Opinion: Used Game Blocking and Next Generation Consoles

Opinion: Used Game Blocking and Next Generation Consoles

There has been plenty of discussion considering which console will block used copies of games and which one will not. So far Nintendo have not pursued this route and while they might be considering it, it seems highly unlikely. Sony are keeping hush about it, but have said they won’t be doing it as well. Then we have Microsoft.

Microsoft is a company with a policy of not addressing rumors, however when more and unsavory rumors about their upcoming next generation console are mounting, it’s probably best to make exceptions once in a while. This is especially true when such an unsavory rumor such as blocking used games and of course always online functionality. Neither is something most gamers want and throwing it in despite voices against it would be the same as saying “the customer isn’t right”.

The developers of the Saint’s Row series and Bethesda have both mentioned that used games are a concern. Years ago a game would’ve never been traded unless to a pawnshop since there was no industry specific shop where you can buy and trade and provided support for that hobby until GameStop, EB Games, GAME, and others game along. Used games are a major part of GameStop’s sells given that games used titles that just came out are usually sold for no more than $5 less than new (odd I know, they might as well rewrap it in plastic and sell it as new).

Sometime could also be said for DLC and micro-transactions being a product of the used game trade. Years ago developers released full games and there was no need for an extra title on a particular chapter in the series—unless your game series was a tournament fighter or a PC title that had expansions that added new worlds, quests, and so on. Now and days a game can see DLC in the fashion of new attire, armor, weapons, and maps—knick knacks that could’ve been in the main game out of the box—with weeks or months of release.

The cause of this is the middle man. A shop like GameStop or Amazon or eBay or the actual sellers on Amazon and eBay allows for gamers to turn in the game when they’ve finished the main story which allows for another gamer to purchase it for a bit cheaper than it was at launch. That’s a sale the publisher doesn’t get a cut of and the middle man gets to keep. Digital only was one suggestion mentioned some time ago. Digital downloads have shown to see some success as it saves a trip to the game store (and the hassle of being accosted for another title you didn’t ask for).

The problem with digital download only is the same as blocking used games: if the game was salty or the gamer didn’t care for it, they’re stuck with the thing. This regulates it to a $60 piece of useless plastic. That was a trade-in that someone could’ve put cash or store credit down on a game they probably would’ve enjoyed playing. Being stuck with a game that they don’t want to keep doesn’t benefit the gamer in any way.

In some way this can be seen as a buyer beware situation. You should know exactly what you’re getting before purchasing the game and if you get a lemon of a title the publisher would only issue a “We’re sorry you didn’t enjoy our game”.  You can’t do anything with an apology. You can do as much with an apology as you can with a “Thank you”. It’s something that is good to have like a receipt on a salty purchase and peace of mind.

While certainly not directly comparable to video games, other consumer goods you get come with something to make it worth not just buying, but worth keeping for a long period of time. Smartphones, computers, other electronics, automobiles, and so on come with warranties out the gate and in some cases second hand goods come with like a warranty of a couple months to a year at least. If you were to be stuck with the game purchase you made now—even after you’ve finished it or you’re unsatisfied with it—there would need to be some extras. This means extras you don’t have to purchase. A full game got the gate, cheaper DLC, the first expansion on a series free if you register your game (in the same way Nintendo has game registering).

On that note, digitally purchasing a game that is out at retail shouldn’t cost the same price as the game on the shelf. The price of the game in store also includes the packaging of the title—the artwork, manual, case, whatever little special goodies they throw in—which is understandable.  If you merely had to download the game, you’re getting none of that extra material. It’s the same as buying a digital album. You’re not getting the jewel case with the artwork and it’s priced accordingly. How about getting a book via Kindle? You’re not getting a physical paper copy so you’re paying as much as I would be in a bookstore. While albums can take a few months to write and record and games can take months and year, the prices should still be reasonable for a digital copy.

Nintendo has a mode of encouraging you to keep your game with Nintendo Club points. Unfortunately, the prizes up for grabs aren’t exactly getting doubloons or anything so you end up turning the game in or putting it up for sale yourself and the next person who purchases it isn’t able to cash in on those Club points. It needs work and it needs more in the incentive department, but it’s something.

When it comes down to not being stuck with a game, it’s very “buyer beware”. Make sure you get a title that can be played for years or that you’re certain you’ll return to at a later point. You shouldn’t go solely on ratings since they can be bought. Twitch.TV is a good way to see if a game is worth it since you watch gamers like yourself playing and commenting on the game for days and even weeks at a time. Sure there’s the high potential for spoilers to the point where you wouldn’t need to purchase the game, but at least you have an actual idea of the game as well as commentary about it. The same could be said for play through footage on YouTube as opposed to just “10 minutes of gameplay” official video or gameplay trailers. This isn’t a remedy to getting stuck with a game you later find out that you don’t want, but it is a safeguard you could take against it. Sort of like “You’ve seen the gameplay from start to finish and read the results, if you get the game and you don’t like it, too bad. You’ve had an ample amount of warnings against it or praise for it and more than enough time to mull it over”.

Of course a publisher wouldn’t tell you that, but they’re thinking it.

There could be a point when physical games are bound to your console or a console is required to be online to play games. It might even happen when Xbox 720 and PS4 actually enter the generation, but it won’t be without voices of disdain and scowls at the idea and the practice once implemented. As is the case with some things we simply don’t want, we’ll get used to it being around and at least become tolerant of its existence.

Personally, I can see why the idea could be on the table from a business standpoint. A GameStop, EB Games, or GAME could make several times the sells on one copy of a title a year with trade-ins whereas the publisher and developer only see a sell on that one copy once. Multiply that by however many are actually traded in and the guys and gals who actually made the game, put it out, and did part of the advertising for it are missing out a lot.

Outside of that, again it doesn’t benefit the person who bought the game new and it hurts those who would get the game used since they couldn’t afford it new. Even though the publishers and developers aren’t seeing that money at least the person is buying the game. Although you could say it’s on par with piracy in that they’re still not getting a cut of the money (but not morally).

What do you think of blocking used games? Good idea or should it be scrapped?


Starting with Kabir News in 2013, James has focused on tech, gaming, and entertainment. When not writing, he enjoys catching up on sci-fi and horror shows and comics. He can be followed on Twitter @MetalSwift.

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