They started out as what seemed like the most ridiculous of rumors. Next gen consoles blocking used games? Preposterous! Such a flaming claim could only be made to point out the competitor’s desire to scheme its sheep customer base out of as much money as possible. Those fools at Microsoft/Sony will be crying themselves into early graves, long live the PS3/Xbox!
Well here we are, and there have been reports of Microsoft implementing a one-time use pass on all retail games, and Sony filed a patent for something similar not too long ago. Of course, very little information is currently in our grasp as far as next-gen tech, and much of this must be taken with a teeny tiny grain of salt. Nonetheless, it’s an issue and needs to be discussed.
First of all, no. I do not buy used games with any sort of regularity. I almost always buy a game new at release if I’m particularly excited for it and still new (albeit usually on an online retailer) for much less six months to a year later. It’s a good system for me, as maintaining a healthy, well kept collection of titles in pristine condition matters to me. There’s also the matter of trying to give money to those that I feel deserve it (instead of near 100% profit to the lovely people at GameStop, who deserve nothing less than disease and ruin).
Even still, there’s a tremendous value in having video games playable on multiple platforms, beyond just the sales value that some people greatly benefit from. I can’t think of how many times my friends and I have gotten together play something on whoever’s console happens to be around, using whatever copy members of our group happen to bring. Having consoles that lock games to the system is like going over to a friend’s house and immediately being stonewalled by overprotective parents with strict rules. It makes that kid and his toys much, much less cool.
So yeah. Locked consoles hurt local multiplayer. Not that big companies give much of a rat’s ass these days about that, anyway, but for many a game enthusiast, it’s an important facet of play. Not all of games needs to be solitary with the communication and shared experience getting funneled through a tube. That’s just dumb.
But underlying the surface issue of restricted freedom comes a far greater, and far scarier problem that strikes at the root of the medium itself. Think a bit about the legacy of video games. We’ve been privy to nearly forty years of rich history. Games have grown and the players have evolved. Consider how fruitful and downright fun it can be to revisit the gems of yesteryear, especially with our modern perspective. Collectors know it, historians know it, hell I’d guess even most developers know it.
So basically these next consoles will cut that off, make video game history stop. No longer will we be able to accumulate gems of the past now off production and out of circulation. Want to play Mass Effect 4 in 2050 to relive childhood memories? Sorry, your Xbox 720 blue ringed ages ago, and even if it didn’t, those servers were shut down ages before. You can’t just buy a console off of Hyper Ebay, your locked games wouldn’t work on it even if you could connect the thing to your future internet connection that made the last one outdated. Guess you have to emulate it.
Think about every retro game that’s impossible to find, yet hugely significant. Earthbound makes a good example, because those carts are rare as all hell and Nintendo of America refuses to re-release it in any form. So while a different problem, it still makes a good current analogue. For all intents and purposes, if next-gen consoles will indeed system-lock games, then every game will be Earthbound. Impossible to play and lost to time. What a deplorable way to treat art.
Works of creation and creativity should be the very last thing on the planet to be locked down and segregated. It’s a defensive, petty, and cowardly measure, thinking only of the current profits while disregarding the eternal history and progression of the medium. I get why publishers would love to implement this. I get it. For all my unwavering desire to see used games remain sellable, I will continue to buy new. But for the love of god, this will hurt the industry and cloud our understanding of the past and how we evolved. Don’t just think of the now, EA, Activision, Sony, Square Enix, Microsoft, and Ubisoft, think of fifty years from now. What image will you maintain? What will go on to hold a legacy? Do you really want all your efforts to drown in the sands of time?
Imagine if film worked this way near the forty year mark. Imagine if all the circulated films were burned once off the theater circuit. Or better yet, imagine if they only played on specific projectors that can’t be found today (yes, I know that such a thing would require a completely different system that what was in place, but bare with me for the sake of the argument). Basically, imagine if Thomas Edison got his way and we’d have to use big wooden boxes with eye holes to watch our films. Once they break, the distributing company would say “eh, screw it. Buy a new one with our newer films. Those old films were old for a reason.” Films would be products and perishable commodities, not a shared art form free (mostly) from the grips of the people that develop the distribution platforms (like, say, theaters or projector manufacturers). Games are turning into just that medium. And it’s shameful.
There are many reasons to oppose a restriction on used game sales, and it’s worth a healthy, active discussion. Please, let’s talk about it, industry. Don’t just assume you always know best. If both the Xbox and PS3 restrict used games, I might just stick with my Wii U.