Killing Used Games Won’t Help Gamers – It’ll Hurt
Assumption: No used games will mean fewer industry layoffs
Indifferent gamers didn’t cost the people their jobs. What did was an industry built on unrealistic sales projections and a disposable workforce staffed by an army of contractors and temps.
The boldest claim in the article is that the end of used games will completely upend the environment in which rank and file developers currently toil. “It needs to be made clear, if all the studio closings and constant lay-offs haven’t made this explicit: The current economics of game development and sales are unsustainable.” In addition to the claim that used games push new unit sales aside, it cites problems like piracy, cost of development, and customer dissatisfaction with the $60 price point. “Microsoft’s initiatives with the Xbox One may solve many of these issues,” it reads, adding that these changes “ultimately make the industry healthier.”
Obviously, it cannot be disputed that the gaming industry has recently experienced a wave of layoffs. But the idea that eliminating used games is going to save industry jobs is laughable at best. They might be a convenient boogeyman, but indifferent gamers didn’t cost the people their jobs. What did was an industry built on unrealistic sales projections and a disposable workforce staffed by an army of contractors and temps. It’s well-documented that MMO development teams plan for layoffs after the launch of a new game or expansion; it’s also well-documented that these layoffs often happen even while the largest companies post astronomical yearly earnings.
To expect that the entire industry will change its standards and practices because Microsoft enacted a draconian lockdown on used games is simply not realistic. So long as a game that sells 4 million copies is considered a disappointment, developers will continue to be laid off. No, the jobs that will be most affected by this change aren’t developers — they’re minimum wage GameStop employees, who are mostly just gamers like the rest of us.
While all of these assumptions are dangerous, the most distressing thing is how many positives the story stresses. Much like the news that Xbox One will require Kinect to be …Kinect-ed, the news that games are becoming digital licenses is a massive loss of rights for the consumer. No longer can you depend on being able to pull your classic console out of the closet to play some retro games. In Microsoft’s future, you’ll have to hope that the servers that enable your console to work are still functional. No worries, right? It’s not like a large company would ever shut down a bunch of servers arbitrarily, right?
There’s a lot that we still don’t know. Microsoft is making noise about having not only a workable retail solution for used games, but digital trade-ins as well. Of course, like everything else they talked about Tuesday, their muddled messaging has only managed to make things even less clear than they already were.
Speaking of used games, Xbox’s Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb, director of programming for Xbox Live, had this to say on his blog today: “The ability to trade in and resell games is important to gamers and to Xbox. Xbox One is designed to support the trade in and resale of games. Reports about our policies for trade in and resale are inaccurate and incomplete. We will disclose more information in the near future.”
Microsoft would be better served to reveal more information now, as the longer this goes on, the worse it’s looking for them. However this turns out, it’s obvious that the market is going to change, at least in the eyes of one console manufacturer.
One would think that with the announcement of a new generation of console hardware, we’d be looking optimistically toward a bright future. Instead, we appear to be headed into a world where the games I buy aren’t mine anymore, the privacy of my living room is in question, and all Microsoft can do is crow about how awesome it is that they’re working with the NFL. That’s not a good thing, folks.
Remember, pretending that piracy and used games are the roadblock that has kept publishers from being the super nice guys they wanted to be is insane.