Used Games on the Xbox One Explained (As Well As Anyone Can Currently)

Microsoft's Xbox One has been getting a lot of flak lately for it's unclear messaging on used games. So for those that don't understand how used games work currently on the Xbox 360, here's a refresher. I can buy a used game wherever they are sold from whoever I choose and sell it back in a similar fashion. For some multi-player experiences, you might have to pay a ten dollar fee to access the multiplayer component of the game (Ubisoft, Warner Bros, and until recently, EA, Sony, and THQ). For purely single-player experiences, there are no restrictions on that sale, no additional costs, no grey area.

Microsoft's strategy with the Xbox One has been, putting it nicely, nuanced. If Microsoft wanted to make it clear that used games were to function exactly as they had, all they would have to do is say so. For instance, "We will in no way restrict, or allow others to restrict, your ability to sell the physical copy of your disc." And importantly, "We will not charge, or allow others to charge, you for the right to sell the physical copy of your disc." For example, as Sony put it, "PlayStation 4 won't impose any new restrictions on used games." This is the definition of status quo.

Currently, the line that I'm stuck on with Microsoft's messaging is the following: "Third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers." So the bit "...may opt in or out of supporting game resale..." ostensibly says, "used games may be completely blocked (depending upon the publisher's decisions)." If publishers decide to allow resale without charge, then it is essentially status quo. If they decide to deny used game sales, or charge a fee to transfer games, that is their prerogative.

The other part of that line that bothers me is the statement "We designed Xbox One so game publishers can enable you to trade in your games at participating retailers." Who are the participating retailers? Surely Gamestop will make a deal with the publishers, but I don't sell back games at Gamestop. Will have similar deals? How about Amazon? I'm almost certain that Craigslist won't be considered a "participating retailer". My friends certainly aren't participating retailers (yes, I have more than one that I regularly trade with).

So the bottom-line is, until every publisher specifically details how they're treating used games, we have more questions than answers. I know one thing for certain, I'm not buying a $400-500 console until I see how used games are actuallytreated. Talk is cheap, but used games may or may not be.