Five Reasons A World Without Used Games Might Not Be So Bad

Five Reasons A World Without Used Games Might Not Be So Bad

The next generation of gaming consoles might not play used games. Sounds terrible, right? Maybe not.

Over the past few months, rumours have suggested that both the next Xbox (codenamed Durango) and the next PlayStation (codenamed Orbis) will use technology that prevents customers from sharing and selling the games they play. Games might be tied to online accounts. Or maybe you’ll have to buy codes to reactivate games that have already been played.

Whatever the method, it seems like game publishers are trying their damned hardest to fight off the wave of used game sales that have morphed retail chain GameStop into the industry’s biggest middleman. And for good reason. When you buy a used game, your money goes to a secondhand source that is typically not one of the people who created or funded that game. Game makers want those sales back.

But how will this affect us as gamers? On first glance, it seems terrifying. We might not be able to resell our games? Aren’t they our property? Why are publishers trying to snatch up our rights as consumers? Don’t we deserve to borrow and share and treat games like they’re books or DVDs, to be treated however we’d like?

Those are all good questions, but I don’t think this is a black-and-white situation. While I certainly see the value in physical property that you can hold and own and borrow and bend, I also see value in the elimination of used games. Here are five reasons why.

1. Everything’s going digital anyway.

Although I can’t imagine physical discs will go away at any point soon, it’s not unreasonable to predict that within the next two decades, the majority of new games you buy will be digital. We can already see it with the PlayStation Vita. For every Vita disc available in stores, there’s an accompanying digital release (that is usually cheaper). Both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 sell full retail games on their online networks, and of course, PC games are almost always available via digital distribution on Valve’s Steam platform.

Digital games are cheaper for publishers to release and more convenient for gamers to buy. They might not have the reassuring tangibility of a disc or cartridge, but they certainly take up less space. Like music on iTunes, television on Hulu, and movies on Netflix, the future of gaming is inching closer and closer to the virtual realm every single day. Soon enough, the idea of “used games” might just be irrelevant.

2. The future could look a lot like Steam.

Imagine a world where you can buy console games in cheap, giant batches, where indie gems are just as easy to snag as top-tier multi-million-dollar titles. You wouldn’t have to worry about losing any of your games — they’d all be stored in one central location. You could see what your friends are playing and send new games as gifts at your discretion. You could even find and make your own mods.

Steam is convenient, easy to use, and, most importantly, fun. Its users don’t have to worry about buying used games because sales are frequent and affordable. I would certainly welcome similar platforms on any game console, even if it meant the death of used games.

3. Retailers will have to offer better deals.

Right now, chains like GameStop can get away with giving you $US25 or $US30 for a recent game, slapping a white sticker on it, and selling it to other customers for $US55. That’s a nice chunk of change for the game-selling behemoth, which makes a healthy profit by selling used games. And, usually, you don’t even save that much. It only takes a few weeks for sites like Amazon to start running special offers and massive discounts. You can sometimes even get your hands on brand new games for $US40 or $US30.

Without used games, GameStop will have to find a way to make up that bottom line. They’ll have to find ways to convince us to head out to the store instead of downloading new games at home. That could very well mean more discounts, more special sales, and better deals for customers.

4. Games could be significantly more affordable.

Speaking to GameIndustry International yesterday, Silicon Knights head Denis Dyack (best known for helming games like Eternal Darkness and Too Human) said he believes used games are making the new ones more expensive.

“I would argue that used games actually increase the cost of games,” Dyack said. “There used to be something in games for 20 years called a tail, where say you have a game called Warcraft that would sell for 10 years. Because there are no used games, you could actually sell a game for a long time, and get recurring revenue for quite a while. Recurring revenue is very key.”

If publishers earn more for each game, is it out of the question to expect them to lower their prices? Games may continue to grow more and more expensive to create, but if they no longer have to live or die based on their first few months in the market, publishers might be able to justify selling them at lower costs.

5. Publishers might take more risks.

If no used games means more money in publishers’ pockets, we’ll reap the benefits. When publishers have to worry less about the bottom line, they have more liberty to take chances with independent games and studios. They won’t have to put all of their eggs in the annual first-person shooter basket. They can spend more money on risky ideas.

