Used Games

A rumor is swirling today that Microsoft will permit retailers like GameStop to sell used Xbox One games, but the manufacturer will take a cut of each second-hand sale.

An alleged retail source told U.K. industry site MCV that when a customer brings in a used game, the retailer must check that disc in with Microsoft’s Azure cloud system. That check would wipe it from the previous gamer’s account. Then once the retailer sells the game to a new customer, Microsoft takes an automatic cut of the sale. Another rumor, this time from Eurogamer, suggests Microsoft will institute a flat fee that the retailer will have to pay. This will enable Microsoft to control the price of used games, since it’ll have to be higher than the fee.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft, which pointed us to this post from its spokesperson Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb:

The ability to trade in and resell games is important to gamers and to Xbox. Xbox One is designed to support the trade in and resale of games. Reports about our policies for trade in and resale are inaccurate and incomplete. We will disclose more information in the near future.

Which rumors are inaccurate, and which are incomplete? Microsoft still won’t say. That left us to contact GameStop, which refused to comment.

At this point, nothing is confirmed, but we reached out to some independent gaming stores to see how something like this might affect them. It turns out that at least a few are ready to drop second-hand Xbox One games from their shelves if the reported Microsoft fee is too steep.

“We would still carry new Xbox One games, but probably not used because the demand for them would probably drop significantly,” David Lyon told GamesBeat. Lyon manages Ultimate Video Game Connection in Columbus, Ohio. “If they were going to charge a [large fee], it would eliminate [the margin] on used sales.”

Again, Microsoft won’t say if any fee exists. Other stores will try to play ball with the company first to see if they can make it work.

“If it’s still profitable for us, then we’ll still try to carry used games,” Toun Keovichitch, the manager at GameTrader in Portland, Ore., told GamesBeat. “If it’s not worth it, then we might discontinue it. ”

If it does work, Ultimate Video Game Connection expects a move like this would demolish trade prices.

“Take a game like Injustice, which just came out a few weeks ago, we generally give people $30 in trade for that,” said Lyon. “If the fee was anywhere near that price, we’d only be able to give $5 or maybe $10 in trade.”

Likewise, GameTrader is frightened that it could go from making $10 to $15 for a used-game sale to making $2 to $3.

This is assuming that either of these small businesses could implement Microsoft’s Azure cloud-verification tool into their computer systems. If that requires a software or hardware overhaul, both GameTrader and UVGC might bow out before they even have to start dealing with the fee.

“It would be very difficult to implement into our business,” said Lyon. “We’re a family-owned store. It would be difficult to build something new into our current system.”

That left both Lyon and Keovichitch thinking that they would suggest Sony’s new hardware to their customers.

“I would definitely push them toward the PlayStation 4,” said Keovichitch. “Working at a used-games store, it’s really hard to feel positive about the Xbox One with these rumors about this used-game policy. People want to own stuff.”

Lyon echoed that sentiment, saying: “If Microsoft does confirm the fee, I would suggest PlayStation 4.”

For now, Microsoft still isn’t giving details of its policies. Meanwhile, gamers are growing anxious, and small retailers like the GameTrader and UVGC are starting to recommend PS4 over Xbox One. Maybe Microsoft is confident this won’t be a problem, but it sure looks like one right now.

Top image via GameStop