Anti-used game measures will do more harm than good

We’ve all heard the optimistic spouts from game devs and publishers alongside the rumours that the next generation of consoles will have the exciting feature of not being able to play preowned games. Last week saw Crytek’s creative director, Rasmus Hojengaard, throw his ignorance hat into the ever increasing pile of anti-used game attire. In an interview with CVG he was asked about the possibility of anti-used game measures in next gen consoles.

“From a business perspective that would be absolutely awesome” replied Hojengaard. “It’s weird that [second-hand] is still allowed because it doesn’t work like that in any other software industries”.

Even though Mr Hojengaard has since said his comment “was not intended to be taken seriously” and isn’t the stance of Crytek, it’s clear that the industry wants to do something to address this bleeding money hole that only seems to be getting bigger.

Before I go any further I’ll outline my personal views on the issue. I don’t buy preowned games due to a childhood experience involving a scratched second disc of Final Fantasy VIII that halted my playthrough and got me grounded for swearing when the wrong ears were in range. I also think it’s a practice that hurts the industry. However, to block used games altogether will do nothing but damage business and harm sales, despite how “absolutely awesome” some people think it might be.

How I choose to imagine Mr Hojengaard.

The most obvious losers should this used game ban fall upon consoles will be the stores that sell the secondhand games and those that buy them looking for a bargain. Whilst preowned games aren’t always a huge saving, you can occasionally come across super slashed prices for gems you missed at launch. It also means shops can sell marked up stock that they don’t need to cut games publishers in on, which is a huge earner for them. It’s so huge that everyone has jumped on the jewel encrusted bandwagon, from specialist games retailers to supermarket mega giants. Cutting this revenue stream will take a large chunk out of the already struggling games retailers (and be more of a pestering fart at supermarkets that will easily shrug the damage off).

Whilst it won’t affect me personally, I can easily see how a used game block will upset people who regularly stalk or stock the preowned aisles of shops. The financial implications are staring everyone in the face, but the group with the smile will be the publishers who may have found a way to plug one of the many money leaks that plagues the industry. The real damage however is much more severe and seems off the radar.

How many games have you bought on the recommendation of a friend? How many times has that friend brought a game to your house to show you exactly how awesome it is and why you should buy it? This is how I came across Final Fantasy VII, Twisted Metal World Tour, WWF: No Mercy, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and countless other games that subsequently found themselves purchased and placed on my shelf. Putting a used game ban on new consoles will stop this kind of practice being possible and leave many games undiscovered in many gamers’ hearts. Making more demos available for download may help this practice live on a bit, but it won’t be nearly as effective as having a mate come to your house and insist you insert a physical game disc into your machine for no other reason than “it’s really awesome.”

I don't know what's going on here, but I'm glad my friend showed me the game.

I swear that the games industry is trying to kill off local multiplayer. Why talk to your friends in person when you can call them names through a microphone? I’d like to think we all have memories of crowding on the sofa with four controllers and as many mates to wield them, but it’s something that is becoming so rare these days. Fewer and fewer games have local play options, and a used game ban will hit those that still do like a torpedo loaded with a bleak seeking warhead.

For those of you that can remember getting overly cosy, awkwardly rubbing against other people’s arms in the pursuit of multiplayer gaming; how often was it that one of the games in the ‘to play’ pile was brought over by a friend? I remember taking my copy of Mashed to at least four separate houses, just because it was the most fun multiplayer game up to four people could play with just two controllers. How will one of the new unannounced mega consoles be able to distinguish a secondhand game from a treat brought to you by an enthusiastic, slightly pushy friend?

The only way I can possibly foresee consoles making the distinction will be to insist that the game is played on the owner’s specific console profile. Unfortunately, I’m at the stage where if I have to deal with yet another layer of login information to play a game, I might actually punch my console to bits and press the chunks into a cake mix to send to Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. A sort of Herman the German un-friendship cake that makes people’s throats bleed.

When was the last time you saw player 4's light illuminated by itself?

I think that games publishers have hit the nail on the very edge of its jagged, irregular head with online pass codes. It’s not perfect, but at least it’s a way for everyone in the production chain to get some money from used games. Just keep them optional to buy, such as only binding them to online components or other aspects that require further investment from the developer. Also, making it obvious on the game’s packaging that it uses the online pass system will mean secondhand buyers are not caught out.

Completely blocking used games on new consoles is like bringing a gun to a snowball fight. It is heavy handed and has consequences that are far too broad in their reach. It will probably be one of the final nails in the rapidly declining social multiplayer gaming coffin. It will also mean I will probably never discover the joys of games that I stubbornly refuse to take interest in until someone forces me to play it in my own house. The monolithic cons far outweigh the short-sighted financial pros of an anti-used game console.

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

One comment

  1. KrazyFace /

    I buy nothing but used games now, and I always insist on being able to inspect the disc myself before purchase. Doing this means I never get nasty surprises.

    In all honesty, if the second hand games market was made illegal then I’d have to stop playing. This isn’t me just being stubborn for the sake of morals, I’d simply not be able to afford it. No second hand means no price drops, sales or otherwise. Why would gaming outlets put on sales when the only choice we have is full price and nothing else?

    I was in HMV yesterday and found The Lord of the Rings game (with no proper box I might add), second hand and they wanted £29.50 for it. SERIOUSLY!? No box, probably scratched, USED COPY for thirty pounds? I left in disgust.

    I think my days as a gamer are numbered…

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