Next-Gen Xbox: Console Locking Games… Maybe… So What?

Used games just might be blocked from at least NexBox (my new pet name for the next Xbox). This seems to make people lose their minds, and on some level I totally get it. The idea that people won’t be able to share their games with their friends or not be able to buy used games is a legit concern for many people. Hell, I’ve purchased used games and borrowed/lent games. I totally get it, but…

So Ian Livingstone, co-founder of Eidos, says this:

“Boxed games aren’t being abandoned just yet. I think the next iteration of consoles – the PS4 and the next Xbox, have got optical disc drives even though they probably don’t want to have them. Broadband speed globally isn’t at a level that justifies digital-only.

So they’ve gone halfway, […] With the next Xbox, you supposedly have to have an internet connection, and the discs are watermarked, whereby once played on one console it won’t play on another. So I think the generation after that will be digital-only.

Of course this has gotten people in a tizzy when reported at Destructoid.com. Comment section got filled with the gamer affirmation and declaration gems like, “PS4 won,” and “This makes me wish for another game market crash.” Calm down, kiddies! Not long ago both NexBox and PS4 were said to be doing this and at least Sony kinda-sorta dispelled that rumor. It is still rumor and speculation in NexBox’s case. But seriously, what have we to fear anyway? Why get angry over this?

The Concerns:

The biggest concerns with games locked to the first console they run on is killing the 2nd hand market and borrowing/lending games. This is Serious Business for a lot of people and understandably so; if they are used to selling their games to Gamestop for credit toward new or other used titles, and often share games within their social circle. There’s also the issue of merely taking a game to a bud’s place to play have some sessions, but that issue in a non-point one I’ll insta-kill right away.

We already buy games that are locked to at least our gamer IDs via licenses, and I have never had a problem transferring one of these XBLA games across consoles. You sign-in your GT to the other ‘Box, download the game, and there you have it. Of course the full game would be in trial mode when your GT is up on your own console, preventing an obvious copy-pasta of the game. Still, I imagine next-gen retail releases would work the same way with licenses connected to your gamer ID. These games would lock to an account rather than a console, and transferring them will not be a problem. So that’s that as far as taking games elsewhere. Now for the real meat and potatoes.

Second Hand Smoke & Mirrors:

Maybe the biggest issue is something like this completely obliterating the 2nd hand market. Gamestop, EBay, Gamefly would suffer to varying degrees. Cue the comparisons to used cars and such and how important it is for people to be able to sell their old stuff for whatever end they wish. Except I wanna return to the XBLA games example. You see those are games that can’t be resold in any way imaginable. They’re locked on your account forever. And we’re past the days when the biggest XBLA game was an HD Pac-Man, games of A+ quality have found success on this platform (and PSN). So along with Steam and other digital services, we’re used to this sort of thing to some degree. Embraced it even. So let’s just get at the elephant in the room:

What consumers are willing to pay.

If there’s anything I gleamed from forum hopping and glancing at comment sections of countless game articles it’s this: People want to spend as little amount of money as possible when it comes to their gaming habits. I’m not just talking about people who don’t think games should be uniform $60, I’m talking people who want free games period. It’s this strange dichotomy of a person who loves games more than he’s willing to spend for it. Shady money grubbing tactics aside (because I’m well aware of them), I’d think a Street Fighter fan who loves the series and wants to see it continue would want to buy it new and legit. Maybe he can’t buy it new, and account-locked games would kill the used game market that would help him get a new Street Fighter game; to that I say chill out. The game is not going anywhere, and you will accumulate the funds to get it.

Buying used games? Great for Gamestop, but in the end it doesn’t do anything for the publisher. Sure I’ve heard all the ideas about some mythical shopper who discovers a used game and loves it so much he buys the sequel brand new; ya know, even if his initial actions makes that unlikely. That guy doesn’t exist, or he does in small numbers. Do your research: If you feel a game is not worth $60 than you win as a consumer. If you buy a game full price and feel like you wasted your money, don’t blame slick advertising, you allowed yourself to be swindled. You feel a game speaks your language, buy it new and support it. If you don’t have the funds, save up and mark that calendar. We’re taught to save our money for what we really want, nothing changed here. As a consumer, you have more control than you think, even with a diminished used market.

GameFly? This can be solved by having every game have a demo, something PS4 can actually do via cloud streaming. Adjusting it into a streaming rental service is almost inevitable. Sorry, GameFly.

He’s worth $30 in Gamestop credit.

Sharing is Caring:

Lending games to friends or borrowing them is a practice as old as consoles themselves. Games locked on a console (or more likely your account) would pretty much end this. My only suggestion here is a way to create and maintain a ‘Co-Licensee’ list of some sorts, where you choose people in your friendslist that can play your game without the NexBox calling the FBI. Maybe you can adjust the list twice a year, if companies really wanna prevent games from floating around. That’s all I got, because this seems like unfortunate splash damage from publishers fighting against piracy and used game sales. Not many ways around it.

Well it does seem like the Online Pass era was merely the beginning of big changes to come. These companies do not like 2nd hand sales and piracy, because we’ve seen so many attempts to usurp them. We are often left having to prove we’re not low-balling the publishers, which is strange, since they eagerly look for ways to charge us piece meal (but that’s another conversation/rant). I don’t wanna sound like an apologists here, I just want every to calm down. In two years this will be nothing at all, provided we keep these guys accountable. But until then, I’m gonna stay solution oriented and look for how I can weather these changes, rather than announce the coming Ragnarok of gaming.

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