According to a recent report by MCV, game publishers and console manufacturers may receive a cut of every used game sale in the coming generation.
Rumors have swirled for months that one or both of the major next-generation consoles--Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One--would have some kind of system to discourage or altogether eliminate used game sales. The rumors came to a head shortly after Microsoft's May 21 Xbox One reveal, when a series of vague statements to the press resulted in mass confusion. Could games be loaned to friends, but playable only if they pay a fee of full MSRP? How will transference of ownership work in the retail sector, with Xbox One users installing the entire game to HDD before trading it in? Will PS4 suffer the same fates, as Sony vies to compete with Microsoft in winning third-party publishers' hearts?
As MCV cites (from a retail source), when a consumer brings an Xbox One game to an approved retailer like GameStop to sell, the game is registered as having been sold and the former owner will see the game wiped from his or her account. Meanwhile, both Microsoft and game publishers will take a cut from every used game sale, leaving retailers with as little as ten percent. MCV states this amount is similar to what retailers currently make from new game sales.
At least Sony, for its part, has confirmed that used games will work on PS4, though little else about exactly how they will work is known. Industry figures are responding in kind. At a recent investor conference (reported by GameSpot, via VG24/7), Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick expressed a desire to avoid a situation where consumers feel that they need to trade a game to begin with. "Our view about used games has been, as opposed to whining or figuring out ways to punish the consumer for buying used games, we’ve figured out we better delight the consumer,” he said. “Let’s push up our quality, which you’ve seen in our Metacritic scores, and then let’s make sure to give people DLC, often free, three or four weeks out; which is the time you’re at risk for them trading in their game."
Zelnick's consumer-friendly attitude isn't stopping him from seeing the dollar signs that publishers like Take-Two stand to make by changing the system. "There’s no question that if Microsoft has figured out a way to tax used games, then we should get paid, too,” he declared. “It’s hard to imagine why they should and we shouldn’t."
Xbox One's 24-hour sign-in requirement may cleanse a consumer's hard drive of the game he or she no longer owns following a used game sale. We have yet to understand if Sony will adopt the same approach, but it's hard to imagine they won't try something similar. Then again, Sony Worldwide Studios prez Shuhei Yoshida has confirmed that PS4 does not require an internet connection to function, so who the hell really knows at this point.
Kyle Prahl doesn't think that console manufacturers and publishers getting a cut from used game sales is a bad thing, and he hopes that developers see some of that money in turn. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.