Rumors about the ‘Xbox 720’, Microsoft’s supposed next gen console have become more and more prevalent in the past few weeks as the holiday season is over and many gamers and industry professionals alike are looking to what the new year will bring.
Earlier this week, IGN reported that Microsoft’s new console would be out in time for the 2013 holiday season, and that it would be roughly six times more powerful than the Xbox 360.
A more powerful system is a given, but today Kotaku Editor-in-Chief Stephen Totilo has created quite the internet buzz when he reported that the ‘Xbox 720’ would feature blu-ray compatibility, come bundled with the Kinect 2, and may not play used games.
It was this last possibility that caught my eye. While I would like to remind you that this is just rumor and no source from Microsoft will confirm or deny the validity in these claims, it certainly is worth a little analysis.
This story is already circulating across the internet at an alarming place with everyone from G4 to CBS posting articles in regards to these claims. Just one look at the comments section on any of these sites shows a great resistance to this possibility. In a world of DRM and online passes, gamers have witnessed freedoms they once enjoyed taken from them one by one.
Publishers have everything to gain from the death of used games in the short term. Fewer used game purchases leads to more new game purchases which is more money in the hands of publishers who make the games we love and enjoy so much. Who wouldn’t want to support them? If there was one thing I thought publishers learned however, it was not to cut too deeply into the used game market. After the Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D fiasco in which save data could not be erased, the Capcom VP announced it would no longer be supporting such a feature in upcoming titles.
If this rumor is true, could the video game industry be cannibalizing itself for short term profit? I certainly think so. Just a glimpse at the surface of the video game market could tell you this obvious fact. GameStop currently enjoys the largest market share of all the video game retailers, the bulk of its revenue coming from used game sales. The abolition of used games would cripple their revenues, causing GameStop to trail behind big box retailers such as BestBuy and Wal-Mart as well as online retail giant, Amazon.
The average profit per game is somewhere around ten dollars, which would mean GameStop would have to sell five games for every one they don’t sell to break even. This means fewer risks when it comes to stocking games.
On one hand, we may be able to rejoice at the death of bad movie games such as The Golden Compass, but on the other hand it would also mean the death of “niche” games. It is not hard to believe that perhaps one of the reasons why Xenoblade Chronicles took as long as it did to be released in the U.S. is because retailers were hesitant to invest in a game that may see mediocre or poor sales. The many GameStop exclusive titles that we currently get may not have ever made it over stateside if they weren’t confident in the possibility of recouping what profits they may have lost by carrying the game with used game profits.
Another factor to consider the wealth of your average gamer, as much as we wish we were endless banks of money, we aren’t. Sometimes we must make painful decisions investing wisely in the games we ‘must have’ over the games we ‘really want’. There have been times when games I’ve wanted to purchase were discontinued by the time I had the funds to buy them and was forced to purchase them used. In a world without used games, I’d have to hope that I could find a copy on Amazon or eBay and would pay an extra premium just to have one of the few remaining new copies in the world.
A small upside (especially to indie game devs such as myself) is that with such limited funds, those that cannot always afford to get the newest, greatest games would be forced to turn to downloadable titles for their entertainment. This would start a vicious cycle such as the one we are currently experiencing with portable platforms where the relevancy of consoles might come into question. It is not unfeasible with cloud technology upon us to see a world devoid of gaming consoles, replaced with generic set-top boxes developed by Sony, Microsoft, Toshiba and Samsung running services similar to Steam. Publishers may love such a set-up; some gamers might even as well, but for the console developers I can scarcely imagine they would be pleased to see their vice-grip on the gaming industry loosened to such an extent.
Personally, I prefer to buy disks and hard copies of my games to add to my library. I can count my digital downloads on two hands and I would be sad to see the video game industry change in such a way. Should the ‘Xbox 720’ be incompatible with used games, I will not purchase it. I’ll still have my Wii U or ‘PS4’, and even should one or both of those decide to echo Microsoft’s designs, well, that’s what my classic consoles are for.
The video game industry is too large to ever die, but it will certainly change much and more in the coming years. As gamers, we have a responsibility to make sure it changes for the better.