posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 28th Mar 2012 22:29 UTC
IconThe rumour mill for the next generation of video game consoles has been churning out some juicy stuff these past few months. While Nintendo has laid most of its cards out on the table, Microsoft and Sony have remained tight-lipped, probably because their consoles are still seeing increased sales. So, we have to rely on rumours, and those rumours have one thing in common: Microsoft and Sony want to eliminate the used games market.

Many games studios have been hard at work trying to find ways to screw over people who buy used games. We've seen countless cases of launch-day downloadable content, for instance; parts of finished games are locked away behind codes you can only use once. Buy the game used, and you have to pay for new codes to unlock the missing parts. Another new staple of console gaming: codes that unlock multiplayer.

I had to enter four Windows serial key-sized codes when starting up Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning. Using a controller.

All this is being done to address the "problem" of used games sales. Companies that sell used games, like GameStop in the US or GameMania here in The Netherlands (thank god for GameMania), are doing very well, and it's easy to see why: I'm an avid gamer, but at €60 a pop, I'm only willing to buy 3-4 games new each year. Most games are simply not worth that hefty price tag, so I'd much rather wait until they hit the used market, usually only a few weeks after release.

The "problem" is that games studios and distributors do not benefit from these used games sales. Adopting RIAA-Logic™, the games industry equates every used games sale as a lost new game sale, and as such, we're actually pirates, just without the ability to legally or morally declare us so. This "problem" is something they want to address.

And thus, the rumours around the next PlayStation and the next Xbox all talk of measures to disallow used games sales. The latest round of rumours about the next PlayStation state that Sony wants to tie every game you buy to your PSN account, making it impossible to sell them on, effectively killing the used games market. It could be that buying a used game will have it locked in a trial mode, unlockable to the full version for a fee.

On top of that, it would also kill the ability to loan games to friends - something I regularly do. If a friend buys a game I'm not willing to spend money on but still want to play, I just borrow it instead. These new rumoured measures would make that impossible.

Of course, the future of console gaming is digital distribution only, much like current mobile games, which would also kill all these abilities. We're pretty much at a crossroads in console gaming, and if Microsoft and Sony really do feel comfortable enough to obliterate game borrowing and the used games market with the next generation of consoles, I will most likely just start PC gaming instead.

Aside from this bit of information about the next PlayStation, Kotaku also has some preliminary specifications: it's got an AMD x86 processor (yup, no backwards compatibility), and an AMD Southern Islands GPU, capable of hitting 4096x2160 pixels. Developer kits have already been sent out, including updated kits. It's supposed to be released during the holiday season in 2013.

Both these rumours and the rumours about the next Xbox give, in my opinion, credence to the rumours that Valve is working on a hardware project of its own - probably a set of minimum regular PC specifications developers can target. Valve has been trying to get Steam onto consoles, and while it has seen some success with this on the PS3, the Xbox remains completely elusive due to Microsoft's reticence.

While Valve is denying these rumours - very, very vaguely with lots of wiggle room and weasel words - it wouldn't surprise me at all that Valve is thinking about and working on some sort of project to compete directly with Sony and Microsoft. Even heavier locked-down consoles limit Steams growth potential, something Valve could address with relatively cheap, pre-configured Steam PCs, ready to be hooked up to TVs and with nice controllers.

Valve, please do it. But first, release Cold Stream for us Xbox peasants already, damnit.

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