Chipping Block: Xbox One and the Used Games Fiasco

Microsoft’s upcoming games console was unveiled nary a week ago, and already the company is suffering a whirlwind of negative press. Some have criticized the scary idea of having an always-on console listening and watching every move you make in your living room. Others lambasted the conference’s focus on the console’s television connectivity rather than being centered around games. But if one had to choose the single most controversial feature of the Xbox One, it would have to be its supposed treatment of the used games market.

Word on the street is that when you buy a game and activate it using your Xbox Live account, that game is then forever tied to that account. If you pass the disc along to a friend, it’s only good for installation purposes. They’ll still have to pay for an activation code, which is rumored to be set at full, retail price. Other sources report, however, that no activation codes will be required in the used game environment, and instead Microsoft will require an always-on internet connection to verify the game’s authenticity.

Amazingly so, Microsoft has tried to clear up the issue multiple times, yet has failed to adequately confirm or deny the suspicions. The day after the reveal, Microsoft vice prez Phil Harrison said in an interview with Wired that trading games with friends will be just like it is today with the Xbox 360. Great, right? Except that he clearly contradicts himself in the same interview by claiming the games do, in fact, have to be connected to an Xbox Live account. So if you want your friend to borrow your copy of Halo 6 in several years, you’ll have to borrow out your account information as well. And while they’re playing on your account, you won’t have access to it.

When you take freedoms away from your consumers, there has to be a trade-off. Valve’s Steam platform is very well received, even though it is steeped in controversial digital rights management (DRM) software. Why do we like it so much? Because of the often-held and incredibly low-priced sales. What will Microsoft do for the consumer in return for forcing this one disc, one Live account philosophy? Will their console games steeply come down in price? I somehow doubt it. If there was something good in store for the consumer, we would have heard about it by now.

Apparently, though, not even Microsoft is very sure of how the One will treat used games. On Friday, the Director of Programming for Xbox Live, Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb posted this official statement;

The ability to trade in and resell games is important to gamers and to Xbox. Xbox One is designed to support the trade in and resale of games. Reports about our policies for trade in and resale are inaccurate and incomplete. We will disclose more information in the near future”

Wrong answer, guys. Anything other than telling us like it is, is the wrong answer. Attacking the media and failing to point out how, exactly, they’ve been inaccurately reporting isn’t a great strategy either. Does all the backlash have them rethinking their current strategy in the used game sector? Or are they simply popping their heads into their turtle shells and praying for it all to go away?

I’m afraid we’re just going to have to sit back and wait for Microsoft to come out and make a direct and clear statement on the issue, and we may not see it for months. But don’t you think for a second that Sony’s upcoming Playstation 4 is going to be very different on the issue. They’ve been licking their chops at the prospect of absorbing Gamestop’s market share just as much as Microsoft. Mark my words.

Nathan Grant

Nate is the kind of guy that hopes to change the world just by thinking at it hard enough. This recently received Brooklynite loves coffee, jogging, and a combination of the two which he calls "coffing."

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