Since the age of the Atari 2600, kids have been trading cartridges either with friends or for store credit at Babbage’s. In more recent years, GameStop has come along and taken over the used games market. More and more developers are complaining that used games are putting a huge dent in their publisher’s profits, forcing some developers to change future projects from what they thought were going to be successful franchises to ones that will be safer and less expensive for the publishers.
Heavy Rain developers Quantic Dream claimed in September 2011 that €10 million (Euros) were lost due to ‘second hand gaming.’ Dennis Dyack spoke to GamesIndustry about this issue, saying that this is a way the industry will ‘cannibalize’ itself. Maybe publishers and console developers need to do something to protect their properties that are supposed to drive gamers to their particular platform, while maintaining a good business model.
That’s exactly what has been said of Microsoft’s and Sony’s next console: according to rumors, no used games will be accepted by the Xbox 720 or PlayStation 4. As reported on VG247, the Xbox 720 is believed to have anti-used game software to prevent gamers from sharing their games or selling them back to game retailers at a margined price with no money back to the developer or publisher.
Sony’s now titled PlayStation Orbis, or known to readers as the PlayStation 4, is rumored to be similarly protected against used games. According to information originally given out by Kotaku, the connectivity between the game disc and a particular console will be similar to those PC games that require you to be online when you activate your game code. Only this time, you can install a game and not have to put it back in the drive as you’ll verify the disc to a particular PS4.
Honestly, this isn’t the smartest thing that Microsoft and Sony could be doing to prevent used game sales. Online passes are just starting to get passed as acceptable by the industry, and pulling this kind of move might keep gamers on the previous generation console a little bit longer than both corporations would like. Michael Pachter’s interview headline on GamesIndustry was very straight to the point with how companies like GameStop will react to if Sony does this with the PS4: ‘GameStop could refuse to stock PlayStation Orbis’.
How could companies support a platform that shuns a company’s main source of income? That’s just bad business. What needs to happen is something similar to car industry: a royalty system that needs to pay for those used vehicle sales to car makers like GMC and Ford. How is this going to be possible throughout for the gaming industry? Publishers need to work out a contract with game retailers to put at least $10 back into the publisher’s pocket for each used game sold. Why would game stores agree to something like this? Publishers could threaten retailers that they won’t get new games until a month or two after their street date release, inhibiting about 80% of new game sales.
How will mom & pop game stores be affected by my proposed royalty system? If they choose not to abide by the new contracted given out by publishers, then they won’t get new games until they get them used. Sure, there will still be a margin of the market that will continue traditional used game sales but big game retailers will be affected if they offer used games, putting possibly millions of dollars back in publisher’s wallets.
So what is the future of used game sales? It’s all in Microsoft’s and Sony’s corner to hit the ball back to retailers to see how they’ll react to used game sales. Hopefully, Microsoft and Sony executives will get a hold of this and see that eliminating the used game market will only hurt the industry as a whole. Continuing to work with retailers will allow the minority of those without updated infrastructure to still play the latest and greatest games. We all know that used games won’t be around in the future of gaming, but for now let’s try to extend its lifespan a little longer.