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Blocking Used Console Games: The '7' Danger For Developers
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Blocking Used Console Games: The \'7\' Danger for Developers

The news that the next generation Xbox (currently named ‘Durango’) could see an end to used games being sold by stores has created a wealth of discussions, debates and press for Microsoft’s upcoming console. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you will know Microsoft’s intention is to lock purchased games to one console once you’ve played them. This would end the sale of used games, sharing games and the fun of a split screen gaming night using a friend’s copy of a game. Various arguments have been put forward since Microsoft’s announcement, however in my opinion the negative effect this would have for developers hasn’t been addressed.

I’m a regular listener to a couple of gaming podcasts and an occasional viewer of a couple of YouTube channels, many of which have talked about how developers would benefit from their games being purchased new rather than used from the store. Used game money doesn’t go to the developers and consumers will often purchase the cheaper used game over buying a new copy. We’ve all done it and we’re all tight on money; games are a luxury commodity after all. I understand how blocking used games would help developers, however are they really just making the market a tougher place?

As a gamer on an average income with bills to pay I don’t often take a risk on a full price game unless it’s received a higher scale of ratings and it’s something I’m at least partially familiar with. Whether the familiarity is through a game series, trusted developer or if it is purely the type of game I enjoy, I generally don’t deviate far from what I know as I don’t have the money to take risks. I realise it’s the cheapest period in gaming’s history to buy games, however with little income left each month to use frivolously I rarely buy games at the full release price. When I do I usually trade in a game I’ve already played for credit to alleviate a little of the cost.

The main point of my argument stems from this; how many of us will take a risk on purchasing a game if we know we won’t be able to make any of the money back by trading in at a store or selling it elsewhere, e.g. eBay? The opinion of a large number of gamers is that if a game doesn’t reach at least an 8.0 review score and isn’t part of an already established gaming series then it hasn’t been a success and wouldn’t be worth buying. I realise there are a number who don’t have the same opinion but you only have to read the comments section on IGN to see the kinds of feedback that are thrown at games which receive a 7.0. The same mark back in school would be a good achievement, but in the gaming business it’s generally a sign of a game that the majority of consumers will be passing up on.

If Microsoft has their way and when buying a game you will be parting with funds for a CD that you’ll never be able to get anything back for, how likely are you to buy a game that gets a 7.0? How many people would choose Red Faction: Armageddon (7.0 on IGN) over Halo Reach (9.5 on IGN)? I realise that sounds like a stupid question because of course you’d choose the higher rated game, but that is exactly my point; if consumers can no longer use trade-ins when purchasing games or sell on their game if they don’t enjoy it, they will only spend their money on the highest quality games and won’t risk any money on the lower rated games. Combine that with the current economic climate and threats to peoples’ jobs and the public’s willingness to take a risk when buying a game gets even smaller.

There would be no chance at all of me buying a 7.0 game at full price if I couldn’t trade or sell it on if I didn’t enjoy it, and I’m sure many others out there would feel the same. Why risk your money? I’d rather keep my money and wait for the next 9.0 game to be released. Everyone has the ability to scour the internet for reviews and the information is probably more freely available than ever before; you’re going to know if there’s better gaming options out there. I realise not everyone has the same income problem, however I do consider myself to be an average Joe in terms of income and the games I play. To lose average Joes from the sales of a game would mean a significant hit.

For developers the consumer reluctance to buy anything but the highest quality games could change the market into an ‘excellence or bust’ game of risk. Smaller developers could suffer as there would be no easing in period for games; you either succeed with critical renown, or you fail with a ‘decent’ game. Development teams who cut their teeth making mediocre or average games before refining their abilities into something great, would no longer have the buffer period to create.

Obviously franchises such as Call of Duty, Gears of War, Halo, Grand Theft Auto etc. would have no problem attracting interest or selling games. They are successful franchises and have a large following. However a publishers’ willingness to take risks on their developers creating new innovative games would be greatly reduced. You could lose a large part of the market and a variety of new games which are piloting new innovations, because the risk of receiving a 7.0 and then being largely ignored by consumers would be greater.

All of this aside, I have the same view as the majority of people about locking games to consoles; taking away the ability to sell on a game or play a game on a friend’s console is reducing my freedom as a consumer. Don’t come down hard on the gamers who are doing the right thing and paying money to play your games; deal with the stores who you see as making a profit unjustly from used games. I’ll miss being able to pick up classic used games at a boot sale (or yard sale if you’re from North America) and won’t be purchasing as many games at release. However, I believe the ‘7.0 risk’ is a factor which developers who support Microsoft’s standpoint have overlooked.

Find me @Ratty75 on Twitter, I'd be interested to hear your views


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