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.