In case you hadn’t heard, Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo dropped a major bombshell yesterday in the form of announcing a rumor that the XBox 720 or NextBox or whatever you want to call it wouldn’t play used games.
We’d like to say we think this is a total crock, but considering that this is the kind of thing that is exactly Microsoft’s style, we’re unfortunately inclined to give this credence. Even if it’s something that never rears its ugly head in the actual product, it’s probably something they’re messing around with right now.
We here at Gamma Squad happen to think Microsoft should leave well enough alone. Yes, we know developers and publishers are locked in a death match with GameStop over their practices, but let’s look at what will inevitably happen if this is implemented…and how incredibly short-sighted it happens to be.
#5) A Used Game Sold Is Not a New Game Sale Lost.
Let’s start with this mentality, because we’re going to be honest, here: there are a whole lot of games we’re absolutely interested in playing…but $60? Forget it. Even $40 is pushing it. No, the sweet spot for buying games we’re even a little bit leery of is $20 to $30. But if we like the first game in a series, odds are pretty good we’ll be more inclined to pay more for the sequel.
Used games are envoys for the franchise and the developer.
#4) A Lot of Companies Are Out To Kill GameStop…and We Don’t Mean Publishers
Here’s a fun experiment: go to Amazon.com, and type in the name of a game you own. You’ll probably see a little box with Amazon offering you a gift card to trade it in. Best Buy? They want you to trade in games with them, too. Glyde.com wants your trade-ins so badly, they paid some guy to get kicked in the nuts for their ad campaign.
In other words, the used game market is getting more and more competitive with each passing day, as companies start to perceive GameStop as vulnerable. Which it is: they control 98% of the used games market…and all their customers hate their guts.
So the used market is going to change substantially over the next few years.
#3) Friends Loan Games To Each Other, Gamers Rent Games, and That’s How Smaller Games Become Bigger Franchises
Let’s set the used market aside for a moment, and just think about borrowing games. How often do you loan games to your friends? If you’re like us, you do it a lot; if you’re raving about a game and a friend wants to try it, it’s kind of rude not to offer it up for a try-out.
It’s like renting games: if you rent a game and like it, you’ll be more likely to buy it. Cutting off two ways to spread your product through word of mouth doesn’t seem like good business practice to us.
And there’s also that little annoyance, that irritation we feel, because you know what? We bought this game. We own this game. You don’t get to tell us what we can and cannot do with our private property. That’s not the way this works.
#2) It Will Hand Sony Something to Gloat About
Imagine this ad: “The XBox 720 Plays Blu-Ray Discs, Has Incredible Graphic Power, and Won’t Let You Play Used Games. Maybe You’ll Catch Up With Us Next Time.”
The PlayStation 4 is in the works, but Sony isn’t introducing it for a while. Why would they? The XBox 720 sounds pretty much like a PlayStation 3 in different drag. They’ve got a mature system that can stay on the market and make them money for another five years, with the added appeal to parents and thrifty gamers of being able to save money. And unlike its competitor, it won’t have legions of ticked-off fanboys complaining about it.
#1) You Really, Really, REALLY Cannot Afford to Tick Off Your Customers
But, above all, it’s incredibly short sighted. The days where your customers need to go to one of three companies to play AAA titles? Yeah, they’re numbered, and that number is a lot lower than we believe anybody realizes.
An Android tablet with enough processing power to game costs $500, although that price is dropping rapidly; we’re already seeing sub-$300 Android tablets and frankly, Moore’s Law makes sub-$200 tablets that are incredibly powerful only a matter of time. An OnLive wireless controller for said system costs $50. The OnLive app for the iPad is free.
So, if they’re going to pay the same price for games, and you’re just going to restrict their use of games anyway…why buy your system? Why spend $300 to $400 on a single-use machine, an extra $50 a pop on controllers, when for $100 you can get what amounts to a personal computer in a slab? When a Roku runs a hundred bucks, and has more applications, it’s hard to argue your system is anything other than a white elephant.
For that matter, what about TVs with tablet processors embedded in them? Qualcomm and Lenovo have already built a TV that uses a Snapdragon processor, and it plays games.
There’s a reason Sony is turning the PS3 into a video editor and, for that matter, Microsoft is trying to turn the 360 into a cable box: they know they need to differentiate their systems as more than just unitaskers while they’re already in living rooms, because once the next generation rolls around, they might not be let back in.
So, really, doing anything that hands people an excuse not to buy your system is a bad idea, Microsoft. And, as the music and movie industries have already learned, trying to keep people from sharing and trying to block used sales is a great way to drive your fans to use your products…without paying for them.
So, let’s keep the anti-used games in the lab. Or, in the end, gamers will keep the XBox 720 on store shelves.
image courtesy IGN