St analysts and institutional investors would have raised flags about all the affected companies much sooner...(but then that's assuming they're paying attention)