Game Changer #51 – If You Want to Play, You Have to Pay

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My name is Jared Whittaker, one of the hosts and Audio Chewbacca of the Super-Fly Podcast and PCW! Welcome to Game Changer, a weekly burning missive about all aspects of video gaming with a little bit of opinion thrown in for fun. Proceed with caution and tread lightly, gentle gamers. It’s going to be good time. Like the first time you saw Super Mario 3 good time.

News about the newest Xbox has been floating around for the last few months. While Microsoft has been tight-lipped about the next console in Microsoft’s arsenal, rumors have been flying everywhere. The next Xbox is rumored to finally have a Blu-Ray drive and the long awaited Kinect fully integrated into the console itself. But one of the rumored features could have a huge impact on the landscape of video gaming as we now know it forever.

Word came from some industry sources last week from Kotaku.com and a few different other outlets that the new Xbox could be six to eight times more powerful than the Xbox 360. Good news on the graphics and services front, but there’s another service that the system could provide. The rumor is that the new console could incorporate some sort of anti-used game system. Meaning that, much like the PS3 collapsing it’s backwards comparability for PS2 games, Xbox owners could not be able to play anything but brand new games. This is going to get a lot of game developers, publishers and mainstream retailers jumping up and cheering. But it’s also going make almost everyone one else see this as a huge tipping point on whether or not they support the next Xbox or not.

With piracy hysteria at an all time high in general, video game piracy has been a problem that the gaming industry hasn’t been able to really get a foothold on curbing. Outside of banning players from Xbox Live that are using pirated software and modded consoles, Microsoft has all but given up trying to stop piracy on the 360. The Wii has had it’s issues with pirated copies of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Mario Sports Mix, both topping more than 1 million pirated copies each in 2011. Sony’s Playstation 3 has been the most secure of the three with Sony constantly updating the console and amending it’s OS. While not impossible, playing not legal copies of games on the PS3 isn’t really effecting the system too much. We won’t even talk about the long standing PC game piracy issue.

So, it’s no surprise that Microsoft could possibly be taking steps to cut non-paying gamer time on their new system. But, the direction things are apparently moving in is going to not only turn off many gamers that pick up games used that they would otherwise not buy due to money issues or not wanting to pay premium prices for sometimes sub-par games, (looking at you Duke Nukum Forever and Too Human, etc) but it could completely demolish businesses that have built huge profits of the used game markets. For stores, from the goliath chain Game Stop to small market shops, like Super-Fly Comics and Games, used games are a very popular, and profitable market. Cutting the second hand market out of the picture may seem like a way to get money pumping back into the gaming industry, but it’s a grey area on how much that would end up happening.

The argument is similar to the argument that was happening in the music. “If everyone would stop stealing and pay for their games, the industry would be thriving!!” That would be true, assuming that all of this money would be evenly distributed throughout the gaming industry. Gaming studios often get the short end of the stick when it comes to profits. With the cost of just producing a game being sometimes in the same area of some major motion pictures, not to mention marketing, exclusivity deals and other things on the back end, studios are always one mediocre selling game away from closing it’s doors. The pressure to get a profitable game out on the market is getting to critical mass and companies could be looking at means like this to make sure games make the maximum amount of money they can.

That said, these are all rumors at this point. Most analysts are predicting that the new Xbox most likely won’t be getting announced until next year, with a possible release in 2014. And with Sony, EA and other companies experimenting with other means to curb the second hand market like the use of Online Pass codes, where if you buy the game used, you can’t play the online features without paying a fee, it’s hard to see Microsoft leap frogging everyone else to such a drastic end. But means like this isn’t completely out of the realm of possibly and should be watched closely. The fight over piracy, profits and the consumer is going to continue for a while.

What do you think? Would not being able to play used games sway you from buying the new Xbox?

Keep gaming…

Jared Whittaker plays a lot of games. Not as much as he’d like, but as much as time and money will allow. If you want to play some games with Jared, you can find him on Playstation 3; PSN tag: JFX. He is also on Steam and Battle.net as JFX316 and while he doesn’t have an Xbox 360, he has the coolest Gamertag in the world: Obiwan Jaborni. Feel free to add him as a friend or email him at [email protected] and on Twitter as JFX316

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Jared Whittaker is a contributing writer/columnist for PanelsOnPages.com. He acts as co-host and producer for the Super-Fly Podcast and PCW. He lives in Yellow Springs, OH and is generally awesome at most things.

Comments (2)

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  1. Mary Staggs says:

    With Steam, I’m rarely even playing my Xbox 360 anymore. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll be buying a new one anytime soon, ESPECIALLY if I can’t play used games on it. But, I have some different reasons for that.

    First, I like not having to leave my house to get a game, because I’m a hermit. I know that Xbox Live has a store and that I can download games that way (I downloaded BioShock), but it’s much less convenient. The game isn’t on some cloud where I can play it on any console. THAT would be epic. No, I have to download it (or transfer it to my thumb drive) if I want to play it on the living room Xbox vs. the bedroom one.

    As it is, Steam doesn’t have cloud capability, either, but it’s less of a pain in the butt. I can log into my account on any computer, download the Steam client, and easily download any of my games.

    Second, the Steam store regularly has huge sales and discounts its older titles by a lot. To me it feels comparable to buying a game from GameStop. The Xbox store, as far as I’ve seen, doesn’t do that, or at least does it very rarely. If they would decrease the cost of old/low performing games, it would probably help their case.

    As far as piracy goes, with gamers you’re targeting a market that’s even MORE tech savvy than movie/music pirates, which explains why it’s such a rampant problem. I see why they’re doing things with codes and such, but it really is pissing off people like me, who never pirate games. What they’ve been doing has kept me from buying used games that could end up being nearly unplayable because the code has been used. It’s a gamble that I don’t want to take. I haven’t bought a used game for some time, and probably won’t anytime soon because I can get it new, streamed to my computer, for nearly the same price.

    I really feel for the stores that are being hurt by this. They’re losing the most in all of this DRM/code bullcrap. :(

  2. Joshua says:

    While I don’t think it’s an impossibility, I’ll be surprised if the “no used games” rumor holds true. How, exactly, would that work? Would rentals be impossible? Would one no longer be able to take a game over to a friend’s house to play?

    And personally, the second-hand market is a completely different issue from the piracy issue. Piracy won’t stop because people can’t buy used (if anything, it will get bigger). The two markets run independent from one another.

    I know that publishers and developers would love this, but it seems like an overly-draconian move that would drive a lot of consumers away.

    Personally, I hate how media is turning into leasing rather than owning. If I buy a game I own it, and therefore should be able to sell it, just like buying a lamp, or a sofa, or a car.

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