Microsoft is reportedly investigating the possibility of removing one of the few yet major disadvantages of digitally distributed media: the killing of the second-hand market.
Prior to the launch of the Xbox One, Microsoft had envisioned a world where all software was locked to a single console. In exchange for not having to place a physical disc in the optical drive of the Xbox One and the ability to download a temporary copy of the game to play when visiting friends, the company explained at the time, all discs would be a one-time consumable purchase - something its rival Sony mocked by pointing out that the ability to sell on a game you no longer want is a major advantage of physical media. Backlash to the concept of an always-on internet-connected digital rights management (DRM) system that would render games unplayable if your Xbox One couldn't communicate with Microsoft's servers saw the plans scrapped prior to launch, and now the company is reportedly looking to go the other way and allow gamers to trade in their digital copies for store credit.
According to a customer survey posted to a thread on social networking site reddit and captured by a Neogaf
member, Microsoft has been asking some of its users whether they'd be interested in the ability to '"sell back" their digital games
' purchased through the console's built-in digital distribution system. The catch: only 10 per cent of the purchase price will be transferred into store credit, while removing the game from the user's library until and unless it is repurchased in the future.
For publishers, the second-hand market - enshrined in law thanks to the doctrine of first sale, which states that companies cannot place restrictions on the customer's ability to sell an item on once purchased - has long been a thorn in the side. No publisher receives revenue on second-hand sales, even through 'official' channels such as high-street shops, leading to tactics including day-one downloadable content (DLC) unlocked using a single-use code bundled with each new copy of the game. Microsoft's plan may offer a revenue share option, but at a mere 10 per cent of the original purchase price it's difficult to see who would take the company up on the offer - though it's undeniably an improvement on the current situation, where games you have purchased through digital distribution and then tired of are entirely worthless.
Microsoft has not confirmed the validity of the survey screenshot, nor commented on any plans it may have to introduce trade-ins on digital content.