No matter your opinion on the way publishers treat both developers and gamers — and the big ones have done some undeniably nasty things over the years — they still put out games we enjoy. It’s not in our best interest to see them fail. And if used games are really as bad for the industry as game makers have claimed, why not let publishers show what they can do when borrowing is no longer a factor?

Maybe we’ll see more interesting products. Maybe we’ll get cheaper games. Whatever happens, it might not be so bad to let publishers have this victory. At least until they find something else to complain about.


  • Are you serious, I think it might finally be time to take up a new hobby when this happens. I wonder how much you got paid to state those so called “Good Reasons”.

    • Just what I was thinking.
      How could he even believe half the things he says.

      With this they could very well make it so that a game can ONLY be purchased through Sony or MS.
      How can anyone even be optimistic that they will not overcharge us?

    • Exactly, one of the most important things about being able to use second hand games isn’t even about selling them, it’s about owning a game and being able to come back 3-10 years later and putting the disc into a drive and being able to play something you paid for.

      That is the key problem with limited activation DRM…I don’t even care about having to be connected to the net anymore (well I do, but it’s a minor annoyance because one day I MIGHT not have net access and want to play something, not that it has actually effected me recently), but the limited activations thing simply means I won’t buy that game while that DRM exists, no matter how much I want to play it.

    • Look at steam with regards to Australia as well it will happen we all know it will so lets just bend over and get ready for them to give us the 1 2……

  • Given that gamestop and most other retailers are struggling, if the console do take this path, they’ll have to start giving the POS a bigger cut of the initial sale. Given the rampant greed we’ve seen from the major publishers, I can only really see the prices of games going up.

  • 5 reasons why no used games would suck.
    1) The end of the dedicated games shop as there is just not enough profit in new to be a viable bussiness.

    2) With no games shops there is less competion, sure JB and Big W have cheap prices on luanch but these are “loss leaders” in other words they make no profit or a small loss to get you in the store.But if their the only place to get games them why would they need to bribe you?Simply less compertition=BAD.

    3) A growing monopoly on digital sales, why would xbox live or psn dicount digital downloads if their the only digital seller?

    4) No renting or even borrowing from a friend.

    5) No more Ozgameshop or importing.”the following code is not valid in your region” with tighter DRM comes tighter restrictions.Tried buying DLC for an import game?Doesnt always work and so could activating a foregin game.Wont that hard to find RPG that didnt get a local release or mortal kombat game that didnt pass the censors..TOUGH LUCK.

    In short you be could all be paying $100 a game without importing or a competitive retail or digital market place and not even have the “luxsury” of trading it in or returning it if it sucks.
    Bad Bad Bad……

    • Your final point is the strongest reason I don’t like this push toward digital and tying everything to regional accounts. It absolutely sucks to be locked out of games you want to play and have legitimately purchased a brand new copy of because some bean-counter somewhere decreed that you shouldn’t be allowed to.

  • #1 is a little lame, imo.

    And in Australia i cringe to think of a digital oly world – unless broadband plans change drastically…

    • What do you mean? I have serious trouble getting through my quota every month and I download tons of stuff from steam without a second thought. You need a new ISP if you think that your broadband quotas are insufficeint.

  • Is $3-$5 that big a difference with online games. I would rather pay the extra $5 for retail and be able to trade/sell it.
    Reason 5 doesn’t really make sense, people won’t take risks owning a game forever and what happens if the game sucks they can’t do anything with it, so publishers would only make AAA titles.

  • I think it’s great. Retailers are making too much money selling used games (where you may only save $10 buying second hand). I will only buy new because game devs deserve our money for the effort theyve put in. Without that, how can they expect to continue making new products?

  • The sad thing is that Microsoft and Sony overcharge on their digital games and they don’t offer regular sales compared to steam. On launch day Mass Effect 3 was $109 on PSN but I could walk in to JB Hifi and buy it for $80. Sales are also so rare on these platforms that an all digital future really scares me.

  • Not faulting the AU editors, but when will US-centric sites realise they write on the internet so they need to qualify when they are speaking directly to their US audience?

    Wow that sounds like a whinge. Tried not to sound like it though.

