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Last week the news broke out on Gamespot, and other gaming-focused websites, that Sony patented a technology to block used games. Unsurprisingly, the news stirred much outcry in gaming community, or more accurately those who are vocal on such matters. Here are my thoughts on the subject:
1) Is the concept of used games viable in 21 th century?
The idea that we, as gamers, should be able to buy or sell used games seems more and more in contrast with the zeitgeist of gaming industry. The budget for a decent AAA game has been skyrocketing in this generation of consoles, and most of recent titles have cost as much as an average Hollywood movie.
This development cost is much harder to be justified because, pardon me for stating the obvious; games are not going to be released in several formats. If Wikipedia is to be believed, Nolan's TDKR had a budget of 250 million dollars and made around a billion in the box office, and yet it is bound to make more money via Blue Ray release and digital distribution on amazon, iTunes, and such. No game has such chance for success.
Many people pointed out the detrimental effect of ban on used games on retailers. I found this argument unconvincing. Retail business is not about creating new ideas or production, its point is to provide a service in order to make the distribution of goods more convenient. Gamestop, or any other retailer, will have to adapt to the changing business model. It makes me sad to hear about Rockstar Vancouver dissolution, because Max Payne 3 did not sell as much as it should, than Gamestop's financial troubles.
2) Is banning used games justified?
Slowly, but surely, it is going to become the rule. Mobile devices are considered viable gaming platforms and their app ecosystems, iTunes and Google play, have adopted a strict anti-piracy system by tying app purchases to devices. This strategy is going to be the norm, considering that Mac and windows are going to be about App stores in the near future.
3) Is there a proper way of doing that?
One way, which in my view is inevitable, is to go digital. I do not mean that we should dismiss the physical input and announce DVD and blue ray obsolete, but I think it must be possible to download a game as soon as the retail version of it is out.
I also think that there is a good way for companies like Sony to make renting possible without having to deal with retailers, and that is to adopt the movie rental scheme used by online services like amazon. They can let you pay a portion of price (e.g. 9.99$) and then, enable you to play the full game for a week or so. It seems to be an appropriate method, one used by OnLive for a while, before it went bankrupt.
I think the future is not going to be about used games, but companies can handle it in a way to cause the minimum amount of outcry and tension. I hope they choose the path wisely.
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