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Feb 06 2013

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The begining of the end for used gaming?

After 7 years of the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 being the dominant players in the home console gaming market, the time has finally come for Sony and Microsoft to begin telling the world more about the successors to the current generation of gaming consoles. The first bit of information coming out though doesn’t seem to be digesting well with most gamers.

It seems that some of the first details being leaked by Microsoft about the Successor to the Xbox 360 is that the system will require per-game activation of a license key of some kind, and that the unit will require constant internet access to contact activation servers to ensure the games are authorized for play on that console, and that console only.

Long story short, from the information given, this basically means the end of any form of used game market on the system. That’s right, no more going to Gamestop to buy a used copy of the next Halo or Call of Duty: under what we know about this rumored activation system, the game will refuse to play on any console but the original one it was authorized on.

Of course, the way gaming has gone over the years, the used game market isn’t as large as it used to be, but many people, including myself, love a good game for cheap, and used games have always been a perfect chance to experience amazing entertainment at dirt cheap prices. Picking up a used copy of a major RPG release like Final Fantasy XIII for $10 or less a year after release certainly beats paying $59.99 on launch day, if you can wait a while for the price drop and for used copies to enter the market, which often times happens only a few days after a games release!

Now, imagine a situation where you can no longer purchase used games of any kind. Imagine, a few years down the line, a friend tells you about an amazing game you just have to play, but it is no longer in production. If a used game market doesn’t exist, it makes it that much harder for you to ever get to enjoy the game on your own time, and add it to your collection, while still being able to play it.

However, there is an odd twist to this situation in that the focus of gaming has changed in the past decade. With the rise of high speed internet, and game consoles gaining networking capabilities identical to those of personal computers, gamers, and the games they enjoy, have taken a heavy focus to online play, with other people, rather than a lone single-player experience. This alone doesn’t seem bad, but when tied to the fact that every year or two, there is a new release in a game series, and an odd situation presents itself: There is virtually no used market for last years game!

Sports titles have always been notorious for this; due to updates in team rosters, etc, the game from the previous year is worthless once its successor comes out. While the game is still fun and enjoyable, its no longer a desired release, as a more current game is available. The result is natural supply and demand logic: this well owned game is traded in to places in mass when the new iteration is available, but no one comes to buy those used copies of the old game, meaning they just sit there at bargain bin prices, with the occasional odd customer (such as yours truly) coming by to snag a game for cheap.

Of course this is just the sports title trend, but the logic is valid in Shooters and other popular genres with online capabilities: No one wants to play last years game. People always move to the newest game, which results in fewer people still online playing the old games, save for those who truly love that game. Famous are the stories of the few people playing Halo 2 for hours on end past the time Microsoft had shut down the original Xbox Live service. Sadly such devotion and love to a game is a rare event, and in most cases, these games are just left as fond memories of just a short few years ago.

So, we wind up in an odd paradox: Companies want to end the used game market, to increase their own sales by forcing you to always buy a new copy, but the most popular games are the ones that no one wants used: they only want to most recent version which is rarely in game stores used for any decent price until it has been surpassed by a new game. This leaves niche gamers, such as myself, in a state of limbo. If games are locked to given systems, if someone buys a game and decides they don’t want it, but can’t get a refund on it, even if they wanted to trade it to a used game shop, they couldn’t, and players like me, who might not have too much money for gaming, are forced to buy new, expensive games, instead of being able to browse for those old gems they have wanted for a while, but couldn’t afford when new.

This brings up the big market for used games, even these days: Children. Used games are a great way for parents who don’t have too much spare cash to get their kids something they can really enjoy! Kids themselves who have allowance or some other money to spend rarely have more than about $20, or so I have seen, which means there is no way without saving up that they will be able to afford a new game: they always are left scouring through bargain bins, hunting for something that looks fun to them. I know this is exactly what I did when I was younger, and even into my teens, scouring game stores for cheap games that looked like fun. I didn’t care if they were new or old, I just wanted to enjoy a video game.

I have a strong feeling though, that these reports are being overstated, and that the console restrictions will be far less sever than they sound in these early days. At least, I can only hope so.

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