It seems to have seeped through the cracks and into the media that Microsoft are considering a console-wide ban on pre-owned games with the release of their upcoming next generation Xbox, by making each copy of each games only playable in one system. This leads to a deep dark argument between gamers and the industry about whether or not this is a good plan. Even the developers seem to be split up in terms of their views on this. Some seem to think it's a great idea, and their wallets agree. Others, who have an ounce of cop on, know damn well that this is complete bullshit. Of course, publishers think this is the best thing since sliced bread. As a gamer, my take on the whole situation is simple- it's wrong!
The new Vs pre-owned games war has been going on for a while now. There have been a few warning shots fired against pre-owned in the form of online passes, and games being released without deletable files, and even games that sell their ending separately. These are indeed dirty manoeuvres, but unfortunately they are simply the tip of the iceberg... An iceberg which houses a weapon of mass destruction... And has probably gotten it on with your girlfriend while you were at work. This weapon is to be used against all pre-owned games sales through an aggressive military-esque stance that wishes to bring about the end of the pre-owned games industry entirely in one fell swoop. This is the sickest, most cowardly move I've ever heard of.
There is quite a lot of talk about this at the moment, and of what it will mean for gaming in general. It's easy to see what Microsoft think about this. They believe it will help their sales by banishing stores like Gamestop and Game off the face of the Earth, forcing them out of business. Ultimately meaning that more money will be made for those who created the games. In theory, this sounds like a just and righteous idea, painting pre-owned game stores as the bad guys, and thus making it seem like the developers/publishers are just poor artistic orphans who are being ripped off and living on the breadline. This, of course, is complete and utter bollocks. Video gaming, as I'm sure we all know at this stage, is the largest media entertainment industry on the planet, dwarfing music, dwarfing film, and making enough money to make a calculator's fucking head spin. These guys are not two pay cheques away from losing their homes. Their games make millions on release day, and more in the following weeks.
But like any war, there are civilians caught in the cross fire. That would be us, the gamers. These guys can kick each others asses all day long, but really, it's us that should be worried about the entire situation. If this actually happens with the next Xbox, we could find ourself in serious trouble. I can't afford to cough up 50quid for each good looking game that's released. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that boat either. Each time I buy a new game, I'm paying almost as much as I pay on rent each week. This is quite a lot of cash to spend on a whim, especially considering that a lot of games simply ain't worth that amount of cash. So I depend on a few other ways of acquiring games. One of these is by purchasing them second-hand. You could argue that this means the makers will get no money for their hard work. My retaliation to that would be stating that they've already been paid for this copy. That's right, if I was to buy the latest Need For Speed game second hand, that would mean that somebody has already traded this game in. That person paid full price and when they no longer wanted the game, they traded it in. If full price had already been paid, then why the fuck should the game's creators get paid for it
On the flipside of this, what would happen if I buy a game that I don't like? Let's be honest here, some games are simply shite. But how am I to know what's shite and what's great without playing it for myself?Sure I could read/watch reviews on the game, but just because the reviewer liked it doesn't mean that I will. The reviews for Alice: Madness Returns stated that is was not a good game, yet it was one of my favourite games of last year. Demos can all too often be very misleading; there have been plenty of times when I've played a bad demo to what was ultimately a great game, and vice versa. Not to mention the amount of games that simply don't have demos available for download. If I pay for a game and I don't enjoy it, what can I do with it then? With this new assault on pre-owned games, it means that this game will be tied to my Xbox, and therefore it will be useless to give the game to anyone else. It means that I have three choices- put it on the shelf and forget about it, feck it in the bin, or play it anyways to just because there is nothing else I can do with it. None of these options sound very appealing to me. I don't want to keep a game I don't like just for the sake of keeping it, and I sure as Hell don't want to throw 50quid's worth of video game in the trash.
Where is consumer's rights on this issue? If I own something in it's physical format, do I not have the right to do with it as I please, as long as I'm not copying or pirating it? Do I not have the right to sell it on when it's no longer of any use to me? Is it not actually mine even though I've paid for it? I've never heard of a CD that can only be played in a single stereo, or a movie that can only be played in a single DVD player. Yet these media giants still strive. This seems quite simply like a case of the rich making more cash, and to Hell with everyone else.
There's a good chance that such a bold move will indeed hurt the games industry all in all. Pre-owned games are such a big trading giant because so many people simply can't afford to buy games first hand at the time of release. A lot of games disappear from store within a few short months of their release dates, and with so many games constantly hitting the shelves, it can by quite difficult for anyone to choose which ones are indeed worth half your week's wages. The only real survivors may be huge mammoth franchises like Call of Duty, GTA, and Halo, which are pretty much guaranteed to make a fortune. Sales will inevitably drop, and the pool of creativity will become a shallow one. Nobody will really want to take the risk with a new title, so they'll most likely stick with what they know. If you miss the brief window in which these games are available, you'll pretty much never get the chance to play them. No point buying them on ebay if they won't play in your goddamn system because their previous owner had already played them. When they go retro, unplayed copies will become fucking gold dust.
Even the developers themselves are unsure about the future with this possible movement looming overhead. Many developers know that this might bring the gaming industry down hard. It might throw it back into a proverbial stone age, where gaming returns to being little more than a cult phenomenon. So a lot of studios are opposing this, and trying to think up alternative strategies in which the gamers would be treated to like dirt.
Now I'm not trying to rally the troops here. I'm not calling for a boycott or anything even remotely resembling it. I'm simply expressing my views on the situation. People are smart enough to make their own decisions on what they will or will not purchase, and everyone's money is their own to spend. Quite frankly, I don't give a rat's ass if you buy a game or not, as this is your business and absolutely none of mine. Of course this whole situation is all just speculation at the moment. Nobody currently knows if this will really happen, but it has brought out the auld one in me (her name is Biddy, she makes a lovely cup of tea, and knits a fine-ass cardigan), and the idea of it alone has offended me to my very core. Once again, we consumers are shown no respect by those that we keep in business with our hard earned cash, and once again, we are viewed as criminals. I, for one, can not see myself ever bending to these rules for a few hours of entertainment.