Why Next-Gen Gaming Consoles Will Let You Play Used Games

Apr 7, 2012
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Whether some want to believe it or not, all next-generation video game consoles, including the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720, will allow you to play used games.

For those who haven’t been listening to the latest rumors surrounding the next-generation consoles, there’s talk of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox 720 potentially coming with a feature that would block users from playing used games. The move, the reports’ sources say, could dramatically aid the industry in lessening the impact of used games.

[Image credit: Joseph Dumary]

Although developers make cash on the sale of new games, when consumers buy a used game, everything changes. Each used title that companies like GameStop and Best Buy sells generates revenue solely for those retailers. Developers and publishers, meanwhile, are left with nothing to show for it.

For consumers, used games are a bargain, since they typically retail for considerably less than their new counterparts. It’s a win-win for both retailers and consumers. But developers are left wondering why they’ve been left out.

The general belief is that the best way to solve the used-games issue is by implementing a feature in the next Xbox and/or PlayStation and block used titles from being played. In that case, retailers wouldn’t be able to take advantage of a loophole and consumers, hoping to get a better deal, would lose out.

As one might expect, many gamers have taken issue with talk of a used-game block on next-generation consoles. Some folks have said that they won’t even buy the devices if they come with such a feature.

[aquote]Hardware sales are far more important than revenue loss from used games[/aquote]

But why even worry about it? Like it or not, used games are a reality in the gaming space, and the last thing hardware makers want to do is get involved in the middle of that debate. As developers themselves, Sony and Microsoft might not like the impact used games are having on the industry, but they still won’t want to damage their relationships with hardware buyers. At this point, the hardware is far more important to them than the small revenue loss resulting from used-game purchases.

At the end of the day, Microsoft and Sony need to limit risk when they launch new consoles. The devices tend to be very expensive at launch and without the right price point or slate of features, they could incur a massive loss. So, the companies do everything they can to bring as many consumer-friendly features to the device as possible. Why else would Sony have sold the PlayStation 3 and its many features at a loss for so many years?

Given that, both Microsoft and Sony must know that banning used games from their consoles would be a massive mistake that would limit sales and thus, increase risk.

Too often in the technology space, we comment on topics from an emotional perspective without considering business. And time and again, companies make decisions based on business first. And in this case, the smart business decision is to allow gamers to play used titles on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720. The alternative would be a bad business move. And both Sony and Microsoft know it.


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