  • I would buy a lot less games. No way would I take a punt on a $100 game if I couldn’t trade or sell it once I have finished it. The Darkness 2 is a recent example, I finished the single player in under 10 hours & the multiplayer wasn’t any good so I sold it. If they publishers had their way it would be gathering dust & would be out the money I sold it for.

    • THIS. When money’s tight, i buy new games by trading old ones. And as for borrowing, if i didn’t borrow Arkham Asylum from a friend, i wouldn’t have bought Arkham City.
      Prices will never go down. Publishers will keep charging whatever they think they can get away with.

  • I can’t understand how the games industry is effectively claiming that less competition will result in a better deal for consumers and people seem to buy it. If used games disappeared tomorrow, does anyone seriously believe that publishers would lower the price of their games?

    Is the used-car market killing the auto industry, or second hand books the print business? People buy used games because the games industry has a wildly distorted view of value.

    See here for more on the subject:

    • Publishers are lowering the prices games every days, just that Joe blow who hides money under the bed instead of the bank and no understanding of inflation begs to differ.

      If it was possible to have games costing $100 back in 1999 and then in 2006, what makes you think $100 today isn’t already cheaper than all those yester-years.

      • Gaming is a helluva lot more common than it was in the late 90s. It’s slowly become more “accepted” to play games on a regular basis, so sales have gone up. Prices on the other hand, haven’t come down all that much to compensate.
        Sure, games then and now cost $100 and a 1999 $100 note was worth a little more than a 2012 $100 note, but given the multi-billion dollar publishing industry nowadays, prices should be a lot lower since more people buy and play games.
        Australians pay more for their games than the rest of the world…and we get less choice for it. How is that good for consumers here?

        • Two things.
          1. It costs alot more to make a AAA game today that it did in the late 90’s.
          2. Australians pay more for video games, and although our dollar is at parity with the US, i would suspect we earn more money that americans.

          I’m totally against used games being locked out for good. I don’t think it’s reasonable and i don’t expect it to happen. I do however expect to see the online pass transition into purely a ‘play pass’ as i’ve just coined. Meaning you dont need to pay to play online you have to pay to play at all. Which i can totally deal with and you would have to expect to see a small drop on preowned games in retail stores depending on how much the used game buyer is expected to fork out. I kind of hope it’s a decent amount like $5 or a tad more so retailers have to take it into consideration, meaning the publishers and hopefully the developers can scoop some of that profit.

  • The only problem is the monopoly issues. Digital will only be cheaper if there is competition. Steam are the exception to this rule, but if we eliminate the ability to purchase from different locations (think about losing ozgame), then we are screwed. We have to trust that M$ would give us a fair go, and as much of a fanboy I am, I do ntot think that a games distribution platform without competition in the hands of a company like microsoft is a good thing 🙁

  • I’d like to see used game sales die. It means we’d see less pre-order bullshit to make people buy the game new, and I prefer having a digital library anyway. Disc swapping sucks, steam is way more convenient to use than my PS3.

  • Does anyone forget some games are very very hard to find after a couple of years???!?!?! The only way one does get those is via 2nd hand gaming so consider that gone…. My God this industry is really turning into a c u next tuesday.

    • I think you’d find digital distribution actually makes it EASIER to find older games. They don’t need to produce physical media, so there’s no scarcity of supply. It’s just files sitting on a server somewhere. The games can remain in stock constantly – no limit on the number of discs, no limit on the shelf space meaning retailers have to stop stocking the old games in order to fit the new ones on the shelf, etc.

      The problem, of course, is that it also means no incentive for them to discount older games to get rid of excess stock to make room for new stock.

      • the scary thing is when the games sales drop so low as most games do after x amount of time, will they de-list the game for download. so it’s essentially lost forever to new customers? it’ll happen eventually with digital distribution.

        • Don’t think they will ever delist the game since they can always make a few bucks on the item, no matter how old it is.

  • You honestly believe that game prices are going to come down because used sales disappear? Dream on, publishers will keep the same prices and laugh all the way to the bank as the money comes rolling in. Just take a look at the full game downloads available now on XBL, they aren’t any cheaper than the discs.

  • If going digital will cause better prices then why is it that games are usually $30+ more expensive on download through xbox live then in EB games or Jb?

