Sony's new physical format has the potential to change the face of the pre-owned market.
Earlier this morning, the platform holder confirmed that the flash-based card for its upcoming Next Generation Portable will store the full software titles plus add-on game content” at the device's big unveiling.
Tying downloadable content to the same card as its associated game is more than just an innovative storage system – it shifts the perception of value for that card. Your NGP copy will no longer be just a copy of the new Uncharted: it now also holds the additional multiplayer maps, extra weapons and episodic mission packs.
And this could be the key to deterring trade-ins on NGP: as consumers invest more in DLC, the value of the card increases because their purchases are tangibly connected to it. Trading a title in therefore becomes more than exchanging a single item: consumers will be giving away a collection of products.
Granted, the same can be said of any console titles for which gamers have purchased DLC, but placing the focus on the game card – the item they will be physically handing over –makes the process of trading in games a considerably less throwaway affair.
The prospect of pre-owned NGP titles could also be interesting for second users. DLC will presumably be locked to individual PSN accounts, but the associated files will still be on the card. What happens to this content when someone else buys the game?
The DLC will almost certainly be inaccessible and perhaps even invisible to the second user. It is feasible that this content would be unlocked once they purchase it for themselves from the PlayStation Store, but until then it will be taking up valuable space on the card, hindering the second user.
If this is the case, the value of pre-owned games will rise for both the retailer and the second-user. If not, the locked DLC on the card will serve as a deterrent: why by a game with limited storage space when you can buy a fresh copy?
Of course, all of these scenarios will be entirely dependent on publishers' DLC support for their NGP titles. While the market has yet to take off on traditional handhelds, almost every major console release is supported by the long-term rollout of additional content.
Beyond the obvious examples of Halo and Call of Duty map packs, Bethesda's Fallout 3 used this strategy particularly well, as did 2K's Borderlands – a title that arguably would have otherwise disappeared from both the shelves and charts if it weren't for a strong DLC plan.
Even Angry Birds keeps iOS gamers coming back with additional challenges and seasonal updates. If Sony and third-party NGP supporters can harness this, the handheld's impact on the pre-owned market could be the most significant in years.