Could we already be on the verge of losing used gaming?
I can't stress enough that what I'm using to lead this article off is a rumour and nothing more at this time. There's no substantiation forthcoming, just what people have read on the wind. Last week a rumour popped up that among other things, the next Xbox might prevent players from playing used games. The potential of a console coming out with anti-used measures in place has gotten the attention and speculation of many. I mused a while back that when consoles inevitably go discless that the used market may crash overnight due to the way all digital media are handled, but I didn't stop to think that the next generation -- which is still far from being physical media free -- might incorporate measures to stop used gaming nonetheless is something that I'll admit hadn't even occurred to me.
Ars Technica has already produced an article outlining some of the likely possibilities should Microsoft seek to prevent the next Xbox from playing used games. One of them is of course the discless solution, but as the article mentions the lack of reliable broadband over the whole of the continental United States (not to mention elsewhere) means that such a move would cut out a decent part of your market which is never something you want to do. Likewise the idea of their own proprietary selling system is intriguing but I believe somewhat cumbersome all things considered. Given that those two are out something on the discs or console itself seems to be the most likely implementation if there is to be one.
Where this gets interesting from my point of view though is the fallout that seems likely if this turns out to be true. I could imagine seeing numerous attempts to circumvent the system via any means necessary, not to mention a good deal of outcry from the masses of gamers that rely on used games for a less budget busting alternative to buying completely new. Even though it's not a validation I can easily see pirates using this as another excuse for their behaviour, which in spite of what some companies think is markedly worse than a person buying a used game.
Added to this is the potential for litigation. I'm not a lawyer so I don't know if there's any ground to stand on here, but while I assume that Microsoft will be levelling lawsuits against anyone that would try to circumvent the system, I can't help but wonder if the consumers will try to find a way to take Microsoft to court in order to force them to support used games. I'm fairly sure that since Microsoft is offering a private service of sorts that the argument could well be that you play (literally) by their rules or not at all, but people have been inventive in the past, and I'm quite curious to see where the battle lines might fall.
Again, please keep in mind that this is just a rumour. The Playstation 3 was rumoured not to play used games either when it was in development, but that turned out to be a whole lot of bluster and nothing else. This recent rumour though has made me realize that we might be a lot closer to having to fight for used game sales than I -- or seemingly most other people -- would have thought; which is something distressing indeed.