Wednesday, 22 May 2013

XBOX One and the used game debacle

The new XBOX has been revealed and at the moment it is quite the media darling much like the PS4 was a few months prior.  I guess it's about time the next generation of consoles start making their presence known now after the incessant calls from all over the industry for a fresh hardware base to develop for.  It's understandable that both Sony and Microsoft want to keep these systems on the market as long as humanly possible since they cost a fortune to market and develop and coupled with a recession it's not surprising that they dragged their feet a little.

Of course new consoles are a blessing and a curse.  Those players who have only recently gotten into the console generation now sit in a weird limbo where new games will dry up quickly as the numerous publishers begin to shift projects to the new systems.  The inevitable high cost is another off putting factor for new adopters since they now have to save and scrimp to be sure they can afford the console and secure one of the precious systems in the first place.  The final point of contention is the backwards compatibility, something that EU owners of the PS3 got seriously screwed with due to the PAL systems lacking any form of backwards compatibility.  The few games that worked had issues and sometimes they worked for a brief period before crashing out.  North American and Japanese customers were spared this trouble due to a chip that was omitted from the PAL PS3 allowed full backwards compatibility.

Rumours had been flying around for some time between the announcements of both consoles concerning the use of new mechanics to prevent used games from being played.  Sony had patented a piece of tech that would only allow games to be played on the first system it was used on, while Microsoft had been working in a similar area for years.  When the PS4 was announced, the question of used games and whether or not they could be played on the new system was quickly cleared up by Sony's Shuhei Yoshida saying:

"So, used games can play on PS4. How is that?"
 Microsoft is now in the midst of a confusing mess of reports that conflict with each other as XBOX bosses try to get the facts straight.  The answer to this question though was a little more complex.  XBOX ONE will use a digital rights management system of sorts that requires a user login to play the content registered to your system.  Having the disc allows you to play your games on any system as usual, but in the instance of playing at a friends house you will need to login to your XBLA account and use the disc.  Your friend though cannot continue playing after you leave unless they pay for the ability to do so, even if the game is installed on your HDD.

It's confusing really, but a simpler answer is from a eurogamer article by Tom Bramwell with the TL;DR version being:

"Once you install a game, it is tied to your Xbox login, and in this way Microsoft can avoid scenarios where you buy a game, install it, then just give the disc to all your friends so they can install and play it without paying for it."

Phill Harrison of Microsoft and XBOX fame does state that in a future announcement they will detail the means in which owners can remove their digital license from a game and trade it in to stores for credit like usual.  But players who buy preowned games will likely have to pay twice in a similar manner to the online pass system although this isn't confirmed, hence the future announcement.

My personal feelings on preowned games is this and this is my opinion, not that of a group or majority of players.  But really when people want to support a developer they like they should buy the game new, not second hand.  The reason for this is that second hand games only help the shop not the developer or publisher.  The shop takes 100% of the profit from second hand sales and that is bullshit.  This is worse when you look at the price of second hand games which should realistically be half the price of new games, instead they are close to new prices which frankly baffles me as to why people buy games second hand.

You want to show your support for Rocksteady and get that third Arkham game (Arkham Origins isn't a rocksteady batman game) then buy the existing titles new not preowned.  You don't help at all that way.  Also you don't have to buy the game on day of release, if you're patient new games drop in price quickly over a month or two anyway somewhere on the Internet or the high street.

Now I am not saying you shouldn't have a right to trade in games for credit to get new games or whatever, but don't be a hypocrite and attack companies like Sony or Microsoft or Nintendo for trying to protect themselves from a practise that takes money away from them.  The same goes for publishers like EA or Activision or any publisher who uses the online pass system, it's purely to ensure they get something back from their investment.  Many people comment on sites about these horrific stories of game development like Homefront, L.A. Noire or Red dead redemption but then buy second hand copies thus taking money out of their salaries.

It's a very difficult situation really and many players buy second hand games because they are cheaper and they may not be able to afford new titles every month or fortnight, preowned may in fact be the only way they can play any games on their consoles, but they have to be able to see why measures are taken to recoup some of the lost profits of the second hand market.

The PC gaming market has been in a very different situation for decades now.  Most PC games are permanently tied to a single account upon registration and PC gaming still thrives despite claims of it's demise by console fanboys.  PC piracy is used as the excuse to tie games to accounts despite it's continued presence today, but I still agree that developers and publishers should protect their products from the used gaming market.  Too many shops these days stock less and less new games and push their used stock on customers aggressively.


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