Microsoft Confirms Fears Over Used Game Handling and Online Requirement

Posted June 8th, 2013 at 6:45 pm


With E3 only days away Microsoft decided to get the bad news out of the way before then by detailing their practices regarding second hand games, online requirement, and mandatory Kinect. Still confusing and certain to lead to frustration in the future the response from consumers and much of the press regarding the information has been nothing short of explosive as perceived rights are being infringed upon. 

To break it down in the simplest way possible the Xbox One will essentially be eliminating used games from the picture. Though the opportunity may be present to “trade-in” games at authorized retailers (this will be left up to the publishers) there will be no private sales, no rentals, and no lending – though there will be the ability to basically gift a game to someone who has been a “friend” for over 30 days. The console will need to check in online every 24 hours to verify ownership or else games will become unplayable. Kinect will still need to be plugged in at all times but can be paused.

Before getting into just how detrimental these changes will be for consumers it’s important to note that Sony may very well have something similar in the works. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where there would be no restrictions on the PS4 with third parties having completely different standards in place for two versions of their games. Sony has stated an online connection won’t be required and if that turns out to be true they would not be able to have the same arrangement Xbox is putting into place but maybe something more along the lines of an “Online Pass” code for each game. Certainly Sony would gain the support of the hardcore gaming crowd if they went without any restrictive DRM but publisher pressure may make that an impossibility now.

When EA decided to drop the “Online Pass” that made it clear that something was being put into place for the new consoles. It’s still a move that should be appreciated for those on the Xbox 360 and PS3 but what is coming for next-gen is much worse. It would be naive to expect EA not to take full advantage of the restrictive nature of the new consoles as they are likely one of the publishers who have pushed for it. With consumers being nudged further into an online-required and always-new future the prospect of an EA Sports subscription of sorts begins to look more realistic. The track towards that has already been traveled down the last few years as features such as Ultimate Team, “Online” Connected Careers/Franchise and other career modes, and Online Passes have looked to get more people connected and keep them playing as long as possible – ideally right until the next iteration arrives.

With only certain retailers (GameStop being one of them) in on the trade-in arrangement that will not just reduce the options for selling game but allow them to set the market. The Microsoft documents make sure to avoid the word “sell” making the trade-in prospect even sketchier. With few options for moving a game someone wants to get rid of the price or credit being offered will be even lower than it is already. Going to Ebay, selling through Amazon, or any other outlet won’t be an alternative. There has been no mention made of being able to buy “used” games so the assumption is everything bought will be “new” whether that is digital or a disc which is considered to be just delivering the digital content.

What this will lead to are consumers that will take on a more “AAA or nothing” mindset. The games become a full $60 investment with little or no opportunity to recoup some of the costs later. More selective decision making leads to publishers producing only big budget games and taking fewer risks but pumping up marketing budgets. The sports genre has already become so constricted that this may not affect it as much as others – but the idea of new competitors entering the market would become even more unrealistic to champion unless they were to forgo the restrictions.

All of this doesn’t even address the scenario that should Xbox Live go down after 24 hours no one would be able to play video games and one day if the servers are shut down games won’t be playable on it. Microsoft has a mess on their hands – the narrative is disastrous right now and game announcements at E3 won’t completely change that – and should Sony join them they’ll be in the same boat. They have an opportunity though to capitalize on where Microsoft went wrong in recent weeks. We’ll have to wait and see if anything big develops out of their press conference on Monday. They’re unlikely to confirm anything that might be considered bad news but could announce something that would be received well.

Though the prospect of not having used games affects sports gamers slightly less than others – given the brief shelf life of a league licensed game – practices such as these will have huge ramifications going forward. It’s important to voice opinions now and let these companies know how you feel rather than waiting until it is too late. Social media now gives everyone a voice and strong campaigns have proven to make a difference.