Usually, a new generation of video game consoles is greeted with excitement and enthusiasm. This time around, things are a little different. A good number of gamers are apprehensive about the upcoming Xbox One and PlayStation 4, if not angry, because the death knell may be sounding for an integral part of the whole ecosystem: used games.
Microsoft last week announced a slew of policies that will make it more difficult, if not impossible, to trade in their games for credit or cash, starting with the launch of its new console this fall. Publishers will have the ability to ban resale of their titles, participating retailers will have to be approved and players will be restricted to loaning their games only once (and then only to people they have been friends with online for at least 30 days).
Most game publishers are waiting to see how Sony responds before revealing their plans. For France’s Ubisoft, the question isn’t about allowing used games per se, but perhaps it’s about the timing of when they can be traded in. Chief executive Yves Guillemot dropped some hints about a sort of “resale window” in a meeting with reporters on Sunday evening, ahead of the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles on Monday.
“What’s happening with [games sold at retail], which is good, is that people play and come four weeks or six weeks later to [trade] that game to buy another one. This process, I think, is working fine,” he said. “It’s just that if the guy comes three days later, he will put the game in store and we won’t be able to sell the new one.”
Mr. Guillemot did praise Microsoft’s decision not to insert itself into the used-game equation. Prior to last week, there was speculation that the company would demand a cut of all resales. Instead, the company said it would leave any decisions on fees regarding used games up to individual publishers.
“That means you can have something close to what we have in the old generation. There is nobody in between that takes a big fee,” Mr. Guillemot said. “We are waiting to see what Sony says and what Nintendo says, but the first move from Microsoft is a good move.”
Both Microsoft and Sony are holding press conferences on Monday, where they will reveal further details on their next-generation consoles. Sony has touted the PS4 as a device designed “by gamers for gamers,” but it has so far stayed quiet on its handling of used games. Nintendo is holding a software showcase on Tuesday to show off upcoming games for its Wii U console, which launched last year. So far, the company has not instituted any restrictions on used games.
Ubisoft is itself holding a press conference on Monday to show off its new, upcoming games, including Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Watch_Dogs and a new Tom Clancy-themed online role-playing game from its Swedish studio Massive, initially code-named Project Rogue.
When asked what benefits the potential restrictions would bring to consumers, Mr. Guillemot said there would be trade-offs that would require some getting used to.
“We have to consider what is right for each transition. People will have to adapt. Not only the gamers but the manufacturers as well,” he said. “You will be happy to take advantage of the power of all the social features that come with those consoles that will give you the possibility to have incredible experiences.
“I am sure that Microsoft and Sony will ensure that the experience is good for the consumer, that it brings great innovation compared to the old generation. I’m not too worried about that.”
Ubisoft is still interested in seeing physical retailers such as GameStop/EB Games, which have built their businesses on used games, continue to thrive because they provide customers with in-store advice and provide more visibility for new games. The used ecosystem also allows players to buy more games.
“From the beginning I liked used games because it gives gamers the possibility to take more risks. So instead of buying six games, they can buy 10 and if the money goes back, it helps to make sure that people can play different types of games,” he said. “There’s no reason it cannot continue like this.”