A lot of hype is surrounding 2013. Most of this comes from the possibility of new next-gen consoles not only being announced, but also being released this year. Many are looking forward to E3 2013 to hear from Microsoft and Sony on their future endeavors. One rumor that won’t go away is the thought that next-gen consoles will limit or outright ban the use of used or pre-owned games on these consoles. A lot of people feel strongly against such a measure and this article will look at the various reasons for that.
People love flexibility. The ability to pass on a product you’ve enjoyed to a family member or a close friend is a social norm for many people. It is one of the most basic human instincts: sharing what we enjoy with those closest to us. This includes entertainment. These people will generally find a way around bans and restrictions, as simple methods like allowing someone else to game on your console and profile ID isn’t that big a deal. They will however note the encumbrance that is placed upon them by console makes, pushing them away from future purchases as they see their freedom being squeezed.
People still view video games as a product, not a service. No matter what game developers or publishers want to say, most people still view games as a physical product. You can’t really blame them, usually you don’t pay up front for a service; you pay later when you’re satisfied with the service. In the video game world, you don’t get that luxury. Thus people see it as a product, no different than a physical paper book. People have shared books for generations, and video game companies think their product can be treated differently? That’s a tough pill to swallow.
Rental games are an important tool for some gamers too. Some people don’t want to put down hard-earned money on a product with little to no reviews, so they use a rental service to test games out. How will this service survive with a ban on used games? Perhaps there will be a workaround for the rental industry, but no such thing is guaranteed, leading to a situation where consumers may just outright not buy a game and instead stick to tried and trusted sequels.
Console games cost a bit more than PC games. This is generally due to Sony and Microsoft taking a cut of a game’s retail price for themselves (as they tend to sell each console at a loss). With a used games market, some people see this price difference favorably, as an unwanted game can be returned for money towards newer games, allowing some savings overall. A ban on used games however may push a number of gamers onto the PC fully as games are cheaper, thus potentially costing consoles a chunk of the consumer market. In the past, PC gaming was hard to get into, but with services like Steam and GMG making purchases easy – and them directly competing with each other too – the best bang for your buck will remain on the PC. And it is as attractive as ever.
Finally, one of the most dangerous situations for console makers is: if retail outlets do not carry next-gen consoles. It has happened before, as a few gaming retailers refused to carry the PSP Go, as the system had a purely digital distribution method for games. Retailers gain most of their profits from selling used games, and while no one cares for the middle man, they get the job done. They put up a brick and mortar store and they are the ones who attract customers. If many retailers no longer chose to carry next-gen consoles, how many could Sony and Microsoft really sell? And even if retailers do sell them, how long can they stay afloat before the lack of profits dry up their coffers? Gaming specific retailers would likely close shop, while the bigger stores/chains would only carry highly-anticipated games, suffocating smaller titles.
In short, treading down the path of banning used games on future consoles is a dangerous path. Console makers want to implement this to satisfy game developers/publishers and hope for additional games being bought, however, at the end of the day, it is the consumer who buys these products, not the developers. Alienating them isn’t a wise decision, especially during hard economic times such as these.