Microsoft is changing the definition of “used” and “new” games, and you’re not going to like it
The Xbox One is a console that’s likely to kill our idea of what a physical game purchase means. According to a story published on Wired, each game will be installed to your hard drive, and you can then play without the disc in the drive. What happens if you pass the disc to a friend? Well, that’s where things get interesting.
“In other words, what happens to our traditional concept of a “used game”? This is a question for which Microsoft did not yet have an answer, and is surely something that game buyers (as well as renters and lenders) will want to know,” Wired reported. “(Update: Microsoft called Wired after this story was originally published to say that the company did have a plan for used games, and that further details were forthcoming.)”
The plot, she thickens. “Microsoft did say that if a disc was used with a second account, that owner would be given the option to pay a fee and install the game from the disc, which would then mean that the new account would also own the game and could play it without the disc,” Wired stated.
Let’s keep in mind Microsoft isn’t the only company that is likely to set up some sort of pay as you go solution for used games; Sony famously dodged the question during its own press event. There is something going on with used games and the upcoming next-generation systems, and it’s likely we won’t know the full details until much closer to launch. Whatever the system in place will be, and whatever the price, there will likely be outrage from gamers used to the ability to buy and sell their games from retailers of their choosing, or loaning games to friends.
What Microsoft, and likely Sony, are trying to do is move to the Steam model. Or iTunes. The content you buy is yours, locked to your account. The idea of a “used” game is broken anyway; when we’re talking about ones and zeroes there is no degradation to the product. The disc is simply a way to move the information, the license you buy from Microsoft is the “game.” The way we think about games as products is hopelessly outdated, and hasn't been accurate for years. A license isn't used or new. It's either purchased from the rights holder, or it isn't. Welcome to the future.
We’re going to need to redefine our terms in this new digital age, and it’s likely not going to be pretty for consumers. It's also going to be important to lock the game to the hardware, not just the account; no one wants a system that charges their children money to play a game they bought for the house. Used games and rentals? The very concept may go away, or at least be taken over by the platform holders themselves. We're not buying products, we're purchasing licenses, and being granted permissions.
We’ll keep digging for more information, but how these used game initiatives will work, and how they change the console manufacturers relationships with physical retailers, is bound to be a complex thing.