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LOS ANGELES — When Jack Tretton, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, stood on stage at a pre-Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference and stated there would be no online authentication, digital rights management, or used game restrictions on the new PlayStation 4 console, the reaction of the audience was immediate and vocal.
For Tony Bartel, president of video game retailer GameStop, it was the roar heard ’round the world.
“I think the highlight … was the roar that went up, the deafening roar that I can still kind of barely hear, because it was so loud when they said, ‘We’re going to allow you to do with the disc what you want to do with it,’” he told GamesBeat in a recent interview. “I think it’s something we know, that gamers want to be able to trade it in their games or just own their disc, and I think what it said to the rest of the world is, yes, there’s a lot of passion around that issue out there. So it’s really exciting to see Sony go straight to the heart of the gamer and say, ‘Do with your disc what you want it to do.’”
Bartel is also glad that Microsoft recently cleared up its own position on used games, an issue near to his company’s heart (and especially its bottom line).
“I think they’ll still continue to clarify their message more,” he said. “But basically what they said is ‘unlimited ability to trade disc-based games at retail.’ And so I think that was well received by the gamers.
“I’m very excited that they did that. I think that was a major concern of some consumers. For them to come out and clarify that, that unlimited nature of it in that policy, I think was an important clarification.”
Although Microsoft said it will permit customers to trade in and resell games at participating retailers, which includes GameStop, it will also allow third-party publishers to opt-out of reselling games or to charge a used game fee. But Bartel believes publishers will choose to do neither. “The reality is that they’ve had that ability to opt-in and opt-out,” he said. “They have that ability today on the Xbox 360 and on the PS3 system.”
Bartel points to Electronics Arts’ Online Pass — and its recent decision to abandon the controversial practice — as an example. “We know they weren’t selling a whole lot at GameStop … and they just abandoned it,” he said. “So that’s been around, the ability to try and limit the transfer of used games. It’s been around.”
Despite what some industry folk might think, GameStop doesn’t cannibalize new game sales, Bartel said. It contributes to it, he maintains. Seventeen percent of all new game purchases done at a GameStop involve credit from trading in games, according to Bartel, and he believes publishers won’t risk losing those sales. “I think publishers understand, and I think publishers were not surprised either by the response Sony got,” he said. “Because they understand how valuable the trade of games is toward keeping the frontline market share and the frontline titles going.”
Ultimately, Bartel is not worried about the next-generation of consoles. “I think it’s business as usual.”