Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Xbox One and Used Games: There's Something Happening Here. What It Is Ain't Exactly Clear.

Let's look at the old way first.

I buy a game. I put the disc in the disc drive and the game plays. When I get tired of playing the game, I can sell it at a local store.

When the new owner wants to play the game, he puts the disc in the disc drive and it plays.

If I loan the game to a friend, he puts the disc in the disc drive and it plays.

Pretty simple, isn't it?

So if that's how Xbox One worked, they would just tell us that, right? Instead, we're getting gobbledygook like this:
We have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail.

We have a solution for that and we will be announcing exactly how that works in due course.

We are designing Xbox One to enable customers to trade in and resell games. We'll have more details to share later.

Really? Because it's just not that fucking complicated, pardon the language. It's only complicated if Microsoft is hiding as long as possible a policy that is going to piss almost everyone off. Here's Phil Harrison tripping over his tongue:
Harrison then explained what happens when you want to take that game beyond the borders of your own home and into a friend's place.

"I can come to your house and I can put the disc into your machine and I can sign in as me and we can play the game," he explained.

"The bits are on your hard drive. At the end of the play session, when I take my disc home - or even if I leave it with you - if you want to continue to play that game [on your profile] then you have to pay for it. The bits are already on your hard drive, so it's just a question of going to our [online] store and buying the game, and then it's instantly available to play.

"The bits that are on the disc, I can give to anybody else, but if we both want to play it at the same time, we both have to own it. That's no different to how discs operate today."

Yeah, except that's bullshit, because it's completely different. Today, I can just leave the disc with you--temporarily giving you ownership--and you can play. It doesn't cost you anything, because I already paid for the game.

The new "ownership" model works nothing like that. Why would Harrison make such an obviously illogical and untruthful claim?

Then there's the Xbox Support Twitter feed to further muddy the waters in response to a question about loaning a disc to a friend:
Again, there is no fee to install the game. Your friend will not pay a fee.

Except that doesn't answer anything, because of the specific use of the word "install." See, all they would have to do is say "Oh, no, there's no fee", but they didn't say that.

Let's look at how this will probably work, in spite of all of Microsoft's bullshit denials.

There will be a "fee". You can call it a licensing charge, or an activation fee, or whatever perfume you want to put on the pig, but we no longer own what we buy. Or we own it, but we have no right to resell it, because all the purchaser is getting for their money is an inert piece of plastic that must be activated with a third party to be playable.

The most flexible way for Microsoft to do this is to set a floor and a ceiling for the fee, then let publishers charge what they want inside those parameters. Microsoft collects the money when the game is "activated", and everybody (but us) gets their cut. Plus, Microsoft can always claim it's at the "discretion of the publisher"

How much? Well, you could do the "frog doesn't know he's in boiling water approach" and start low--say, $3.99. Then it would just get raised steadily forever.

I have a hard time believing they'll be that subtle, though. More likely, it would be in the $10 range, up to $15 for something like Call of Duty: The 37th Iteration Battalion.

This would explain why EA did away with their "Online Pass", because the new Xbox will do the same thing.

It's also possible that Microsoft would squeeze Gamestop's pelotas and make them pay a fee instead. So every time an Xbox One game was resold, Gamestop would have to write a check to Microsoft (proceeds then split with MS and the publisher). In exchange, Gamestop would give you some kind of activation code.

That's messy, though, because there are other shops that sell used games. That is, unless Gamestop becomes the official "Sole Used Games Provider" for the Xbox One.

Hmm, that sounds pretty interesting, really. Then it's a partnership, instead of an adversarial relationship.

Just remember one thing. If it was legitimately good news, they would have just told us.

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