Publishers’ War on Used Games and Why You Should Buy a PC Already
We’re seeing it in more and more titles: online passes locking up content behind an Internet connection and a 16-character password, requiring players to prove they were the first person to unwrap a game package in order to get everything the title has to offer. More often than not, if you don’t have the online code required for a title, getting access to the locked-up content will run you around $10. Players are complaining about Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning locking up content behind an online pass, and Batman: Arkham City famously did so with its Catwoman content as well.
It’s game publishers’ latest great idea, aiming at dismantling the used game market. Buying a game used from any outlet earns the publisher of a title nothing at all — so players who grab their games second are basically like legal pirates in the eyes of Ubisoft, Warner Bros. or Electronic Arts. They get the game without paying anything into the big corporate structure. Back in May, Lionhead developer Mike West even said that used game sales were a bigger threat to the gaming industry than piracy.
Used games are a big market, though. In 2010, GameStop announced that half its profits for the year were derived from used game sales — by no means a small number. Obviously, that’s a lot of gamers getting their games used and paying less than full price. GameStop is a big force in the gaming market, though, and it’s unlikely the store is excited about the possibility of publishers making a concerted effort to combat half of its business model.
The latest shot to be fired in the battle of the gaming industry against the used game market was last week’s rumor that claimed the next Xbox (lamely referred to as the Xbox 720) would carry software that would prevent used games from being played on the system; once you put a game in your Xbox, it could potentially be tied to that machine forever.
Before we go into the greater implications of that idea, let’s go ahead and talk about why it’s not going to happen.