So I was checking out the news over at Ars Technica's Opposable Thumbs gaming section when the two big posts of the day sat one beside the other. It was almost like a point-counterpoint, but the big point of both--one more so than the other--was the concept of used games. So I ran through the both of them and now bring a bit of commentary into the field about the importance of used games, specifically, is it so very?
First came the word out of GameStop, who, while having something of a vested interest in the existence of used games, still managed to bring out some fairly hard numbers in favor of used games. Basically, GameStop cited some of its own internal research that said as many as 60 percent of gamers would turn down a console that didn't allow for gamers to play other people's games. Some may respond skeptically to this--it's about like the Keebler company saying that if people don't get a cookie at least three times a week they go into homicidal rages--and GameStop's likely methods probably didn't help. Some posit that GameStop got that information by offering gamers a chance at a cash prize to fill out a survey, and that may make this a bit more overblown than expected. Still...even accounting for a substantial error margin, even 50 percent, means that there's a pretty large chunk of the gaming market that isn't about to stand for this.
But the second point came from the CFO of EA, Blake Jorgensen, who advanced some information about the likely next generation of gaming. Not only does said official believe that the next generation of gaming console won't boast backward compatibility, but he also seems to believe that used gaming--while maybe not out of the market completely--is going to be hard-pressed to keep up. Basically, Jorgensen believes that the always-on connectivity is going to be required in order to properly connect with the users. That always-on connection that's so necessary in Jorgensen's view means that it's going to be tough to engineer a way to allow for used games, yet at the same time, make that connection.
Interestingly, Jorgensen didn't specifically say that was going to be the case with this generation, rather that it was a matter that "down the road" may pose a problem. This poses an interesting theory in its own right; everyone may be looking at the problem of used games, but may be simply projecting it to this generation.
Removing companies like Gamefly and many video stores--as well as a large swath of GameStop's business--isn't the kind of thing that's going to engender goodwill and good feeling from customers. In a slow economy, Sony and Microsoft need that goodwill more than anything.
Used games are, to answer the question the headline asked, a pretty big deal indeed. Even if the GameStop survey is half wrong, that's still a third of gamers who shop at GameStop who will react negatively if used games are removed from consideration. That's a pretty big margin, and a whole lot of gamers that one--or maybe two--companies may well lose. Will they take that chance? Only time will tell.