Pre-owned games strike back
Steve O'Rourke | 20 July 2012
Pre-owned games are the single most controversial thing in the games industry. Gamers love them, games stores survive on them, but game publishers hate them – with a passion. In fact, they hate them so much that there has been major pressure on console manufacturers (who rely on game publishers for people to buy consoles) to drop discs altogether and go down the digital download route.
From what we understand, Xbox 720, when it finally appears, will not feature an optical drive and will rely on downloads as the main game format. So the influence of the big name publishers is huge.
But why do publishers hate the ‘second hand’ market? Because they only get paid once, when the brand new game is sold at retail. Gamers love pre-owned titles because the hugely expensive cost of buying a brand new game will not stretch to all new releases. So what do they do? Just wait a few weeks and pick up one for half the price amongst the pre-owned shelves in most major high street retailers. The game stores love it because there are more people through the door, gamers get a rare bargain and everyone is a winner, except the publishers.
This was all set to change as more and more games went via the digital download route, wiping out the second hand market in boxed games in one clever swipe, and making gamers pay the top whack for all games. But as most AAA games are actually quite short these days that could make for a lot of dusty consoles because gamers can’t afford a brand new game every two weeks.
Well all that may well be set to change. Following a judgment from the Court of Justice in the European Union, software companies have no right to prevent users from selling their digital downloads to other people. After all you can sell other second-hand stuff, right?
This opens the door to online marketplaces such as Xbox Live where gamers will be able to trade digital games for cash, possibly under the provision that the seller has deleted the original game from his hard drive. Will this be a good thing? Yes, we think so because otherwise gaming risks pricing gamers out of their favourite way to kill time…