Sunday, February 10, 2013

FRAMES PER SECOND: Indiana Jones and the Used Games Crusade

Recently rumors have begun flying that Microsoft's next Xbox console will outlaw used games by a technology that also requires that all consoles be connected to the internet at all times. The public reaction to these rumors was predictably harsh, with many proclaiming that they'll opt for SONY's upcoming console instead. Some have said that it may even be the thing that kills Microsoft this generation altogether, as if it's possible to have a worse launch than Wii U or something.

The entire internet is about as angry as this guy, but does this have to be a bad thing?

Let me try to calm you down.

1. FUCK DISCS - An outright ban on used games means for the first time ever that every single game will be available digitally. It's 2013, and who isn't sick of those pesky discs in our lives? The performance enhancement of running games on hard drives versus disks alone is enough of a reason to hope these rumors are true. It's getting to the point where the read speeds of current physical media can't keep up  with textures now, just imagine what it'll be like in the next generation. Perhaps there will even be a version that ships without a disc drive at all, which will assuredly be more dependable than it's disc drive touting counterpart. 

2. Steam - If Microsoft wants to sell people on this idea, tell people it'll be like Steam. If you actually care enough to think about what Steam's policies are, they're every bit as fucked up and restrictive as what Microsoft could be imposing. If you want to play your games on your other PC it still requires you to activate it, which in turn deactivates it on any other PCs you own. Playing a game offline requires you to connect to Steam first and select offline mode, if you log into another PC it requires you to do that step again. Furthermore, they only allow you to select 5 devices you can even bring your games on to begin with despite the fact that Steam will never ever let you play said games concurrently.

The huge difference? people love Steam (myself included) because they often sell games for incredibly cheap and have become the most comprehensive library of video games ever devised by human hands. The line between being assholes and "progressive" is incredibly thin.

3. Game Prices - One look at Microsoft's Games on Demand section on Xbox Live will probably make you vomit. Digital copies of year old games still go for exorbitant prices that often double or triple the cost of the same titles used. I recently discovered that Saints Row: The Third is still $40 on G.O.D. despite being over a year old and from a publisher that no longer exists. The business practices of Games On Demand is just gross, and I think the reasoning for it is that it's marketed more as a convenience and less as a primary way of acquiring games.

The reason game prices go down over time is a combination of shelf space (not a concern for digital games) and a lack of demand. If game stores only have new titles from now on you'll see the savings begin to shift to new games like never before. No secondhand market means that publishers themselves will have to adjust the price in order to keep gaining revenue from old games. At the point that new copies of games begin to disappear from store shelves is the moment that new copies begin going on the bargain rack. The only real difference for the consumer is that it's the publisher that's getting rich off of discounted games and not Gamestop. 

It's been said that a game makes more money in a one day Steam sale makes more money than the months it was available previously for more money. The same principle will begin to apply to digital games and we'll see more frequent and lower priced sales. It might not be as epic of a bargain as Steam is, but I'm confident at a certain point that you'll be able to get full retail titles for under $20 digitally on a regular basis.

4. Microsoft is pretty good at running servers - The big fear with this whole thing is that Xbox live will go down and you won't be able to play any games you've purchased. As it is Xbox Live rarely goes down, and when it does it's usually for scheduled maintenance, but if games require an always on connection they'll have to get creative about how they accomplish it. Any fuck ups on their end will assuredly become a news story, so they'll have to pump more money into it than ever before.

I have a feeling the only logical way to do an "always on" requirement of this magnitude is to allow multiple ways of activation. With more money coming in from a new emphasis on digital content, look for Microsoft to create a backup system running separately from normal Xbox Live infrastructure. 


To be perfectly honest I hope everything just stays like it is right now in case I'm wrong about the long term effects of this. I just wanted to get out there and say that banning used games doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, and there many even be side-effects that benefit gamers as a whole. I think everyone needs to chill the fuck out and wait to see what Microsoft is actually doing before reacting so harshly.

I do however really want a more steam like digital store, perhaps everyone can get what they want... but that's usually not how these things work. I believe this is all a step to a digital only future, one that's coming whether you like it or not. 

While it's true that Microsoft is a large publisher on their platform, the biggest reason that this might happen is because the 3rd party publishers want it just as badly. Don't be surprised if it happens, and be even less surprised if it happens on PlayStation too.

Pour one out for GameFly.

FRAMES PER SECOND is a weekly gaming feature written by Kyle Shoemaker, If you have any questions or comments regarding it please do not hesitate contacting me on Twitter.  

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