The Joy of Used Games

Last week a patent by Sony was unearthed that appeared to show a way of linking a game to a console. This basically means that only the console that is paired with the game can play it. Sorta the same as how a microchip cat flap will only let your cat in and out of the house. So? Well if the patent does find its way into future console it means bye-bye to pre-owned games.

Now lets put things into perspective. First of all just because a company patents an idea it doesn’t mean that it will ever see the light of day, companies like owning ideas just in case it’s needed at some point or so competitors can’t do the same thing. Secondly I highly doubt the next PlayStation will ban used games. If Sony prevent used games and Microsoft don’t, then who the hell is going to buy a PS4 (or whatever it’s called. We’ll call it PS4 for the purposes of the blog though ’Orbis’ has been thrown about a bit). Thirdly it’s likely that the next generation of consoles will be the last to use physical media anyway as everything will be downloaded/streamed, removing the ability to sell old games.

I personally really like used games. When it comes to shelf life, games are incredibly transient. Unless a game gets a ‘Platinum’ or ‘Game of the Year Edition’ they are likely to only be on shelves for a matter of months. So if you want to buy a older game, save for online retailers, chances are you’ll have to opt for a pre-owned copy. Also the ability to trade in finished and unwanted games is something that I frequently use. Why keep a game that you’re never gonna play again to just sit there collecting dust? I am aware though of the problems with the second hand market. This is namely that the developers get sod all, of the resale price. This means that a game can be played by any number of people with the creators of the game being only paid once, meaning that covering costs and profit can be harder to obtain, whereas the store can make a large sum of money selling the same game over and over again. This is why publishers are so keen to see the pre-owned market disappear; it means they receive payment every time someone buys the game.

The best way (in my opinion) to get rid of the second hand market is to encourage people to download games from stores such as the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live. Steam, by Valve, is an excellent example of this done right. Once a game is of sufficient age it usually appears in a sale. As such a game that I paid £20 for PS3 (Batman: Arkham City) will be bought by some smug PC gamer (I’m not even suggesting I’m jealous of fellow blogger Joe Topliffe right now at all) for £2.50. And yes I know Steam is on the Mac as well but it has a very poor selection and my Mac has a painfully weak GPU).

The problem with downloads for consoles is that publishers are artificially inflating the prices of games to keep stores (such as Game and Amazon) sweet. If publishers keep undercutting the high-street stores then they won’t stock their future releases. Valve don’t have this issue with Steam and as such they constantly offer a very competitive price. Downloads also removes the issue with games only appearing on store shelves for a limited amount of time. Once it’s uploaded to a digital store there’s no reason why it can’t be searched for and downloaded years later.

Well I’m starting to waffle on so I’ll end it here. I honestly don’t think the next generation of consoles will feature limiters to prevent the reselling of games, but I do think it will be the last generation to aim its focus away from retail games and concentrate on digital distribution. I wrote a blog a few months back saying that soon all TVs will include video game streaming via Wi-Fi and I still believe this to be the case. I personally favor streaming games (such as the half-baked OnLive service) as it means your games are instant, though you do need a ruddy-fast internet connection. One thing’s for sure though I sure as hell am gonna miss game stores.

By Ian Dutton



  1. Joe Topliffe · · Reply

    Although I can perfectly understand the reason for linking games to consoles (as you explained above), it does annoy me a little bit that for this very reason I can’t buy pre-owned games for PC (damn you steam!). Having said that I’m starting to come around to the idea, maybe partly for the ethics of it, but probably more so because Steam more than make up for it with their sales 🙂 Don’t think I’d be a happy bunny if I had to pay full price every time though…

    1. Don’t forget though that during the steam sale you’re paying less for games than they cost preowned! That’s the beauty of it.

  2. I think that many years from now, physical copies will stop being produced. The tree-hugging hippie part of me thinks it will be a good change because the planet’s resources will stop being wasted to make awful games. But the gamer part of me HATES the idea. If games turn download-only, those amazing sales by Steam etc will cease to exist. Companies will charge whatever they want because consumers won’t have the option to look around different shops for a better deal (and the UK already gets ripped off by having unjustifiable higher prices than the rest of the rest of the world). Plus, nothing beats holding a copy of a game in your hands after waiting months for its release!

    1. Whatever happens its definitely an exciting time for the industry. Seeing how each companies deals with the transition into more (or indeed solely focus on) digital distribution is going to be incredibly interesting.

  3. I think that we are all headed toward the way that Nintendo went. Downloadable vintage and so forth. Besides that I do not think that used games have been the same since the end of the cartridge. Sure those of us who grew up on them moved to the CD and we treated them like fragile eggs but that is not so much the case anymore. I will miss the used game era but when everyone makes all games past, present and future available to download for a reasonable price I will be just as happy.

    1. I love downloading classic games. Can’t tell you how many ps1 and ps2 games I’ve got stored on my ps3’s hard drive.

  4. […] The Joy of Used Games ( […]

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