Xbox 720 won’t play used games? Is it really all bad?

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Xbox 720 No Used Games

So, there’s this rumor going around about the next Xbox console not being able to play used games. Naturally, there are a lot of pissed off console gamers as a result. But you know what? All I’ve gotta say is…

Welcome to PC gaming for the past however many years.

The used game market has been a part of console gaming since the beginning, but to a long-time PC gamer like myself this news isn’t that shocking at all. Sure, I think it’s lame and I’d rather them not restrict consoles even more than ever, but if this were to happen I wouldn’t “give up gaming” as many are declaring they’ll do. Ever heard of used games on the PC? Yeah, unless you’re talking about collecting vintage floppies and Windows 9x-era games, the market’s just not there. Frick, even that market barely exists.

How might Microsoft pull this off with the NextBox? Let’s look at the PC.

With PC games, those annoying keys, serials, and product codes have been a way of life for years. This mainly pertains to multiplayer games, but single player games are using them more and more. They tie a game to your PC and/or account so you can’t just go and install a bunch of copies on all your friends’ computers. This is done via a service like Steam or Origin, or with a publisher’s server. If the game is installed from optical media, it will generally check the disc each time you start the game to make sure that one copy is present. While I do have my issues with this, it’s become a generally accepted way of life. (One could argue this complacency in itself is a problem, but let’s stay on topic.)

Let’s assume the next Xbox has some kind of similar system in place. You buy a game from Xbox Live or a store, type in a code, and it’s tied to your gamertag and/or console. Is this really so insane? They’re already testing this with things like EA Online Pass. Sure, I can make those arguments about punishing the paying customer, end-user rights, and the problems with DRM. Those are all valid, but do you hear an uproar about Steam? It sounds very freaking similar to me.

Of course, this all depends on the kind of system Microsoft might put in place. A big reason Steam is so popular is it lets you access your games from anywhere, there are tons of games to choose from that STAY accessible, it lets you download as many times as you want, and there are frequently amazing sales on new and old games alike. If Microsoft were to limit any of these, I can see the uproar being a bit more valid. But there is no evidence of this one way or the other, and mostly what I see so far are gamers crying foul about things changing.

People hate change, I get it. But this is the way things are heading for a variety of reasons. Look at the console market’s choices over the past generation. Heck, just look at the portable market! Do you see an iOS or Android used games market? No, it’s a ridiculous concept. I agree with the idea that people should have full rights to their software, and I support the DRM-free movement, but I think we should get the whole story before crying that gaming is dead and you’re “done with the industry”. Seriously. I don’t want this system, but if it happens it’s not the end of gaming by any means. If this is implemented fairly to the consumer, I don’t see it as a very surprising occurrence. Unfortunate for console gamers who are used to the present way of doing things, and probably bad for the health of some publishers in the long run, but not surprising.


14 comments on “Xbox 720 won’t play used games? Is it really all bad?

  1. Robert says:

    It’s ironic, because those who claim they’ll “give up gaming” are most likely the hardest-of-core gamers. What exactly do they expect to do instead? Go outside? Chances are, they’ll be gaming abstinent for a couple of days, maybe weeks, then go insane and come crawling back to their consoles like the little slaves they are.

    Regarding the topic at hand: yes, the outcry is completely farcical, and console gamers just need to grow up.

  2. Foxhack says:

    Yes, it is bad, because you run out of new copies to sell.

    Unlike PC games from digital distribution sites, which can just buy (or generate) new key codes for people to have their own copy… you -can- and -will- run out of new copies on consoles. And the few new copies that remain will be overpriced once they go out of print.

    I know games like Halo and GOW will never go out of print, but what about the oddball stuff that only has a print run of 100,000 copies and the game will never see a new print run because the publisher lost the license or because the dev no longer exists?

    • I can see your point when it comes to the way things are now, but I don’t see why this has to be the case for the future. Console games are going digital, it’s practically inevitable as consumers with decent Internet connections become more commonplace and publishers get more greedy. This gets rid of that problem entirely. Those that stick to license-restrictive physical formats would get left behind in a widespread digital market. As long as the digital games are fairly priced and I can access them easily, I have less and less of a problem with them.

