New Xbox could destroy used games market

In what would surely be one of the dumbest decisions in entertainment tech history, there are rumors that the next generation of the Xbox won’t allow owners to play used games.

With a release expected to be about 18 months away, we’re at the point where Microsoft is likely firming up the final specs and planning production. That’s led to a flurry of speculation that may be a little more credible than previous rumors.

On the hardware side, it appears the console’s graphics processor will go into production later this year and will be at least six times as powerful as in the Xbox 360.

A couple of other rumors both seem to make sense: that the new console will support Blu-ray discs, and that it will ship with a new version of Kinect. In the latter case, Microsoft may well intend to include the motion control system by default, but events could come in to play. If Sony releases a new PlayStation around the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft give buyers the choice of getting the new Xbox without Kinect to keep costs down.

It’s the reported ban on used games that could be biggest story however. Microsoft has already described the claims as “rumor and speculation”, but it wouldn’t be surprising to learn Microsoft has surreptitiously put the idea out there to see what response it gets, without publicly committing to the idea.

That response has certainly been highly negative, with serious skepticism about the theory that a drop in overall sales would be outweighed by a higher revenue for game producers from new sales.

It would also mean a serious threat to the business models both of used games stores and online rental companies. And whatever technical method was used to enforce the rule would inevitably attract hackers, who’d probably gather public support. It’s easy to attack people who are trying to rip-off games to avoid paying for them whatsoever, but it would be hard to demonize people who wanted to play a used game that they’d legally purchased.

There’s also an important point made by Computer & Video Games’ James Jenkins: forcing gamers to pay full price for every game would be a serious deterrence to trying out unfamiliar or offbeat titles, likely leaving developers sticking to mainstream blockbusters and annual series sequels.

(Image credit: Francesco Falciani via Creative Commons license)


29 Responses to New Xbox could destroy used games market

  1. I wouldn't be surprised if something like this actually happens. Its how PC gaming through digital download providers (i.e. Steam, Direct2drive, Origin..) currently stand. Make an account, buy game, game is permanently tied to that account.

    I think its pretty lame that I can't sell my digital "license" to a friend without it being some kind of violation of the TOS.

    Do I like the idea? nope. But I can see it being mainstream in 10-20 years

    • I saw your comment on the vid which got me to this article :P

      It's actually stupid though. Their attempts to make 100% of the profit from the games industry is actually just slowly killing the industry instead.

    • It would more than likely time it to your gamer ID, not the hardware. Its the system currently used by MS. If the machine fails you can transfer to a new system once in a long while. Its generally not a problem.

  2. Wouldn't this go against the first sale doctrine? Outside of the digital realm, aren't physical properties eligible for resale because the license is technically transferred to the buyer after a sale has taken place, therefore enabling the original buyer to go on and sale the property again? If Microsoft were to do this, that would be the end of my XBOX days, not only because it would make the habit more expensive, but because it would set a precedent with physical property that what a consumer pays for is still not their property to do with as they see fit.

    • This is exactly why you will see a bigger push for digital distribution on consoles as well. Once they put a model similar to Steam in place, your copy of the game is tied to an account. You do the same with the physical copy (which has also been done with PC games), and presto, no more used sales.

      The precedent already exists for this model, and it's not to the customer's advantage, but was (highly) successful because we just accepted it as an unintended consequence.

      What would make it successful with customers on consoles would be if Xbox live and PSN provided incentives and offers as strong as Steam does, because in the end, customers don't care if it's new or used, they care that it's cheap.

  3. Sony was going to do this with the PS3… the public outcry, and problems like machine failure necessitating a new system, or being able to play a game on a friend's hardware, shot it down.

  4. I wonder if this is one of those stories with a small nugget of truth inside… for example, if games were only available on an Xbox Live App Store, then it certainly would be as unable to play used games as my iPhone is.

  5. The extra money that would go to developers would be enormous. It would lead to more and better games. I am 100% on board with this.

    • So, you support the slow death of the gaming industry? it wouldn't lead to more and betters games because, let's face it, most stores are retailers. They've already purchased the game from the manufacturer. So, when you buy a game at say, gamestop or wal-mart you're supporting the retailer. The developers and such only get more money if the retailer sells it out and has to buy additional copies. There is also probably a bonus clause in their contracts or something that gives them more money based on how many copies the retailer sells or something (That bit is just speculation on my part). Killing the used game market would just kill the gaming industry. I'm also finding myself in agreement with Megan here as current laws mean once you buy that game it is yours to do with as you wish. You can resell it if you want, give it away, it's physical property. They lock it out you've basically just bought the rights to play it. And if they do that they may as well just move to an entirely digital delivery system and hacking back at the prices of their games.

