I bought the Dungeon Siege Complete collection for $4.99 on Steam earlier this week. A hack-and-slash series that nails the same notes that made Diablo memorable, this package includes the excellent original, its stellar sequel, and the not-spectacular-but-still-solid third installment. There was even some Dungeon Siege III DLC tossed in to sweeten the weakest side of this deal. That’s up to (or even beyond) 100 hours of adventurous entertainment, and all for under five bucks.
Meanwhile, I can’t even pick up a used copy of Call of Duty 2 – an Xbox 360 launch title – at GameStop for this tantalizing price.
Also, who the hell’s still paying 10 bucks for King Kong?
The online gaming enthusiast community exploded at the end of last month when vague reports of steep fees required to play pre-owned games trickled out in the aftermath of the Xbox One reveal event. That spark reignited this morning when we discovered the truth behind Microsoft’s convoluted approach to this industry-wide hot topic, with much of the secondhand market left in the hands of publishers (translation: don’t expect open access to used games on your Xbone). As with every move that constricts consumer freedom, the tech-savvy angry mobs opted for comment sections and message boards over pitchforks and torches to get their point across. These passionate screams even made their way to Sony, the brief #PS4NoDRM Twitter campaign recognized and respected by a few big wigs heading up Microsoft’s competition. Regardless of the response, though, we’ve received no confirmation that the PlayStation 4 will be able to play used titles without restrictions. Despite the
blood, sweat, and Twitter tears dedicated to creating catchy hashtag trends, secondhand games will likely be a lot less accessible across the board in the next generation.
And maybe that’s not so bad.
Hear me out before you start cocking your shotgun with murderous intent in your eyes. I do not intend to step on any toes of the less affluent who depend on trade-ins to stay involved with this dynamic hobby. Nor do I intend to argue that used games are an insidious plague crippling this industry (as I believe just the opposite, actually). No, I intend to paint a perfect picture of a digital-leaning next-gen that could be, one that exchanges the secondhand market for a Steam-esque landscape.
Look at it, feel comforted, and forget that I might’ve said something contentious.
Imagine a world where online stores on consoles no longer have to worry about maintaining high prices to keep physical retailers relevant. Imagine it and smile at the thought of publishers and developers alike having complete control over the price of their game downloads. Watch Dogs’ marketing team notices a major drop-off in sales after this holiday season? Well then, how does 66% off sound to entice those Christmas dollars out of pockets? Sounds nice – Steamy, one might say – and a helluva lot better than the $50 you’d still be paying for a pre-owned copy at the nearest GameStop. Consider this hypothetical instance and expand its concept as a trend embraced throughout the next generation. Before long, that Xbox One digital collection could balloon to numbers rivaling our absurd Steam libraries without ever needing to spend a cent over thirty bucks for any individual title. What’s better, even relatively insignificant $5 purchases would still support the actual game creators and not some middle man monolith.
I understand this scenario might only exist as wishful thinking in my naive mind, and some are hardly convinced that it could happen at all. Jim Sterling, for example, posits that Valve is driven to enact its deep discounts because of the healthy competition from Amazon, Green Man Gaming, GOG.com, and every other potential source of the same software. While he believes this struggle to be the best doesn’t exist in the console space, I’d argue just the opposite. What gaming companies are constantly battling to outdo one another with more ferocious energy than Sony and Microsoft? What entities have more on the line than the two debuting new systems simultaneously to define the near-future of the video game environment? Why wouldn’t these rivals strive for the lowest software prices to attain another boasting point to plaster onto posters in Wal-Mart’s electronics section? I have no answer to any of these questions because, to me, the formula is clear:
- Everybody loves Steam.
- Sony and Microsoft want everybody to love them.
- Steam frequently features extreme game discounts.
- Sony and Microsoft follow suit, just as they did this generation when trying to out-Wii the Wii.
This behavior has been hinted at in the past year or so with the occasional mass price drops on console-specific stores (especially within the PlayStation Plus program), but putting an end to appeasing a certain now-powerful used games retailer could boost the prevalence of these deals to a point more in line with the lovely situation PC gamers adore.
I’m ready to get rid of this damn rabbit.
Ultimately, people love used games because used games save them money. Whether directly with less expensive purchases up front or indirectly via store credit, the system minimizes the cost of gaming in general. However, if next-gen game prices fluctuate as often as they do in the current PC market, would anybody really miss them? If nearly ever title could be yours for $20 during some sale within a year of its release, would GameStop’s pre-owned shelves really matter? If you can grab your Dungeon Siege equivalents for five bucks before too long, who cares about used games? Not I, so stand beside me in this idealistic future as we wave goodbye to those controversial relics once and for all.
If nothing else, it’ll give us one less thing to fight about.
Image credit: Digital Trends