      Again, look at the PC games market and how it works now. Games that are absolutely ancient still sell on services like Steam, it’s just silly how long their life can be. But new, physical copies? You’re pretty much screwed unless you wanna pony up the big bucks or wait for a re-release that may or may not happen. And if a big enough market decides that this is unacceptable, an alternative will arise. So far, it’s working rather well for PC games, and it seems consoles are only a step or two behind.

      • Foxhack says:

        Making games go digital only is an even worse idea for many of the same reasons I mentioned above. No more publisher? No more license? No more dev? No more copies of the game can be sold. Look at all those XBLA games that aren’t available anymore, like Double Dragon and the TMNT arcade games. Or that stupid DLC for Marvel Ultimate Alliance that can no longer be purchased.

        Sure, if you bought ’em, you still have ’em. But some of us never got to buy the games. So what about us, we’re screwed?

        Going all digital is the future, but some of us don’t want to be forbidden from buying these games because we were too late to the party.

      • Again, this seems to be assuming that the way things are now is the way they will always be. We’re still very early on in the digital distribution thing, and things like discontinued games, re-releases, and lapsed licenses we’re only beginning to see how they’ll work. Doom was taken off the XBLA market a while ago, but it recently returned once the licensing was sorted out. It sucks some games may fall through the cracks of time, sure. But if the demand is there, I think publishers are seeing more and more that bringing back old games is a good move. Even if the publisher dies, it’s uncommon for an IP to drop off the face of the planet.

        To me, it’s little different than missing out on games that stopped being sold in stores years ago. I think it sucks that I was late to the party and can’t get a copy of the game anymore, but I can’t do much about that. (This is especially true of online games that are no longer playable at all!) Sure, at least I have a chance to find a copy on the used market assuming it’s single-player, but again, who’s to say we won’t have a solution to this in the future for digital games? It all depends on how this licensing thing is approached. If it’s made so that used copies can still be activated, much like EA Online Pass, then that’s not the worst thing I can imagine. I hope they know that screwing themselves out of money for a reason like “we don’t sell it anymore” is incredibly dumb. I hope.

        That said…

        If a game truly reaches the point that it is no longer available in any legal form, well, I think the history of file sharing has shown what will happen. Games rarely completely die.

  3. Gemini says:

    I think the most damning thing that this could do is shut down all the game stores out and about, as reselling used titles is probably one of the big money-makers for them, though I don’t rightly know. I just base that on the fact that a used game from such a place usually only costs a few dollars less than new, yet when you bring such a game in to sell to the store they only give you a few dollars. : P

    However, I don’t think the games industry as a whole truly understands what’s going on. I’ve witnessed a massive surge in indie PC game development over the past few years as the tools to make such games become more accessible and easier to use. Heck, I’m making a hardware-accelerated game as we speak.

    In the long run, I predict we’re not only going to have an all-digital marketplace for games, but that there will be less distinction between indie and large-scale games. Also, while I doubt DRM will go away, I think sooner or later a DRM system will be invented that will make it possible to digitally trade in used games. Even now, Steam’s DRM links a game to a user account, not to a system, so even if you access your account from another person’s computer, you can still play YOUR games, which is really cool.

  4. The only time I’m ok with digital distribution is when they use a real money system instead of one of those “points” scams. I almost never buy xbox live arcade games due to this, I hate paying more for something just because I can only buy a specific amount of points, I always feel like I’m getting ripped off. Steam is so much better because of this.

  5. Kevin Dady says:

    hm I buy used PC games all the time from places like “the great escape” who also do music in many formats and video. I also have been know to buy or trade used PC games from friends or co-workers that no longer want them cause super shiny version 2 came out. And that is our right to, the problem really is publishers telling us what we can and can not do with our own personal property … we already see this in many games for instance just how long do you expect the validation servers for GTA4 to keep running?

    Will there be anyone 25 years from now even able to review games from this era? Why the hell would I not be able to play a game I paid in full for whenever I damn well please, I can do it for the mound of games I own from the 80’s and 90’s, and yet I already cant play one of my Tiger Woods games just from this decade (a pocket pc version) … personally I would have gotten more use if I had wiped the 60 bucks that cost me on my ass and burned it.

