Friday Roundtable: Consoles Putting the Smack Down on Used Games

No More Used Games?

A Nuclear Dawn Approaches

Rumors are flying, stories are swirling about, and speculation is at an all-time high: What will Microsoft and Sony’s next-gen consoles bring? What sort of horsepower will be under the hood of these as-yet-unrevealed behemoths of gaming power? How will they change and improve the online gaming infrastructure? Recently, a new query has been added to the mire of predictions, as sources within the industry have given light to the claims that all or some next-gen systems may “go nuclear”, doing away with support for used games across the board.

Naturally, this has sparked quite the buzz in gaming circles; outrage and contentment trading places on a regular basis. The issue has, perhaps clearer than anything else in recent memory, drawn a definitive line in the sand between business-minded publishers and economically-concerned gamers. Crytek’s director of creative development himself, Rasmus Hojengaard, stated in a recent interview with CVG that this is an option that should have been adopted by the games industry long ago: “From a business perspective [going nuclear] would be absolutely awesome.” The company lost out on over 4 million sales of the PC version of Crysis 2 due to software piracy.

Before making a final decision on where we stand, there are many viewpoints to consider; pros and cons to weigh against each other. Would going nuclear really be such a bad thing? How will it affect the face of the gaming community? BNBGAMING’s finest discuss – join Communications Manager Daniel Mahdavi, Microsoft correspondent Meg Smith, Japanese Affairs correspondent Isaac Hammer, and PC correspondent Chad Morelock, as two fresh faces and two old hands bandy back and forth.

* * * *

Dan
No More Used Games?

Dan, perusing the used games section in his finest formal wear.

I wasn’t sure how to take the news when I initially read that second-hand games would be blocked. My opinion forked in my head. The first fork had me wondering how it’s possible that something that is so popular would be killed off by console developers. The second-hand games industry is huge, and at least half the games I own were bought second-hand. It’s a great way to pick up games for much cheaper than they are currently available, and also a fantastic way of financing your next game, because by trading a game in after you finish it, you can usually get a significant portion of what you paid back. Removing the chance for second-hand games would anger gamers, and would mean they could afford far fewer new releases in general, which can’t be great for sales. I understand the potential loss that developers feel they have now, because they can see how many second-hand games have been sold, but as with the argument about piracy, how likely is it that people buying games for £15 are going to fork out £30 for that same game just because it’s new?

The other argument that says to me that console devs won’t even try it is the PlayStation 2. The PS2 is currently still selling brilliantly, and that is fully fueled by a second-hand games market that keeps the amazing content of the PS2 circulating. Take away the second hand games market and Sony loses out on potential income from legacy PS2 gear. Why would the PS4 want to cause itself to die prematurely before it has even been released? Madness, I say.

The thing that makes me doubt all of this is that developers are getting greedier and hungrier as time goes on. Ubisoft shot itself in the foot with a bazooka when it refused to back down over its “always on” DRM, and that was all because it was desperate to try to scrape every last penny from its games, and damn the consequences. To me, it is a silly way of conducting business, and Ubisoft hurt their credibility with the move in a similar way to Witcher devs CD Projekt Red when they started suing people they believed had pirated The Witcher 2. Having said that, the developers are still condoning it, and the fact that Crytek bosses think angering gamers over second-hand games is a good thing means the next-gen console developers may just be desperate enough to do it.

Meg

Speaking as someone residing on the broke end of the spectrum, I can’t help but be burned by this. It also confirms (to me) that the gaming industry is slowly gearing up to what I like to call, ‘the Hollywood mode of business’.

But maybe I am biased.

You see, when I was a kid I bought as many video games as my allowance would permit and prices ranged from twenty to thirty pounds, excluding memory cards, and though I distinctly remember the general consensus being that it was too much, the games offered a lot more back then. From a triple disc adventure to sixty plus hours of play and replay value, you got more than a figurative bang for your buck. Nowadays, though, you are lucky if you get thirty hours of play! Replay value usually relies on token trophies or multiplayer add-ons and the price now sits at forty to fifty smackeroons! Some of the most profitable ‘current-gen’ franchises can be likened to fast food chains, where products are prepared and served hastily to feed the masses’ insatiable appetites. There are exceptions to the rule, of course.

No More Used Games?

A new entry in a series every year – is it a case of pushing games out to meet public hunger lest it abates?

I am of the opinion that video games today (generally speaking) offer half the experience for double the price, so is it any wonder that people want to spend less for a pre-owned title? It seems to me that select companies have inadvertently caused this problem through greed. Now they are unhappy with the result. To this, the scorned gamer in me says, “You want more money? Make our expenditure worth it.”

Now, I admit that my opinion on the subject is somewhat… passionate, but there is also a more basic factor to take into account here. To put it simply, as Daniel too has said, wouldn’t this harm sales overall? Block used games, and people like me, with a hole in their pocket you could fall through, would be unable to buy new video games as frequently if at all. Block used games in today’s economic climate and you would exclude a large number of consumers. To make a real profit, shouldn’t games be made available to everyone?

