The industry’s pre-owned U-turn continues to gather pace.
Fresh after Sony’s admission yesterday that used games do not necessarily damage the industry’s “economy”, EA has now said that pre-owned games “are an important part of the industry”.
“The [next-gen] boxes have been designed so you can start to play the game while you’re downloading or so [by] the time it’s available midnight the game is ready to play, but the average consumer is still tends to want to grab something to play it immediately,” EA CFO and executive VP Blake Jorgensen told investors, as reported by Seeking Alpha. “So that downloading capability is still going to be based around bandwidth
“I also think that used games are an important part of the industry. People think about the price of a game based on the fact that they can still return that game and they need a physical disk to do that. And so that will probably keep the physical business around for some period of time as well.”
It all heralds a remarkable reversal from the days where the industry seemed to be rounding on pre-owned. The likes of Bethesda and Volition have publically come out either in favour of anti pre-owned measures or of finding a way to share their revenues, and of course Xbox One for a brief period looked to be directly assaulting the pre-owned market.
Those plans were famously scrapped and even the likes of EA’s Online Pass, a system that punished pre-owned buyers but was vigorously defended at the very highest level by EA execs, have even been abandoned.
MCV, of course, has always maintained that any attack on the pre-owned market would be hugely damaging to the overall industry.
The change of tact is likely based on two factors.
Firstly, proposals to block pre-owned were met with a huge consumer backlash. When you’re in the process of trying to convenience gamers to spend £400 on your new console, backlashes are not particularly the order of the day.
Secondly, while the digital future may certainly be approaching it’s being slowed by the world’s internet infrastructure. Put bluntly, for the time being at least publishers and platform holders still need physical product, and that in turn requires a healthy and functional games retail sector to provide it.
“Both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have the ability through their life services to download full games day in day meaning when the games comes out,” Jorgensen added. “The biggest impediment still appears to be bandwidth coming into the house and while bandwidth speeds have improved dramatically over the last five years, unfortunately because the processing power of the new boxes is so high, the size of games have increased dramatically.
“And so all of the benefits that we got from faster bandwidth is probably eaten up by bigger games. To give you an example Battlefield, on a download into the new PlayStation still takes about six hours.
“We spend a lot of time looking at the record business and it’s surprising, but despite the fact that probably no one in this room has bought CD lately, there is [still] a lot of CDs being sold. And so I think there will be a physical business for a long period of time.
“And so you might still buy a physical disk but you might then extend the game play on that by ten months or 12 months based on digital extensions to it where all that comes via downloads and it’s coming as smaller pieces so you don’t have some of the big upfront client issues that you have with the physical product.”