    Personally it makes it more difficult for me to justify paying full price for something that in the long run is nothing more than a remote controlled rental, console or PC

    • I certainly feel some of your sentiments. Thinking of Steam games/games that require activation as nothing more than a remote-controlled rental is something I’ve thought in the past! This is probably my biggest concern where all these licenses and DRM checks are concerned… will I be able to legitimately play the games I purchased however many years from now? If the servers go down, what then? And why can’t I trade a license to a digital game to someone else?

      However, I do own over 200 games on Steam, and there’s a good reason for that: I’m kind of okay with thinking of it as a rental service when the games are so cheap. I rarely, if ever, pay more than $10 for a game on there, due to the crazy sales they have. I don’t pay for brand new games/full priced games on it, because that seems silly to me. But a few dollars to access a few-month-old game anywhere, anytime? That’s worth it to me. Maybe someday I won’t be able play them, who knows. But I know that today the convenience, low cost, and additional features it provides is worth it to me. All the questioning about the distant future is a bunch of “what-ifs” that can’t be answered at this point, so I don’t worry much about it and just enjoy today. But I can certainly understand those that do worry.

      Makes me wonder if people would be willing to pay just a few bucks more for a completely DRM-free version of their games… I’m thinking it might just be a viable market share that would.

      • Kevin Dady says:

        I would be willing to pay a few bucks more for DRM free games, but “they” wont have that, they must control where and when their content is used

        PS: I wasnt talking about steam games (I only own one and find it to be a pain in the ass just to play portal) I have a 2 disc, with nearly an inch thick worth of paper material in double thick DVD box and Paper sleeve copy of GTA4.

        I just reinstalled it, it nagged me for “social club” which was never REQUIRED for single player but is required for online, then it nagged me for windows live, then updates, then more updates, then I had to agree to new “rules” just to be able to save my game.

        … then it nagged me for a CD key, which promptly checked rockstars servers, then nagged me cause “how dare I re install the game for the 4th time since 2009!”, then I had to patch and update which required MORE validation, and if that wasnt paranoid enough it REQUIRES the stupid DVD it never even looks at past the launcher to be in the drive.

        how much longer is that shit going to last past the launch of GTA5?

        6 months? a year? 2 years? And you can bet dollars to doughnuts the second that happens I will be downloading a superior pirate copy of the game to reclaim my stolen property!

      • Kevin Dady says:

        also its not “what ifs” Its already happened to me within the last 10 years on a EA game, I can handle a disc being broken lost or unuseable due to my own account, but a game that has been only removed from its case just to install being disabled completely because EA decided it didnt want to continue the validation service due to a new version being release is not only real, but already a set precedent in history.

      • Gemini says:

        Considering there are all kinds of hacks out there to bypass the Steam DRM on many games, if Steam ever stopped validating certain games, or Steam died a horrible death, either they would HAVE to supply some form of DRM bypassing for the games they don’t support anymore, or the hacks would suddenly dominate everyone’s systems, failing a legit way to play those games… similar to all the things we retro-gamers do to get our old, copy-protected DOS games working.

        There’s been several studies now proving that the more DRM you put into something, the more people will pirate it, so I think in the distant future, DRM will disappear for the most part as large corporations become more and more aware of this.

  6. Nikos Lecomte says:

    If this were to happen, i would also want a price drop, 60 bucks for a game that NEEDS online to verify, what about people who don;t have that internet? i have a friend who plays my used games, and he doesn’t have internet. I have experienced this verify stuff, just bought DA2 and it asked for the cd key and verify every time at launch, and the install took a ea account creation, 2 cd key verifyers and a good internet connection. This protection stuff does nothing but inhibit gamers, and i don’t it would work on the consoles ay all.

  7. Batman Arkham city's Fan says:

    If the game publishers would starts doing this, people will try to get the games by illegal stuff like hacking and using cracks and stuff, and this method is mostly free sometimes which will attract people to get every game illegally even if it is still in markets which would result in the company’s loss. If you see in the internet, hacked games are being given to people in websites like and that website has succeed to giveaway free games, so guess what will happen then…

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