Kill Used Games, Kill the Industry
The web has abuzz this week with the rumor that the next-gen system from Sony, the Playstation 4 codenamed Orbis, would have software that essentially kills used games. The rumor says that each game will come with a one time code that essentially bonds that game with the console. If the game is used in another console it will either not work, have some sort of limited trial access or demand a DLC style package to gain full access. Now lets just be real as to what this would spell out.
The death of the video game industry.
If that sounds melodramatic then good, my message is coming across. Now I understand that the gaming industry is in a rough spot. This week alone has seen THQ scale Warhammer 40k: Dark Millennium from MMO to singleplayer, Sega’s epic 7.1 billion loss and the shuttering of Zipper Interactive. So to say that the times are tough is a vast understatement. So the question in hand has always been, “Where is the money going?”. Some point to the rampant spread of piracy, others to the declining market, but by and large the most blame the used video game market.
Used games is a market that great for consumers and horrible for developers and publishers alike. When a gamer buys a used game of Assassins Creed: Revelations from the shelf, Ubisoft sees not a dime, not a cent. And to some companies this is a huge deal as more and more consumers look to decrease their spending. When you’re on a budget its easy to choose between the brand new copy for $59.99 and the used copy for $49.00. The blight of the poor starving developers is the last thing on a person’s mind when they can save $10.00. Unfortunatly that $49 goes straight to Gamestop’s bank and not Ubisoft. Because of this I can clearly see both sides of the argument, it almost seems impossible for both sides to win.
However there is such a thing as making a bad situation worse, the classic case of two wrongs not making a right. Trying to punish the frugal customer by forcing their hand is going to do nothing but alienate them. If there’s one thing that anyone should have learned as of late it’s that scorned gamers are a particularly petty lot. One doesn’t have to stretch their imagination to see the impending boycotts and Anonymous style hacks. As a consumer a console that forces one to buy new games just seems greedy, regardless of its noble intentions.
So whats the solution? If the industry is in need of stable sales but the public needs cheaper games, how can you come out on top? I think one only has to look as far as Valve’s king of digital distribution, Steam. I will admit it, in my younger days I rode that whole “I pirate because I’m poor!” train. I rode that sucker hard too, like it was some kind of noble calling.
Then Steam came along. And it singlehandedly killed every one of my excuses for not going retail.
“Well I’d buy a PC game but I don’t want to have to use a CD.” Bam, dead.
“Well I always lose my cd key”. Bam, dead.
“Well I lose the CD!” Bam, dead.
“But…well…they’re too expensive.” Summer of Peril sale, Bam Bam Bam Bam, dead.
The same kind of excuses float around the console world and I sit back and wonder when Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are going to GET it. We live in the golden digital era where our clouds save our data and everything seems to electronically save our information. If Steam can keep track of my games, why can’t consoles? Why do I still need my disc after installing a game? Why can’t I register my new game with say EA and be able to redownload the game at any time afterwards? Why are the digital copies on Live and PSN the same price if not sometimes more expensive than retail. Why isn’t there a grand sale on digital copies of console games?
If the console manufactures, developers and publishers spent half as much time being innovate as they did trying to hunt people I don’t think we’d be in this mess. The truth of the matter is that gamers want the same thing as developers. We all want good games. Period. Yea prices are rough sometimes but that can be balanced with features. Why not give us incentives instead of punishment. Instead of the annoying Online Pass feature where you only get multiplayer in new copies, give us an Online Download option. Make it so that every new copy gets access to a digital copy for life. Not only will a customer feel like they’re getting a great deal but you have a permanent customer to sell DLC to.
The sky is the limit when it comes to options. But taking away the ability to have used games will only bring about the next great video game collapse. It will be basically the video game equivalent of the prohibition. The used video game market shows that gamers WANT to buy a game, but at a lower price and I refuse to believe that their isn’t a way to do that. A way for developers and publishers to get paid and a way for consumers to save a little money.
If next generation is to succeed it needs the used game market whether everyone wants to admit it or not.