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Opinion: Banning used video games would be a bad call for gaming industry

By Kayvon Ghoreshi
On February 18, 2013

It's no secret that game companies dislike the market for used games. When you buy a used game, not a single dime of that purchase goes to the developer. Many developers have tried to combat the used game market with tactics such as requiring an online pass to access multiplayer features. Those who buy new games automatically get the pass, but those that buy used have to shell out a little extra to buy a code separately. Now rumors have been circulating that the next generation of consoles, tentatively known as the PS4 and Xbox 720, will up the ante in the war on used games by supposedly making games only playable on one console. However, I hope that such a feature isn't part of the next cycle of consoles because it would be detrimental to the industry as a whole.
First and foremost companies would need to deal with the backlash and disdain of the gaming community. Many would not take it well that they suddenly are no longer allowed to purchase used games and would likely boycott the new consoles. But for argument's sake, let's suppose any resentment eventually dissipates and now everyone is subject to purchasing only new games. For starters you would see a lot of businesses struggle. Gamestop makes a majority of its profits on used games so it would likely take a big hit. Game rental services like Gamefly would be nonexistent if games couldn't be played on more than one console. Not mention this could also get rid of the ability to simply loan a game to a friend.
Well at least the game developers and publishers are making more money, right? Actually, developers could hurt their own profits with such a move. Used games are a two way street. Someone is buying the used game, but only after someone sells it. Plenty of stores offer credit in exchange for games. This credit can then be put towards a purchase of a new game. Banning used games prevents this transaction from taking place. The inability to sell a game back to recoup some money not only hurts gamers' wallets but it can also deter them from purchasing new games out of fear that it will be terrible and they won't be able to get any of their money back. This would also make the word of reviewers and Metacritic scores carry much more weight, which may not always help developers.
Developers may also fail to realize that used games can lead to new game purchases. For example, I originally bought both "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune" and "Infamous" as used games. Both were new series at the time and I was unsure about them. I fell in love with the games and bought the sequels on day one. It's very rare for a new IP to generate enough buzz to get people to buy new on the first day. A cheaper used version is a good way to attract interested gamers and possibly make them day one customers for the sequel.
The solution to used games isn't to ban them. The industry's attitude thus far has been to punish those that buy used, rather than providing incentive to buy new. One way is to work on lowering the price of games so as to entice more consumers to buy new. The most recent example of this is Sanzaru Games which launched "Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time" at the price point of $40 as opposed to the usual $60. Also, in the same way Gamestop has a rewards program that gives more points and bigger discounts to people that buy used games; companies can further develop rewards programs that incentivize buying new games.
To be clear, I don't consider used games to be my right as a consumer. If companies and developers wanted to implement technology that prohibited used games, it is well within their rights to do so. However, it is almost a backwards move for what they want to accomplish. Banning used games would hurt multiple aspects of the game industry, reduce the number of games sold, and only upset the audience game companies are trying to sell to.
 


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