/ Technology

Will the next Xbox destroy second-hand gaming?

Portal 2 Playstation 3 second-hand

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?


“we can only hope it will listen to the overwhelmingly negative response”

Like it listened to us when it tested Windows 8?


I can’t imagine that Microsoft – or any other console manufacturer for that matter – would really care about a lost sale, if you are only interest is in playing second-hand games. The console is the loss leader – it’s the sale of new games that provides the profitable revenue stream they are after.

If you don’t recognise the fundamental economics of software vs. hardware, ask yourself why Microsoft never sold PCs, but have a dominant position in computing and electronics.


A fair point Em, but the landscape of home consoles has changed considerably in recent years. I would have agreed ten years ago that a manufacturer would have little interest in a console owner who only purchased games second hand, but today’s consoles aren’t just focused on gaming. At this point gaming is almost secondary to the other content that can be pumped into your living room via the console – music, films, TV, all available via a home console, and if you’re an Xbox 360 owner, they require a paid for Gold account.

If I don’t buy the next Xbox, Microsoft can’t sell all this content to me.

Also, think of the Xbox dashboard, and it’s glaring advertising for the latest films, dog food or whoever has paid their advertising fee that day. I won’t see that either. That’s one less potential customer for their advertisers.

Then there’s digital only games. If I want these, I can’t buy them second hand.

Physical copies of games are not the only revenue stream for console manufacturers. In they lose a customer, they lose an advertising target too.


Copying of music and films was encouraged by high prices set by greedy companies. Microsoft should be aware of the amount of their software that is pirated. Enthusiasts will find a way of beating any system that Microsoft introduces to restrict what users do with games.

Play fair Microsoft or you lose the game.

Vickseek says:
10 February 2013

I remembered ranting about when the sega-cd and psone came out, paying full price for a cd-rom the same price as Ninty cartridges (a piece of hardware!!!), now the same thing is happening with digital downloads, at least we have the freaking cd, dvd or bluray, but now those ambitious b******s want to get us rid of the good stuff, they need to understand that they need to deliver what the costumer wants like: full price for the game and the media, half price for downloads (the same game of course) and reward the people that purchase the physical media with dlc and other stuff, and reward people that purchases digital with a low price for the same stuff, and everyone wins, this is not a poker game between gamers and game enterprises this should be a win-win situation. I agree I would not buy another console if they can´t compete with steam price-wize and if they block used games that we buy because they are CHEAPER. Sorry for my english Im from Portugal, peace and keep the good articles coming 🙂 .


It is highly unlikely Microsoft would do more than they already are doing to stop used game playing. What they might do is solidify the process with various uses of Seasonal and Online passes. To actually prevent you from playing a video game designed to work on a specific game console simply because Microsoft didn’t get a royalty payment? That smacks of protectionism from a dominant company in a specific market trying to protect there revenue stream at the expense of someone else. That might be considered an anti-trust violation. If you don’t agree look how Microsoft tried to do that with Internet Explorer in the United States and Media Player in Europe. They lost.


Yes, can’t see how this could be allowed. The same has not happened for DVDs, Blu-rays etc. I would like to see more money going to the developers and publishers, rather than it all going to the retailer – perhaps some rules should be in place for them to get a cut?


I’m really disappointed to hear these rumours. My brother-in-law and I regularly lend each other games that we’re not 100% sure on buying, and this will mean it’s no longer possible. At a potential price of £50 a game, you can be sure I’ll only be forking out for the crème de la crème, which will ultimately lead to a lot less spending on games.