Xbox One: Microsoft clarify pre-owned games rules

Following the confusion after Microsoft suggested that gamers might be charged a fee to play pre-owned games on its new Xbox One console, the company has released a further statement in an effort to clarify its position.

In an original post, the official Xbox support account on Twitter had informed followers that there would be no charge to gamers for playing with used games, but then a later statement caused confusion. Microsoft’s director of programming, Larry Hryb, wrote on his blog: “While there have been many potential scenarios discussed, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail.”

Microsoft - Xbox OneHryb went on to say that games could be traded in, but only at “participating retailers”, and that they could be freely passed onto friends, but only once.

“Xbox One is designed so game publishers can enable you to give your disc-based games to your friends. There are no fees charged as part of these transfers. There are two requirements: you can only give them to people who have been on your friends list for at least 30 days and each game can only be given once.”

Microsoft’s Don Mattrick spoke further about the second-hand games scenarios, adding that it would be possible for gamers to play their games at a friend’s house without paying an additional charge, but only if the game’s owner is signed in to the Xbox Live account to which it is registered. In the situation where the player wanted to lend the game to their friend, then a charge would be applicable if they wanted to play the game on a different Xbox Live profile.

And if gamers are thinking of sharing Xbox Live account details with other people, in order to circumvent paying the additional charges, Microsoft do not advise this and remind players that only one gamer can be signed in on a single profile at any one time.

It is thought that Microsoft are considering other options for pre-owned games, that include allowing gamers to pass on their ownership of a game so that they can receive a discount on new titles if bought through the Xbox Live store. It is thought that this would prove to be a popular solution for gamers who like to play sports games that typically have yearly updates, as the fans often trade in the old version to get money off the latest edition.

However, Ed Barton, director of digital media at research firm Strategy Analytics thinks any policy is more about control: “The margin on second-hand games is enormous, and the games industry has always been a little bit annoyed that it’s a few retailers that dominate the market for games. The question of lending a game to your mate is not really an issue,” he added: “The retailers could quite fairly say that around 70% of the value of pre-owned games is subsequently spent on new games. There’s a fair point that the trade-in business is pretty significant in driving new games sales. It remains to be seen whether that process will still continue.”

There are some concerns that if pre-owned games are totally blocked from Xboxes, the High Street will take the brunt, with Fiona Keenan from Kantar Worldpanel stating: “Pre-owned games made up 15% of High Street game sales in the past 24 weeks, and if they are totally blocked from the Xbox One we are likely to see High Street game sales revenue drop by 4% in the long-term. Relatively cheap pre-owned games have helped High Street stores retain customers where they might have otherwise shifted their spending online.”

There are some people who think that the debate is moot, as eventually all games will use digital technology, and physical media will die out.

Richard Wilson, chief executive of UK games industry trade association Tiga, told the BBC: “So many consumers are playing digitally, the question of lending a game to your mate is not really an issue. More important for many developers are what Microsoft’s plans are for independent developers, at E3.”

E3 is the largest trade event in the video games calendar and takes place in Los Angeles next month. More details will be released about the Xbox One console at the E3.

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