  6. Umm. Okay, if the opinion of a 47 year old female who's been playin' video games since the things first came out and spent more than one afternoon and evenin' in an arcade growin' up, then I hate this idea. I buy new games all the time, but I also buy used games. It's about half and half if you want to know the truth. I understand the developers right to the idea of the game, but really now. When I buy a used game I'm quite well aware of who gets the props. Be real here y'all.

  7. Apparently everyone missed the memo when Microsoft said that there will be no new consoles until at LEAST 2016 as did Sony.

    Both Microsoft and Sony know that it would be a HUGE mistake to release new consoles so close to when they just released the new Xbox 360. They would lose more money instead of gain it, both of them. They wouldn't bother with the dashboard, the Apps, all the new contracts they signed if there was any truth to it.

    The key word in this article is "rumor". Unless it's confirmed, by Microsoft and not some "source", then it's probably, 9 times out of 10, not true.

    This right here: "With a release expected to be about 18 months away, we’re at the point where Microsoft is likely firming up the final specs and planning production." <– I want to know where they got this information from.

    Also, if you notice there is no citing of their sources of where they found their information so they are already discrediting themselves by not citing their sources.

    And another thing, it's expected that Gamestop won't be around in 2 years by the way.

  8. People see this really negatively when it could actually be a much fairer way to sell games.
    There is two possibilities, Xbox will cut the costs of games in exchange for making them for a single user.
    Or, they will be greedy bastards and continue to charge £45 a game on release.
    I can only but guess it will be the first option, though neither would surprise me. And as the guy above me (bob) says, game designers will have a huge benefit from this. More copies sold at better prices.. profit.

  9. What's the big deal? I never bought a used game, and I think it would be a great thing for the developers to get the money they deserve for making a good game.
    In case of shitty games this sucks though.

  10. In order for this to even be remotely feasible, prices on AAA, and all games for that matter would have to be reduced drastically in order to keep the customer base in place. Prime example: Gears of War via Live's Games on Demand service is still $19.99 after all these years. That is a digital download with the only overhead beside licensing fees being the cost of bandwidth. Why would anyone pay that much for a "new" digital copy when a used disc for that title usually runs around $4.99 these days.

    It's still highly unlikely that this would ever come to pass as long as they stick with a disc-based storage system for big games themselves, as between Gamestop, all of the mom and pop local used game shops, and now places like Best Buy being in the used game business; there will be more than enough pressure on MS, Sony, and Nintendo to maintain the status quo and keep pushing forward with more DLC and paid "online passes" to make up for money they now wish they could make via used game sales.

    The only other viable option would be for the publishers and hardware manufacturers to attempt to push for either licensing fees, or basically a % based cut of used game sales for their titles/platforms to make up for their perceived "losses" from the used game market.

  11. I very rarely find a game I enjoy playing these days, and I have been playing video games since the first Nintendo made it's appearance with Duck Hunt (loved it!!). I love buying used games because it gives me a chance to try games knowing I probably won't like them, but I might know someone who definitely will if I don't want to keep it. I rarely buy a game new, unless I find a great deal or know someone in my house wants it really badly. If this happened to the gaming systems I use I would honestly give up gaming. We've had 4 ps2 in my house because they died quick painful deaths, and we now have a ps3 (and a wii). I've never owned any xbox of any kind. I pay for my electricity. I paid for my computer/system and television. I pay for my Internet. I pay for the game. Why would I also pay microsoft a recurring fee to put all those together? It makes no sense at all. Microsoft has always been a money-grabbing machine. I use and appreciate their word processing software on my computer, but I don't use IE, and as I said I own no microsoft video game materials of any kind. I never will. This kind of thing is just another reason why.

  12. Speaking as a person of depressed economic ability, buying used games is the ONLY WAY I CAN FUCKING AFFORD THEM. $50.00 for a new title is excessive. That is like choosing between eating for a week or buying the newest, most hyped game of the month. There are VERY FEW occasions when I will purchase a game new; Christmas and Birthdays.

