There are rumours going round that Microsoft’s next Xbox console will remove the ability for users to buy and sell their games on the second-hand market. And if that’s true, I certainly won’t be buying one.
The rumour is that new games for the next Xbox will be shipped with a code that you’ll need to enter to prove you bought the game. Once that’s done, the game is tied to your console and can’t be sold or lent to a friend. It’s yours and yours alone. Forever.
Further rumours state that the new Xbox will require players to be online 100% of the time. It’s plain to see that Microsoft is driving us towards a digital future. But if the second-hand games market falls apart as a result, there’ll be little incentive for publishers and retailers to lower the price of new games to make them more competitive.
Digital downloads driving up prices
If you take away the re-sale value of buying the physical product – you may as well download the game instead. And this probably suits Microsoft. It’ll have fewer concerns about manufacturing costs, distribution, or dealing with faulty goods. It’ll no longer have to deal with retailers. Digital copies of games can easily be replicated and sold online, and it’ll be easy to make sure there’s only one copy per buyer.
And I suppose that wouldn’t be so bad if digital store prices were reasonable. But if you want to download the last Call of Duty from the Xbox marketplace – that’ll set you back £49.99. A second-hand copy from CEX is only £12. Once the second-hand option has gone for good, prices for new games will no doubt stay higher for longer – bad news for game fans.
Digital stores can work for gaming. The PC leads the way here, with many excellent gaming services that compete with each other and offer great prices, like Steam, Green Man Gaming and Good Old Games. The problem with the Xbox marketplace is there is no competition. Once you buy the console, you’re locked in. There’s nowhere else to go to buy your games digitally and, all of a sudden, you find yourself paying £49.99 for a downloadable copy of Modern Warfare 3.
Don’t cut down our options
Getting rid of the second-hand market will only lead to a lack of choice for game-buyers. You can also expect to see a few more gaps in the high street too. The second-hand games market is huge, and it’s hard to say if the likes of Game and CEX would survive without it.
If the rumours are true, I won’t be buying the next Xbox, as around 70% of my game purchases are second-hand. If you’re going to force me to pay inflated prices for ‘new’ content, physical or digital, then I won’t buy it. It’s not a question of being tight with my money – it’s about being a savvy consumer and making my money stretch further.
Maybe this ‘rumour’ is simply Microsoft testing the water before it reveals its new console. If that’s the case, we can only hope it will listen to the overwhelmingly negative response. Would a ‘buy new only’ policy put you off buying the next generation of game console? Do you prefer to buy second-hand games, or do you buy ‘new’ every time?