One of the fascinating rumors circulating about the Xbox 720 — and boy are there some doozies — is that Microsoft’s next Xbox will prevent the playing of used games. While gamers and a certain behemoth retail chain may balk at the possibility, Saints Row The Third design director Jameson Durall says that online passes are “a band-aid on a larger wound” and believes that locking out pre-owned games would be a “fantastic change” for the industry. In a recent blog post, Durall goes beyond speculation and into detail on how Microsoft might accomplish this.
As Durall explains, the technology behind such a measure is firmly in place on the PC side of gaming. “Each retail disc would likely need that unique key somewhere in the code so the account would be able to link it properly.” Similar to the way PC games ship with unique activation keys, and the way EA’s Origin service can tie a particular game not only to your account, but to unique hardware identifiers present on your computer.
Believe it or not, this model already exists on console platforms. Last year, DC Universe Online for PS3 was tethered to your machine via a one-time use code. In fact, this model reaches all the way back to the Sega Dreamcast era, when a copy of Phantasy Star Online bound itself permanently to you Dreamcast console.
Another way to implement this “new game only” strategy is by circumventing existing rental outlets like Redbox and relying on an internal rental system created by Microsoft “which would maybe give them a code that activates the game for X days and they are charged a small amount. It would also send a percentage of the rental to the developer with each rental – likely improving the overall revenue we would receive from it.”
Where have we seen this before? Cloud gaming service OnLive already does it.
What about the popular practice of simply loaning games to friends? “The license of the game could be transferred for a set time to another Gamertag and the original owner won’t be able to play during that time. Seems like it could work,” Durall explained. Where have we seen this implemented? Amazon already does this in the form of their Kindle books lending policy.
It’s clear that by using models already in place, Microsoft could effectively lock out the used game market from their next Xbox console, but they wouldn’t be gaining any friends with Best Buy, Gamestop, or online retailers like Amazon.com.
[Read more from Jameson on his blog]