There's been a lot of discussion these last few weeks about how next gen consoles might have security checks in place that make it impossible to play a game on more than one console. By the way different publishers and company executives are talking, it just might become a reality. But I'm here to say it can't.
At least, if the company wants to survive this generation, it can't. Anyone who attempts to block the sales of used games or the ability to play their games on multiple consoles will not last long for a number of reasons that I'm about to explain below.
Before we begin, let's discuss what we've heard so far from the front lines of the next generation. On the Xbox side of things we've had Ian Livingstone from Eidos mentioning that the next Xbox could have always online DRM and no used game blocks on their discs. This is to be taken with a grain of salt due to it not coming directly from Microsoft, but we'll see.
On the Sony side of things, its all still a bit muddled. They've said its an important issue and that they'll do the right thing, but they've also said it won't block used games and it'll be up to the different publishers if they wanted to block them or not. I'm worried that they don't have a straight answer, but hopefully that means they just don't know yet.
Now onto why having no used games would be disastrous for anyone who thinks they can get away with it. We'll start with the retail side of things. You might not want to admit it, but Gamestop is a pretty big deal. It's the main place where all the kids buy their Call of Dutys and Pac-Mans, and it is also a business that exists thanks to used sales.
If Sony and Microsoft cut out any of the places that make their money off of used sales, they're also cutting off their most used retail markets. When you see a midnight sale for Call of Duty - it isn't at a Walmart; it's at Gamestop. And those Gamestops are practically everywhere. Cutting them out of the deal would be like studios cutting out DVD sales and exclusively dealing in Blu-ray.
Sure, they don't have to deal with an older dying technology, but now they're missing out on the millions they would have made if they had just accepted that people still use DVDs. Gamestop is the DVD in this situation. If you get rid of Gamestop, you might be getting rid of used games, but you're also getting rid of the place where most casual gamers get their games. While not a death blow for the console giants, it would take a cut out of their oh-so-important casual market.
But odds are if just one console does do away with used sales, Gamestop won't die. They'll just stop stocking that system's games or severely cut down on its stock of them. Look at the PC section in your Gamestop (assuming it even has a PC section). They don't get used sales from PC games, so they just don't stock them. Imagine what kind of damage could be dealt if the PS4 shelf was just as small as the PC shelf at launch.
To be fair, what I just described is more or less the doomsday scenario, and rather unlikely to happen. That doesn't mean it can't happen, but I would be surprised if things really got that bad next generation. What is more likely to happen, however, is a death by their own consumer. While losing the casual support of Gamestop would be a pretty bad deal, losing the support of the more hardcore crowd would be even worse.
We've seen it before. Companies have used stupid practices to make it harder to pirate their games, only to see sales drop because actual customers were the only ones being negatively effected by the hurdles beings placed in front of all of their games. To make things worse, if only one console blocks used games or things end up being on a company to company basis, then those locked games will be on the shelves alongside games that won't lock you out. Which one are you more likely to give your money to? The one that makes things harder for you, or the one that you're free to play on any console?
People will just stop buying the games that can't be played on multiple consoles. Why should they be locked while others aren't? The answer is they shouldn't be locked in the first place. If you lock your disc then you're locking out your consumers. You lock out your consumers and they'll stop buying your games. They stop buying your games and you die. The end.