Either way, if this thing goes on full steam ahead, gamers like me would be left up the proverbial creek without a paddle. That I can guarantee.

Isaac

As the aged voice of wisdom, with a relatively large amount of discretionary income, I have to say that the blocking of second-hand games is an utterly brilliant and spectacular…

…idiocy of the highest order.  While I, a 28-year old married male, in which both of us game and work, can afford 60 dollars or more per game, the majority of the market and worldwide economic situation make this unfeasible.

Day 1 and Premium Edition DLC or exclusives already drive up the amount of new instead of used copies that are sold, but that said, I honestly don’t find an additional outfit or what have you justifying the price difference of 20 dollars or more that I save by waiting a week.

No More Used Games?As was already mentioned about the PS2, I can attest to its thriving life. While it may not sell a great number of units, Famitsu still tracks it, and it has similar amounts of turnover as the Xbox 360. The enduring popularity isn’t because of draconian restrictions, but from developers making games that we as gamers want to play. Indeed, many of my most cherished titles weren’t blockbuster affairs, but are budget titles focusing on the fun and enjoyment they provided. And at under 20 dollars each, new, why in anything’s name should I pay triple that for a game I play a quarter as much?

Chad

“The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

I often feel that the bigger game publishers are trying to squeeze blood from stones (me being one of those cash-bereft stones). And to be fair, it’s our fault, to some point. The industry encourages writers as well as gamers to hype things up, to buy expensive Collector’s Editions that offer a day one perk or some ultimately meaningless swag. We’ve told the industry that these things are OK, and even expected, as some people will now get upset that some games don’t ship with Collector’s Editions. The games industry has gotten very good at exploiting that kind of thing, and we’ve gotten very good at eating it up.

More to the point, this is a fight for control. Companies like Crytek want to be able to maximize their sales and profits. They don’t want the user to own the game, they want them to license it. For every person that plays their game, they want the DLC and online passes to be used by one person only, and by extension, that one person will have paid for it all.

In some ways, the “no used games” is the ultimate form of DRM. It treats you like a criminal even when you’ve done nothing. It’s a disrespectful business practice that confirms that publishers see their games as only products, and care nothing about any aspect of them other than how much profit they’re going to gain from them. I guess you can’t blame the business people for being business people, but it’s a dehumanizing experience for gamers.

It feels counter-intuitive to me that I spend upwards of $50 and very often $60 and don’t receive a complete product. It feels like Day 1-DLC seems like a way for the companies to find out “just how much can we get these rubes to pay for a video game?”

Dan

I think we’re all pretty angry at the thought of it, but there is a real reason why this is being postulated. Sales of units can’t really be reflected when used games are brought in. A developer may sell 1 million of a game, but if 300,000 people buy the game used after trade-ins, then that’s 300,000 units that they haven’t sold. Removing the possibility of second-hand sales gives the devs extra cash and the ability to track sales better. If a game sells better, publishers are more likely to be keen for a sequel. And the people who make our games are real actual human people, so they want the things they make to be properly recognised. If a sequel is made, they get to keep their job and get money to make something they love. If those 300,000 units don’t show up in their units sold at the end of the year, and that causes them to miss out on sequel status, or on further publishing monies for future projects, then they probably have a right to be quite bitter. We play these games, and we love them, and yeah we do spend money to get a hold of them. But game sales directly fuel these people’s jobs, and if you had worked hard to create something you were proud of, and people were using it without giving you and your team money, you’d probably be quite upset, maybe even furious.

I definitely feel for these people, but I just can’t agree with them. I’ll give them more money if their game deserves it because I want them to make more, but they better not remove my ability to buy older games second-hand years after they’ve been released.

Chad

Removing the second-hand sales does net the devs more cash initially – but it also cuts out the portion of the market who wouldn’t be able to pay full price. In my opinion, used games aren’t a bad way to check out a series you may not be sure about jumping into. If the person likes it, they may be willing to get one of the other parts in the series brand new. A lot of us aren’t willing to take a $60 plunge on something we don’t know if we’ll like. We’ve been burned that way before.

* * * *

Share Your Thoughts: We’ve shared our thoughts and now it’s your turn. What do you think about the rumors of used games becoming a thing of the past? Should next-gen consoles support used games, or are the concerns of developers and publishers legit?

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2 thoughts on “Friday Roundtable: Consoles Putting the Smack Down on Used Games

  1. The one thing that hasn’t been mentioned is the fact that the companies are well aware that consumers are utilizing second hand games. On-line passes and DLC’s are all purchasable as stand alone items. This fact alone shows that the companies are indeed still making money off their original investment. Not as much as if the game had been purchased new, but, they are still making money off of their cash cows. I kind of get the feeling that all this discussion about the new consoles not being able to play second hand games is their version of sticking their toe in the water to test the temperature. 

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