Editorial: Used Games - Here to Stay or Gone for Good?
If you have been keeping up with rumors on the next PlayStation and Xbox, you have probably seen that neither will support used games. These rumors are not entirely baseless as plenty of used console games now require an extra fee just to play online, but is there sense in completely getting rid of used games?
If you believe the rumors, both Sony and Microsoft have a technology that can determine whether or not a game disc is new or used. How Sony and Microsoft will do this, if true, is still up in the air, but at least with the Sony console used games could still be played albeit at a severely reduced functionality. Gaining full access to the game requires you to purchase it at full price, which would make buying used no longer an option. Companies have been against used games for some time due to the loss of revenue, but could the inability to play used games be a reality? Should it be?
Used games have become a part of the gaming segment, and with the advent of CD keys for computer games, it is limited to console and handheld games. New game sales go (mostly) to the publisher, but used game sales go directly to the store selling it. The fact that publishers see no money from used game sales is one reason online passes have come around, since even $10 or $15 is more than zero dollars. You may think you are getting a deal with a used game priced at $50 versus $60, but when you have to pay an additional $10 just to play online, are you really saving any money? While online passes are typically associated with EA and Activision, Sony also has something similar on certain titles. Blocking used games on its console would make sense at that point.
If Sony and Microsoft do have a way to limit or outright block used games, this would ensure everyone buys new discs or even digitally. Currently, buying digitally is more for convenience than anything else since prices are the same as a brick and mortar store. Digital storefronts do have sales from time to time, but Sony and Microsoft fall behind Valve's Steam in terms of frequency (and even price). Still, if the consoles want to outright remove brick and mortar stores and used game sales, dropping the prices all around on digital items is the best bet. We have already seen Sony do this with the digital copies of PlayStation Vita games, and if the PS4 and Next Xbox follow suit, would certainly make buying digital more attractive.
The inability to play used games would not only hurt stores like GameStop, but also rental service Gamefly. Gamefly is essentially the same as Netflix, but for games instead of movies and TV shows. You have a small monthly fee with Gamefly and receive games in the mail to play as much as you want. This is a far cheaper option than simply buying a new or even used game, but if the next consoles block used games, Gamefly would be dealt a serious blow. Luckily it has branched into the PC game market, so it could survive on that, but its selection of PC games is small compared to Steam. I do not know what kind of impact Gamefly has on game sales compared to GameStop or even Amazon.com, but its whole business is built on delivering games to customers for a low fee.
I have been using Gamefly for years now and buy used games when I can. A good amount of my purchases are new games, but if a used copy has a disc with minor (or no) scratches, then why not save yourself some money? I also trade some games in, but not as many as other people do. I feel if I play a game enough to grow tired of it, why not trade it in and let someone else experience it? To get back on the subject of Gamefly, I like what it has done to expand into the PC market, but I use it almost exclusively for console and handheld games. There are some titles I check out, play for a while, and if I do not like it, I send it right back to get the next game on my list. There was one game I received with decent reviews, but I did not like my experience with it. I sent it back to Gamefly and did not have to lose out on dropping $40 on it if I purchased at retail. Gamefly saved me money in that instance and I am sure other gamers have similar tales.
I am a fan of consoles and handhelds because those are how I got into gaming. I started with the Nintendos and then moved to Sony and Microsoft. I regularly play games on my PS3 and PC equally, but if the Next Xbox and PlayStation 4 restrict or outright bar used games, I do not think I will pick one up. My Gamefly subscription will then drop to the lowest possible fee just so I can continue using it for the PC games. This crackdown or war on used games is bad for business. Online passes are bad for business. The mere thought of shutting out a revenue stream or even gamers should not be on the agenda of Sony, Microsoft, EA, Activision, and any other company talking or implementing features to restrict used game sales.
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