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If Xbox 720 cans pre-owned, we all lose

Opinion: Don't declare war on the used game market, says James Jenkins

Amid the news, rumours and wild speculation recently over the next generation of consoles, one story in particular has given me cause for concern; I'll give you a guess, it doesn't involve graphics cards.

The report yesterday linking the new Xbox console with Blu-Ray support also came with worrying claims of Xbox 720 (or whatever you want to call it) featuring a system that blocks the ability to play used games. In theory, the next-gen system could link all of your games to your specific Xbox Live account.

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Ok, now this is purely rumour at this point - a Microsoft spokesperson, of course, dismissed it as "rumour and speculation" - but if the house of Xbox is genuinely thinking about pursuing this, I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say this is a monumental mistake.

It's huge, it's brash, and it's potentially crippling to the industry and the gamers that fuel it.

It's not such a way out idea to predict a console to introduce a concept like this either, if you've read the signs. PC games have had launch codes, so to speak, for years, which doesn't restrict you to one install, but doesn't let you go wild handing out the code to everyone leaving a GAME either.

More recently publishers, dollar signs glinting in their eyes, have incorporated online pass requirements for certain games. Yearly releases like FIFA now force you to buy new, unless you want to fork out even more just to access the rich online features.
Judging from how FIFA 12 has hogged the top spot and gained so much money, akin to a digital Man City, the formula's worked hasn't it? It's certainly forced me and a number of friends from an old pattern of buying last years copy for a fiver.

Unfortunately this will only encourage big publishers and now console makers to push their luck even further.

Obviously the first casualties, if Microsoft chooses to declare war on used games, will be the little guy, the consumer.

At £40 some people simply can't afford to buy all the triple-A releases brand new in this economy, especially with the fantastic haul of titles in 2011. The popularity of Amazon and Play.com give just a subtle hint that many gamers can't afford RRP's.

But it goes higher than the guy with the low pay packet. Certain businesses will be left crippled by this, and not just the obvious ones like CEX, a store that centres its whole strategy around pre-owned media.

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What would happen to Lovefilm or Blockbuster? Both popular options for gamers who now have the ability to sample a number of games for a limited fee, especially good for those single player experiences that offer little replay value.

But what would Lovefilm do, get a brand new copy sent out every time someone sticks that title in their wanted list? They'd run out of revenue after a week.

Beyond the consumers and businesses though, the ones I really feel will suffer are the game developers themselves.

Without the pre-owned market games like Alan Wake, Dead Space and Heavy Rain might never have been properly appreciated, with the first two eventually benefiting from the word of mouth via sequels and the latter claiming to have been played by millions via pre-owned.

At £40 a pop, a game is no longer an impulse buy. We can't afford to take a scatter-gun approach and hope that we bring home something we like - and the new IPs with fresh ideas like Enslaved, Bulletstorm and Mirror's Edge get the sharp end of the stick.

If gamers are forced to pay full whack for every game they'll inevitably have to limit their purchases and stick to what they know. Which ultimately means creativity will suffer for publishers' attempts to get back some of that 'lost money'.

At the risk of sounding very familiar to Microsoft: don't do it!

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