What You Should Know About Used Games and the Xbox One
The official announcement of the Xbox One was pretty average as far as launches go- it’s not that there weren’t some neat things, it’s just that they weren’t all that big. One question has been chasing Microsoft since the Xbox One was being called Durango, specifically, will it play used games? There have been rumors of Microsoft and Sony trying to kill the used game market with their upcoming consoles, since game publishers consider it a source of lost revenue.
How Physical Games Will Work on the Xbox One
Right here and now, I can tell you that the Xbox One will play used games. Chances are, however, you’ll have to pay an extra fee for them unless the account of the previous owner of said game is logged in to your system. If you’re visiting a friend’s house and want to play some Mirror’s Edge 2, you can sign in on his or her system and enjoy the game. That said, if your friend wants to borrow the game, your account will need to remain signed in on his console. If he wants to play the game on his own account, he’ll need to pay a fee.
Regarding the discs the Xbox One will accept, you’ll need to enter a one-time activation code with every disc. You then insert the disc and install it to the 500 GB hard drive. You’ll be free to play the game without the disc, though this does lead to some bigger questions, such as the purpose of having a disc in the first place– a code to download the game would work just as well, wouldn’t it? That’s not to say there aren’t clear advantages to discs- I can’t help but be reminded of launch-day woes for downloadable games when a server winds up being overloaded, crashes, and the launch day isn’t really the day of the “launch”, since nobody’s playing the game. A disc-based system is also handy when you consider that some people have throttled internet connections, and downloading a game that needs the capacity of a Blu-Ray disc is simply impractical for some people.
On an unrelated note, typing in codes is a pain. Perhaps the fancy 1080p Kinect can use OCR to read the codes? Just a thought.
What Is Unknown
There seems to be a suspicion that the Xbox One will need to access the Internet once every 24 hours, though these cannot be confirmed. If that’s the case, then the good news is that the system won’t be “always-online”, and losing your Internet connection while playing a game shouldn’t interrupt your gameplay. The bad news is that your Xbox One won’t work unless you connect once a day- kind of problematic for people with spotty connections. Frankly, this seems to be another sort of obstacle in the grand scheme of a console that accepts physical media. It seems kind of obvious that the future is going digital, even though most people don’t seem very comfortable with an all-digital console, in spite of being alright with Steam on their PCs and iTunes on their phones.
Another thing that Microsoft hasn’t been very clear about is how much it will cost to play a used game on one’s own account- it may be a simple fee, or you could wind up getting charged for the full game- this could prove to be a crushing blow to the used game market, depending on how it’s handled. If you’ll wind up getting charged the full price for a game after you purchased a disc secondhand, then there will be no point to buying discs secondhand, unless you’re interested in an expensive coaster that you only need to put inside your Xbox once. The only people who would buy a used game are people with limited bandwidth trying to purchase a game that isn’t available new. Buying new would become cheaper than buying used.
If, on the other hand, there’s a small cost to activate a used game, the whole thing boils down to a matter of what the cost is. If it’s too high, the used game market will die, like it or not. Perhaps it will scale with time? A flat fee of $10 would make it possible for a group of friends to buy a single copy of a game at launch, drop $10 each on activation codes and $60 for the game itself- while this would be great for consumers, it would be awful for publishers. Chances are, the fee will be the cost of a new game at launch, and will go down as demand for the game itself drops. This seems to be the best possible situation for both consumers and publishers. Otherwise, I can’t currently think of a good way to make the system work.
If one thing is certain, however, it’s that times are changing. The shift towards digital is happening swiftly, and the Xbox One will be part of the transition which, long-term, could be good for indies; most Xbox 360 users simply use their consoles to play a single, popular franchise that I don’t feel like mentioning. Most users are barely aware of the rich plethora of games available digitally- Microsoft has the potential to change that with a digitally focused console.