You already know which side of this you’re on, but one side’s definitely going to win and the other side is definitely going to lose. Accessing games at any time via digital download is something that music — and to a shorter extent, movies — have had in their arsenal to instantly gratify customers. But unlike songs or movies, which are linear forms of entertainment that can be streamed second to second, games have always had a hurdle to conquer in that they must be (mostly) acquired locally in order to be run. With the PlayStation Vita allowing for downloadable games at cheaper rates over their pressed-plastic cousins on store shelves and Microsoft’s new Xbox rumored to have anti-used game tech (whatever sort that may be), it’s obvious that the days of used gaming are going to come to a crashing end soon. It could not come any sooner.
Game developers have always been against used games because they don’t contribute a dollar to their bottom line. In essence, when you buy a used game, you are not contributing to the current or future survival of a game or the people who built it, you’re just being cheap. You’re not being frugal, you’re being cheap. Even bargain games sold at Best Buy shipped straight from the publisher will make more money for a developer than a more expensive used game will. Unlike movies and music, gaming doesn’t have some secondary source of income, although DLC is coming close to being the concert series or DVD release for it.
Hence “Project Ten Dollar”: the industry’s attempt to curb used games by limiting a title’s functionality unless you purchase a new game. These first-press games will include a code that will allow the player to access the game’s multiplayer mode, or maps, or any sort of content. Console gamers complain about this, not realizing that PC gamers have had to deal with unique CD keys for well over a decade to even play the game, much less.
Obviously, the evaporation of used gaming means that people aren’t going to have a regular location to purchase cheap games, or as I did in the waning days of the original Xbox, pawn off tons of unwanted games. There are those that will argue that the binding of games to consoles or accounts, much the same way that Steam has, will limit people bringing titles over to their friends’ house.
Who does that? Is this 1992?
Who seriously brings games over to their friends’ houses? That’s why God gave us Xbox Live and PSN, so we not only got to kill split-screen gaming, but the need to ‘go to your friends’ house to play the video games’. Do you need to keep the manual with you so that you can remember all the cheat codes, too? Do you need your memory card so you can show off your cool RPG crew? All of this is gone now, it has been for years. Others still have an attraction to the physical copy of a game. They want that disc, they want that case, and for a little longer, they can stuff all the DVD racks they want full of them, but there’ll come a time when most games will be intangible data on your console’s hard drive linked to your account, be it Xbox Live or otherwise. Discs, when you think about it, really hard, are silly.
Best Buy decided in the past few years that it wanted to compete in gaming… by getting into used games. And what a dreadful dead end that is. While GameStop has been more than happy to set up storage shacks every other block to resell games, they have to be shaking at the fact that the gaming industry will eventually unify against that practice and the floor will fall right out of the company and many stores will simply have to close. As soon as Microsoft and Sony announce that their consoles will have technology to block the play of used games, their stock will dive, the show will be over.
Eventually the game industry will rid itself of used games and while you’ll pay more, you’ll be supporting the right people with it. Some will argue ‘oh, but that just means I’ll buy fewer games’, but it also means the industry will be able to make more games, because your dollars will be going to them, rather than GameStop’s pocket.
Photo credit: Cian Ginty on Flickr