Is The Xbox 720 Going To Kill Off Second Hand Gaming?
The strong rumour that the next Xbox console from Microsoft won’t have an optical disc drive of any kind in it is, in reality, of little surprise. Recently, we’ve seen Sony remove the disc option from the PlayStation Vita console, instead urging us more towards downloading our games. Sony is still selling games in stores on cards, but you do get the impression that its heart is hardly in it. Mind you, the price it’s charging for storage cards may yet kybosh the latest part of its plan to get us downloading Vita titles.
The Xbox 720/Xbox 3/Whatever It’s Called is a different proposition entirely, though. Not wishing to slight handheld consoles in any way, when serious gamers look to a games machine outside of the PC, they invariably look at the kind of machine that can sit under the telly. So, the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360, and the Nintendo Wii. Each of these has an installed userbase of over 60 million worldwide, and each is attracting major, blockbuster games, costing tens of millions to produce.
The UMD-less PS Vita
The Cost Of Second Hand
The bugbear from the development industry, and from games publishers, has for some time been the second hand market.
The argument runs that the people who put the investment and graft into making the game in the first place get no reward should someone go and pick it up from Gamestation second hand, even if they're paying near to full price. Instead, the benefit goes to the store, with nothing going back to the makers.
It’s something that the music, movie and publishing industries have had to deal with, mainly without complaining. Yet gaming always had the potential of technical measures up its sleeve, to restrict second hand gaming.
We’ve seen this particularly on the PC. The second hand gaming market is all but dead on the PC, as tough DRM and a push towards download services has meant that retail barely bothers with the format for new release, let alone second hand ones (which, by the time they've been 'activated', are all-but-dead as a second hand option anyway). More often than not, the PC section is tucked away in the corner, next to the second hand PSOne games. That’s if it’s there at all. The diminished visibility of the PC gaming sector at retail has inevitably had some impact, although the sector is thriving in many other areas, MMORPGs being a prime example.
Curtailing second hand on consoles has long been a challenge, though. We’ve seen, for instance, EA asking you to activate an online pass. This meants that if you’ve bought a second hand copy of a game, you’ll have to pay for a new pass (assuming the first has been used) if you don’t just want to play offline. Rockstar, meanwhile, has done well in selling major DLC to its Grand Theft Auto games, with some token gift cards going into retail. DLC in general, too, has proven a rich revenue stream for many publishers, one that isn’t susceptible to the second hand market at all.
Next: the new Xbox