news\ Feb 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Xbox 720 preventing used games from playing would be 'fantastic' for gaming industry

A little over a week ago, it was rumored that the next-gen Xbox could contain technology to prevent used games from being played on the console. Despite it being only a rumor, gamers took to the internet to voice their displeasure. 

But while gamers and average consumers are displeased with the latest rumors, developers and publishers seem to be pleased with the idea.  One developer in particular, Jameson Durall of Volition, voiced his approval of such technology that would prevent pre-owned games from playing on the Xbox 720, going so far as to say it would be a "fantastic change" for the gaming industry.

Durall wrote: "There’s another big rumor about the next Xbox console that could really start to shake things up…it won’t play used games at all!"

Although he recognized consumers would be upset "at first", Durall went on to reason that they will "grow to understand why" and that not being able to play used games "won't kill them."

"Personally I think this would be a fantastic change for our business and even though the consumers would be up in arms about it at first…they will grow to understand why and that it won’t kill them."

Durall even went so far as to offer ideas as to how Microsoft could implement this idea, and to a certain extent already have.

The system is already there for Microsoft, all they’d have to do is use the DLC and codes model they have to tie a game to your Xbox live account.  Each retail disc would likely need that unique key somewhere in the code so the account would be able to link it properly.  Ideally it would tie a full version to the console it is registered on so family members can play even if the main account isn’t signed in, but this is exactly how their model works now anyway.

Durall wasn't totally oblivious to the potential hazards of a system that was completely free of any used games.  He admitted it would have "faults that would have to be ironed out", naming game rental as one of those areas.

 I’m a fan of rental companies because they have to buy copies of the game to be able to rent them out and if someone likes the game, there is a chance they would purchase it for themselves.  I could see Microsoft implementing their own rental service which would maybe give them a code that activates the game for X days and they are charged a small amount.  This could work when you borrow the disc from someone or even with digital download of the full version.  It would also send a percentage of the rental to the Developer with each rental…likely improving the overall revenue we would receive from it.

Another issue would be with simply lending the game to a friend, but maybe they could implement something similar to what Amazon is doing with their Kindle Books lending policy.  The license of the game could be transferred for a set time to another Gamer Tag and the original owner won’t be able to play during that time.  Seems like it could work.

In the end, I fully believe that we have to do something about these issues or our industry is going to fall apart.  People often don’t understand the cost that goes into creating these huge experiences that we put on the shelves for only $60.  They also don’t seem to realize how much they are hurting us when they buy a used game and how pirating a copy is just plain stealing.  Maybe something as simple as educating them could help solve the problem…

The problem Duvall is referring to is the age-old argument that only retailers profit from used game sales, with the developers are publishers seeing no revenue from the secondhand sales.  In fact, Durall addressed the issue earlier in his post, writing:

Game Developers have recently been trying to figure out ways to address this on our own over the last few years and have come up with some ideas that I’m actually beginning to like!  Supporting the game with DLC is always a good idea since it not only encourages the buyer to keep the game longer, but that content is also tied to their account when purchased.  Great Idea as long as your DLC is compelling and a good enough value to bring in plenty of consumers.  It seems to be working since this article says DLC generated over one billion dollars as of May last year.

Obviously this is a very slippery slope for developers, publishers, and retailers alike.  There's really no simple answer without upsetting someone.  If you ban pre-owned games you are hurting consumers.  If you allow pre-owned games then the developers and publishers get shafted.  Right now, things like DLC and online passes are the route many publishers like EA have chosen to go, but even then many are upset with the feeling they are being gypped content that is already on the disc but locked.  The general consumer feeling is that if it's on the disc at launch it should be made available for when its purchased at full price. 

Perhaps another strong argument against the whole online pass is that video games are the only industry to do this.  When someone buys a used car the company doesn't see any of the profits.  If a friend of mine burns a CD, the record label doesn't see any profit. 

Arguments for both sides can be made and there is no clear answer as to what should be done.  But I can tell you what shouldn't be done; that is to not prevent users from playing pre-owned games on the Xbox 720.  That will do nothing but alienate your fanbase, especially if other consoles include the ability to play used games.  Heed this warning Microsoft: don't be the deciding factor in all of this.

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