There's (Hopefully) Still a Future for Used, Rented and Borrowed Games

Illustration for article titled There's (Hopefully) Still a Future for Used, Rented and Borrowed Games

Oh boy. Once people had got past the news we'd heard about the next PlayStation Orbis' specs and release date, they got real angry about the fact it's likely to include some measure of "anti-used games" technology. Just like the next Xbox console.

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That subsequently led to people thinking that they'll never be able to rent a video game again, or even borrow one from their friends.

I think people need to take a deep breath and calm down for a second.

While we're of course dealing with rumours, and what's about to follow is pure speculation based on those (and some common sense), it doesn't hurt to consider that for every negative possibility inherent in these console's new features, there's maybe - just maybe - a perfectly sensible explanation for it all.

Firstly, while I said this in my original report, I'll reiterate it here again: in all likelihood this won't stop you from playing a pre-owned video game. From what we've heard, all it's likely to do is limit the player's experience on an "unregistered" copy of a game. Maybe that'll mean it has no multiplayer, maybe it'll mean you can only play half the game, who knows.

Whatever form the limiting of content takes, there's only one reason they'd do that and not lock you out entirely: so you could then be sold the ability to re-register, or unlock the rest of the game.

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What this is doing, in effect, is transferring the responsibility of the current system of "online passes" - which just about every major publisher now engages in - from the third-party companies to the platform holder itself, making it a far more streamlined and predictable system than the haphazard approach to the idea we have now.

This would keep publishers - and remember, Sony is itself a major publisher - happy, as if it's not cutting down on used sales they're at least making a consistent "unlock" profit on them, while also keeping retailers like GameStop reasonably happy as it's allowing them to continue to trade in games.

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Illustration for article titled There's (Hopefully) Still a Future for Used, Rented and Borrowed Games

It would be bad news for consumers, especially if a $10 (I'm pulling that number out of my ass) unlock fee didn't in turn result in cheaper used games prices, but look at it this way: if one side in this used games argument wins outright, you'll be really screwed. A little screwed somewhere in the middle ground between both parties sounds like the best of a choice of raw deals.

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As for renting games, I see a potential solution for that being even easier. We've heard that retail games will, in addition to being made available on Blu-Ray, will also be purchasable from the PlayStation Network. Now, at the moment, the technology already exists on the PSN to effectively "rent" games. It's what you're doing with PlayStation Plus titles; cease to subscribe and you can't play those games any more.

So I see no problem in renting. Rental outlets could get codes or vouchers that unlock a finite period of play, the codes go out with your game, you can rent games as you do now.

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Finally, as far as borrowing games goes...well, that might be a little harder. The only way I can see to get around the Orbis' supposed "locked to one PSN account" policy is that Sony would allow you to sign in on other people's machines. So if you took a game to a friend's house you could login to your account, play the game on it there, then revert back when you leave. Sort of like how you can sign into your gamertag on a friend's Xbox 360 console now for multiplayer (though I admit there might be security problems in allowing you to enter password information inherent to your account's security on someone else's machine).

Now, I could be totally wrong on all of this. Consumers could be about to get screwed like we've never been screwed before. But given the internet's propensity to lunge immediately for the worst-case scenario and then fixate upon it, I figured some slightly less drastic possibilities inherent in "anti-used games technology" were worth pointing out!

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Those concerned with what this could mean for things like trade-in deals and rentals, check this out.

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DISCUSSION

relic1980
relic1980

Uh-huh, the Internet denizens do tend to overreact on rumor. But if MS and Sony are smart, they better be listening to at least some of it. Because IMO (and granted, only my opinion), if either of them employ some hardwired "solution" to prevent people from playing used games in general, then they may as well fall on their own sword right now.

Console-makers make their money, not on consoles but on the software to go on them. Many cost-conscious consumers buy used games. They also buy new games (like their favorite sports title or the hot new version of their favorite FPS). But they (like families with small children or college kids trying to maintain a budget) will buy used sometimes.

If they can't play these used games on a console, then the console-makers and software makers both lose, because the consumer simply won't buy the console. And the ones who do buy brand-new? They shell out $60 and then, when they're done with it they just have to sit on it or pitch it because they can't give it or sell it to a friend or a family member with a separate machine. And they can't trade it off to a store. Unless you have a lot of play value in your game, then you are not going to want to buy a $60 game, beat it over a weekend and then be stuck with it.

So IMO I think this would be a bad deal for everyone if the console-makers were so foolish as to even consider this ill-conceived assault on gaming.

Of course, who knows, maybe they'll just do away with drives entirely and go totally download-only. But as appealing as that sounds, it comes with it's own problems, like families without broadband (some places it's still cost prohibitive, if you can get it at all). And it doesn't help that ISPs are creating bandwidth caps in an attempt to get people to stay with said companies' cable and old-tech media. The console-makers have to think of that possibility too.

Either way, it's a cash-grab. But as cliche' as it sounds, a bird in the hand really IS better than two in the bush.