  • 1) Everything’s going digital anyway. And shackled with DRM up the wazoo.
    2) The future could look a lot like Steam. Each to his own, but I dislike steam.
    3) Retailers will have to offer better deals. No, retailers with be dead.
    4) Games could be significantly more affordable. Keep dreaming pal.
    5) Publishers might take more risks. See #4.

  • Any thought to exchange policies? How can you exchange a game you don’t like when it will ‘register’ on your console and yours alone. This is one of the reasons I sometimes shop retail and not totally online, when I know a game is a gamble I prefer to have the option of taking it back in seven days. These reasons are honestly pretty weak in my opinion.

    • Didn’t Apple just go to court over iTunes handling of App returns? Online shopping/digital distribution isn’t immune to the law even if it just does play dumb when it comes up. There’s no reason to assume that digital distribution methods will remove all the rights you get at a retail outlet. Like most software laws it’s a huge mess of an issue but at the end of the day the stores don’t offer you things like the a 7 day exchange/refund policy because they want to be your buddy.
      There are stores that go above and beyond (the place I buy clothes online treats me like a damn king), but there’s just as many online and off who do exactly as much as they can get away with. Right now online is just having an easier time taking advantage of people. As it continues increase in popularity that will change.

  • Sometime in the next 10 years there is going to be a drastic change in the way video games are sold. The sooner we get it done the better for all. If game shops do go under I think its quite likely we’ll see publisher consolidation and then something akin to Apple stores for sony and macrosoft. There will then probably be a fall off in games bloated giants and crappy middleware will be destroyed and we will be left with only the best and most innovative standing, getting rid of used games”could” change the industry for the better.

    • Using the Apple Store analogy, you would then need to sort through thousands and thousands of terrible content just to get to the good stuff.
      I get that it’s a little different a retail game vs an IOS game, but I think it stands to reason that this would degrade into an App store of shit

  • It took me 9 hours to download to The Sly Trilogy from psn on my PS3 last week.
    Digital only can go suck it:P

    • THIS.

      With rare exceptions, I keep the same $200 going around and around and around.
      If I don’t get it back, I can’t spend it again.

      • Just search on the deinfreft factors that affect the heart rate, and blood pressure.Much of it is due to adrenaline. When you are stimulated with a video game, it sends signals to your brain to speed up your heart and increase your blood pressure so your brain gets more blood and you become more alert for your game. Consider video games to be an emergency you have to be alert for. Fight or flight. It’s the body’s basic instinct for survival.I’m just trying to explain it in simpler terms so you know what you’re looking for. You can get a much better explanation if you know what to search for online. Sure heart attacks can be a part of it. As the heart is stressed out by a precipitating event, (getting mad, emotional) it can suffer a heart attack too. You can pretty much make up a whole lot of things if you just search risk factors for heart disease. If you’re creative, you can link obesity, videogames and heart problems together. I can go on but I’m sure you already got the picture. More pros: You can also do videogames as a sort of therapeutic pain regimen, as an effective diversion for chronic or acute pain management. It’s a totally deinfreft topic. But I find this one quite interesting because not a lot of people are aware of this. If you want more input, my husband is doing this as part of his therapy.As a con, videogamers are apt to be lazy. They will not cook or care about their hygiene and settle for cup of noodles to stay alive. Relationships also tend to suffer as they become addicted to the videogame of choice and let everything else (job, health, family) fall apart. Think of it as an addiction, much like any substance such as alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.

  • Five reasons a world without used games might not be so bad:

    1) I would stop playing games
    2) I would use increased leisure time to read the classics and grow my mind
    3) I would solve all the problems of the world with my extra time and bigger brain
    4) I would recognise the horror of a perfect world
    5) I would use my newfound dictatorial influence over the world to reinstate used games.

    It won’t be so bad, people.

