Anonymous insiders have told one publication that the next-generation Xbox console will require users to be connected to the Internet all the time in order to ban users from playing second-hand games on the system.
According to Edge, the new console’s games will be on 50GB Blu-Ray discs (so you don’t have to swap discs for games like Final Fantasy and other graphics-heavy games) and the discs will ship with activation codes that “will have no value beyond the initial user.” Edge also said that it has confirmed the recent rumoured spec sheet for the Xbox 360, a brand new Xbox Live iteration and a “more reliably responsive Kinect”.
Microsoft is not the only one reportedly looking into banning second-hand sales. Sony is rumoured to be implementing a similar system, and a recent patent filing shows that they have the technology to do so. According to the patent filing, this method uses RFID chips embedded on game discs and the chip stores “unique information” about the console. When a game is played on a second system, the system checks the chip and basically locks you from playing the game because the information on the chip and the “unique” identifiers on the console don’t match.
The Xbox model of having a persistent Internet connection is also not new. Remember Ubisoft? The developer announced in 2010 a new DRM protection mechanism for all PC games that would require gamers to be connected online all the time and the game automatically pausing if you lost connection. In 2012, the company officially dumped this after “listen[ing] to feedback”, adding that it has been gone for a while.
So why are console makers looking to ban second-hand sales? Mainly because of the game developers, who view them as eating away at potential revenue from new software titles. Game stores typically like them because profit margins are higher compared to selling newer titles – and pretty much kept some game stores alive like EB Games/GameStop, contributing as much as 50 percent of its revenue.
“I would argue, and I’ve said this before, that used games are cannibalising the industry. If developers and publishers don’t see revenue from that, it’s not a matter of hey ‘we’re trying to increase the price of games to consumers, and we want more,’ we’re just trying to survive as an industry. If used games continue the way that they are, it’s going to cannibalise, there’s not going to be an industry,” Dennis Dyack, head of Silicon Knights, said in an interview with Gamesindustry International.
However, is it really much of an issue? Second hand game sales are going to inevitably die. Not because of consoles banning this practice, but because everything is moving towards digital distribution – like every form of media out there. You can’t resell anything that you have purchased from Steam, EA’s Orgin or even on the network services from the console makers.
But will it make games cheaper – as hinted by Dyack’s response?