This year has seen a significant amount of speculation that both the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 could attempt to flatline the secondhand games market (thereby hammering more nails into the coffin of brick-and-mortar outlets like GameStop) by incorporating anti-used game measures and eschewing backwards compatibility.
Such a move would galvanize publisher/developer profits; even with online passes and content locking, most companies have struggled to monetize used transactions — which mostly occur among individual consumers and retail stores. But who wants to be the first brave sole to tell the public that paying more should be the way of the future?
Enter Rasmus Hojengaard, Crytek’s director of creative development. Speaking to CVG last week about Crysis 3 and the next generation of consoles, Hojengaard imparted that he favored the rumored restrictive measures:
“From a business perspective that would be absolutely awesome. It’s weird that [second-hand] is still allowed because it doesn’t work like that in any other software industries, so it would be great if they could somehow fix that issue as well.”
For consumers — many of whom grow contentious when Kingdoms of Amalur stashes major quests under an online pass or Batman: Arkham City hides Catwoman behind a 12-digit code — the disdain was palpable. As if recognizing the need to placate fans (and prospective customers, who recently got a first glimpse of Crysis 3 in its gameplay trailer) Hojengaard again reached out to CVG, this time distancing himself and Crytek from the statements:
“My comment made in the interview released on the 24th of April, touching upon ‘blocking sales of used games’, was not intended to be taken seriously nor representative of the opinion of Crytek.”
Sounds like someone got scolded. Look, we know it’s easy for quotes to be taken out of context, especially in written interview excerpts, but both Hojengaard’s backtracking statement and his original interview remarks seem to be uttered with an equal tone of veracity and candor. Who’s to say he means it when he says he didn’t mean it?
Regardless of the intent, the real issue is that companies are clearly interested in curbing the used game trade. A huge amount of developer revenue is missed out on when a transaction doesn’t result in the shipping of a new unit. This we’ve known for quite some time, and it’s only going to become a bigger problem if the economy continues to tighten its grip and induce more layoffs like those at EA, Sony, THQ, Obsidian, Eat Sleep Play, and others.
That being said, there’s an equally compelling argument for the brand initiation potential generated in the pre-owned market. A new PS3 owner who takes advantage of a deal to discover the wonders of the Uncharted franchise might just be responsible for the sales boost of Uncharted 4. Publishers, developers, and console manufacturers will all have to decide whether cutting out secondhand sales is a worthwhile endeavor — or if the real threat isn’t a more nefarious entity, like hackers and pirates.
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