  • So, essentially, what you’re saying is that the console gaming industry (let’s face it PC and console gaming industries are not on the same level) is becoming the PC gaming industry….there’s a reason I stick to consoles and it’s pretty much the disc, throw it in it’s guaranteed to work don’t have to enter registration codes and authenticate so I can play when I want and not when the publisher’s server wants to respond.
    Even the titles with “tails” that are mentioned are PC titles, I challenge anyone to find a console game with a tail like that in order to convince me that the disc is better.
    Plus, seriously? You think publishers would take more risks? They would minimise their risks since they will no longer have the distributor to hide behind if something doesn’t work. Now if you buy a game and it doesn’t work (scratched or glitched in some way) the distributor will take it back and give you a new one. With no trade ins, they wouldn’t give you 2 copies of the game to register to yourself, or the more sly register the first with you and the other with a friend and they can’t even test it for themselves because it’s registered to you.
    What about multiple gamers in a house, I wouldn’t want my, theoretical, kid having access to my online profile, but I would still want him to be able to play games if I’m not home, does this mean I would have to buy 2 copies of every game or allow him to have access to my adult friends?

    All of that aside, this is possibly the worst compiled list of reasons against used games I’ve heard, retailers would go out of business and that ALONE could kill the industry when publishers decide that they will charge $130 per copy since “where else are you going to get it”

  • “If no used games means more money in publishers’ pockets, we’ll reap the benefits. ”

    Your optimism is admirable, but somehow I doubt it.

  • I don’t buy used games, and I don’t plan to sell my games, but I still don’t like the sounds of this. I also hate the concept of going digital with everything.

  • “You wouldn’t have to worry about losing any of your games — they’d all be stored in one central location.”


    • Apparently has no idea on how competition from used games changes the pricing on new titles. Herp derp lets remove the option of buying from a friend. Hey what gives publishers and devs? Why can’t I get a game for under $100 anymore?

    • Actually no, the author is not an idiot. This is how cloud services work, everything is stored in one location (or you can access them in one location) and you can access them from wherever you want. The problem is that whenever you have a computer system of any kind, issues can arise and this is increased tenfold when you introduce people trying to access this system at different times, causing peaks and troughs, which causes issues.
      If you’re referring to the PS3 outage last year, typically you don’t plan a computer system with the prevailant thought being keep intruders out, you design it on usability and try to increase security around this. But I’m sure you’ve built hundreds of networks and understand all the problems that arise, and as such a professional you have a solution to work around any situation.
      Whilst I disagree with the article and feel that many of the points are invalid, this is one that I actually like the idea of and to have someone who clearly has no idea call it out like a bad thing is just mind blowingly ridiculous

  • Actually, thinking about a comment above about Reigon-locking, if everything is downloadable, then why would they NEED reigon locking. If shipping cost isn’t an issue, then they don’t need to worry about cheaper overseas imports, and, like steam, just keep the game files in the centralised server network for everyone to download.

    Unless i’m wrong about exactly why the costs of physical discs are so much higher in Australia.

    • Yeah, you’re wrong about the prices. They charge more because they can, and because they think we’ll pay. The costs of packaging, shipping, and doing business in Australia aren’t much of a factor in comparison to the gouging. They similarly overprice the digital copies with no justification other than to stay competitive with their inflated shelf prices.

      This is the very same reason they need region locking. Shipping is an issue… if it was, then importing physical copies would be just as expensive for individuals as it is for publishers, except individuals wouldn’t benefit from bulk shipping rates.

  • Games won’t be more affordable nor publishers will take more risks, where do you get that…

    The game devs and publishers run like a business more than ever, better sales wont change their behavior, it will encourage it meaning more generic titles and more expensive games as they are more likely to get away with it.

    The first two points are nothing, it has already happened, and the third is even more unlikely with the publishers and devs are hard asses when it comes to pricing, how can retailers offer better deals when they cant

  • What about when your PS4 becomes a brick for 3 FUCKIN WEEKS because some 15 year old hacker wants to show his E-penis to the world by hacking the PSN?

  • If things keep going this way, I’m finding a new hobby… Well, ok, I’m going to forget consoles and just play all the indie games on PC I can get a hold of until they start trying to wring every penny they can out of me as well.

    As much as people would like to say “‘This could be a good thing”‘, the fact that Eidos is charging per level and boss fight to play Mini Ninjas on the Chrome store seems a more accurate indication of where this is going.

  • “1. Everything’s going digital anyway.”
    “2. The future could look a lot like Steam.”
    Not a big fan of either of these. I like the steam store, but I hate having to connect to the internet before I can play any of my games.

    “3. Retailers will have to offer better deals.”
    Or it will put them out of business.

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