There are a million unanswered questions surrounding the reveal of Microsoft’s Xbox One yesterday, with one of biggest being exactly how the next-gen console will handle used, rented, or borrowed games.
Officially, the company states one their FAQ that they “are designing Xbox One to enable customers to trade in and resell games,” but they have not yet detailed exactly how this program would work. The popular theory — which comes from a Microsoft representative speaking to Wired — is that there will be a “fee” that would need to be paid in order to install and play the next-gen games on a second Xbox Live account.
Based only off the statements from that Microsoft representative, this sounds like (and is) a horrible anti-consumer plan. However, if all that is required to install and play used/borrowed games is a small fee, this could end up being a huge windfall for consumers at the expense of Microsoft and third-party publishers.
Since next-gen Xbox One software prices have not been announced, let’s assume that Microsoft sticks to the current $60 price point for new games. Additionally, let’s assume that this “used game fee” is $10 — similar to EA’s scrapped Online Pass program. In this situation it would be extremely easy for two friends to get together, buy one new copy of a game ($30 each), pay an extra $10 to install/activate the game on the second Xbox One console, and they end up paying just $35 each for the $60 game.
Expand that situation out to three friends and the price drops to about $26.67. Four friends, would pay $22.50 each. Five friends, $20. Six friends, $18.34, and so on.
Even better, imagine that you purchase the new Xbox One game yourself for $60 and then go around town charging $15 to install that same game on other people’s consoles. They get a new game for $25, and you have yourself a nice little slightly-shady business model.
Naturally, Microsoft could easily block schemes like this by putting a limit on the number of times that any single copy of a game can be installed on another system. Of course, any restriction like that would trample all over the first-sale doctrine, and put them in hot water with retailers who have trade-in programs.
Obviously, the best course of action here would be for Microsoft to drop this entire idea of putting any kind of fee on used/borrowed/rented Xbox One games and allow the market to operate as it always has. Hopefully, some executive in the halls of Microsoft’s corporate office comes to that realization before their official used-game plans are announced.