GameStop May Fight Back Against "Orbis", Analysts Predict -
For a few months now gamers have been clamoring for as much information at possible about the next generation of systems. You can't really blame them, previously systems only lasted about four or five years and this is truly the first generation of consoles that through online updates and small hardware improvements–a la the PS3 and Xbox 360 slim units–that has some serious longevity to it. Well, that and Nintendo got the juices flowing with the announcement of the Wii U.
Now, as long as the players have been begging for more, the developers have been begging for less–used games, that is.
If you remember awhile back we reported on two cases where both Peter Moore, COO of Electronic Arts, and Chris Avellone, an Exec over at Obsidian, made it pretty clear they believe the future of the used game market is looking pretty bleak. Developers generally hate used games because they don't see any continued profit on the sale of a used title–all the profit goes to stores like GameStop and the like.
Now, not to editorialize, but if you've read those previous articles you already know my opinion on the matter. Looking for short gains the developers dislike of the format is totally justified. However, if you play the long game, for lack of a better pun, what you stand to gain from used sales is almost greater than the aforementioned short gains. I know I'd have never bought Gears of War 2 or 3 at launch if I hadn't played the origina Gears of War used, and the same stands for several other titles too–including Mass Effect.
While all this has gone on, however, GameStop, America's largest used games retailer, has remained stoicly silent on the whole matter–despite, arguably, having the most to lose from a future free of used games.
Now, with the rumored announcement that the PS4, currently codenamed Orbis will be designed so that used games will not be playable, professionals outside the industry have begun to speculate options for the retail chain. The general idea is that the next gen console will strictly operate on a digital download system, with no disc drive at all, or have some proprietary hardware that will be able to tell the difference between new and used games–though both options have setbacks that make following through on their word seem almost impossible.
That being the case, according to a recent interview in GamesIndustry International, Michael Patcher, an anaylist for Wedbush Securities, thinks that GameStop likely has plans in motion to combat the fervor against their mainstay.
According to Patcher, "It isn't really in Sony's or Microsoft's best interests to block used games. It would benefit Activision and EA slightly, and would hurt GameStop a great deal. If Sony unilaterally did this, I could see GameStop refusing to carry their console, and sales of the PS4 would therefore suffer."
Patcher isn't alone either; other analysts believe that Sony would be essentially cutting off their nose to spite their face should they follow through with the supposed Orbis restriction, particularly if they end up being the only console to do so.
IDC's research manager, Lewis Ward, understands why it is that developers want used games to go away, but also can appreciate the plight of the customer in all of this.
"Customers would rebel," he said. "Until there's the equivalent of a great 'used' digital console game trade-in program up and running, gamers will continue to like the ability to trade in discs and basically get discounts on other games…I can certainly see Sony stepping up the idea of $10 online passes for connected multiplayer and so on, but especially for families of limited means or that have a narrowband connection at home, the ability to buy/trade use discs is an important reason why they buy game consoles in the first place."
He also noted that if it is a hardware or software solution, it is likely hackers will quickly develop ways to circumvent any provisions placed on the new console.
We attemtped to reach out to GameStop for comment and a representative of the company shared with us their recent Q4 2011 Earnings Conference Call. Though largely discussing the effect a full-on digital console would have on GameStop, CEO Paul Raines had this to say for the company's plans:
[W]e all know that there's a lot of unknowns around the console business right now.We read and hear all the rumors and everything that you guys read.We don't really have a lot more information than that. But we have tried to be clear-eyed about this…So what I'm pleased about and I think the team is pleased about is we've got lots of other growth initiatives…number one, I think we all have to understand GameStop has a very large business with our partners in the console business that changing that model is a large business put at risk. However, we like our process for selling digital businesses.We like what we've done with DLC…So we think our ability to acquire customers and sell them digital content is really being well-proven…we're not sitting here gloomy about console at all.We see some hot titles.We know that our strategy works around gaining share…So while there are some unknowns, we think that there are some real strengths in that console business.
So, dear readers, what do you think? Are developers being greedy in their pursuit to eliminate the used game markets, or are they just protecting their best interests? Would you expect GameStop to fight back, or would you be upset to find out that they don't plan to carry your new system?
Tell us your thoughts below!
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