    Hate on the poor all you want, the fact is that the used game retailers are in existence purely because of people like me, and this whole thing just seems like a way to further the split between the haves and the have-nots.

    Once I purchase something from someone (or someplace) it is MINE. Ok? Motherfucking MINE. You don't get to tell me what I can or cannot do with it. If I want to sell it to Joe Schmoe for $5, MY BUSINESS.

    I can only see the video gaming industry suffering from a decision like this, not benefiting from it. It's not like we, as customers, are not already over-charged for purchasing new titles anyway! The companies that sell these games ALREADY GOT THE MONEY FOR IT. Their part in the equation is OVER at that point. I could care less how hard the devs worked on it, or that they exceeded their budget on it, etc… they chose the pricing for the game, someone bought it. The person who BOUGHT IT BECAME THE OWNER OF THAT PIECE OF SOFTWARE and as such, has a right to do with it what they will. How else did that brand new title become used in the first place?

    Get a grip, Microsoft.

    • Seems like smart people are getting really angry lately. I wonder why.

      Could it be because they see the way the the common person is getting shafted at every turn, and just seems to turn around and smile? Nah, they have to be psychotic lunatics raving about unimportant mumbo jumbo.

  13. This is utter bullshit and I won't buy a new xbox if its true. @david, you are talking about first sale doctrine which was granted to you in the copyright act of 1976

  14. Digital Downloads is the future, then this won't be a problem anymore.

    This isn't about MS or Sony making more money, it's about publishers getting a return on their investment and allowing developers to take more risks.

    Development costs rise and rise as graphics require more and more detail. This new generation is expected to be six times more powerful? That's going to take more staff longer to produce.

    We complain about the risk-free releases of sequals, COD's and Madden's with minor upgrades but a company needs it's cashcow to stay profitable when so many of their risky ventures don't pan out.

    I agree a lot has to be done with digital pricing. Even if they insist on $50US AAA new releases, start dropping the price every 6 months so 2-3 years later you can still buy them directly from the publisher for dirt cheap rather then from gamestop or best-buy. At least then the money goes to the companies responisble for the creation of the game. The fact they cutout the middlemen should already be boosting their profit margins.

    The only place I feel the indie developers have a shot right now are on the iOS/Andriod markets and Xbox LIVE/PSN stores. At least we still have that.

  15. This will happen, just not yet. It'll happen when distribution is solely digital but that is still a long way off since many many many people still appreciate having a physical disc. I'd get it 15 years minimum before the industry strongly shifts to digital, and probably another 15 years until things are close to digital only.

    The big news (rumor) aside I also discount the idea of Blu-Ray on an Xbox. I just don't see Microsoft paying Sony royalties for each and every disc they print. As annoying as it can be for some gamers (personally I don't mind) I think Microsoft would give the opposition money in order to put a stop to disc swapping. I think it makes better business sense to print 2, 3, 6 regular discs than to start handing over money to your competition. Discs are cheap, just give an option to install on the hard drive and prevent the need for disc swapping and go that route.

  16. This makes it so you cannot just even borrow a game from a friend to play through it unless they allowed you access to their online profile. That would suck as my friends and I constantly share games so that we can keep each of our overall costs down.

    • This is also a primary reason why such ideas are even being considered.

      The ability for a given economy to survive and thrive depends strongly on the consumer's ability to consume the product. If the developers want to see an increase in profits, they should consider dropping their release costs from the start. People are buying used games for 20-40 bucks (for a new released used game) because they don't want to blow 60 on a new one. If the game companies want in on that action, lowering their initial pricing is how they can get it. Without screwing EVERYONE over.

    • This would prevent that. Which means each of your friends would need to buy a copy of the game in order to play through. That is fair.

      However they would see a backlash without a reduction in price, as for people like yourself who do share games or sell games on take that added value or return into account when looking at the current prices.

      On the upside, if game sharing was not allowed I would still have my copy of Grandia II.

  17. It seems that, in the future, the only way I can play games I can't afford is at the expense of some friend's game time. That's not fair to him, and this isn't fair to me. Why don't you, Microsoft, set up your own used game store, that way you and all of the developers that make these games can get a piece of the pie instead of strangling the cook.

    (This is, of course, barring the possibility of profile-to-profile gamesharing, which would allow me to continue to borrow, at least in some form.)

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