While it’s no secret that gaming publishers and developers detest used game sales, Nintendo apparently wants to stomp out the business by making hardware sales permanent.
According to MTV Multiplayer, Nintendo’s first step into squashing out used games sales is through the release of the upcoming Wii Speak headset. Apparently, the peripheral comes with a sixteen-digit code - or rather a "Wii Download Ticket Number" - required to unlock the Wii Speak channel. Without the channel installed onto the console, the Wii Speak microphone is useless. The catch is that the code can only be used once, and Nintendo clearly states in fine print that it has no plans to re-issue codes.
So what does this mean to gamers? The Wii Speak peripheral cannot be sold used, and those who initially buy it new and thus lose the number are stuck with the useless thing forever. "A Nintendo rep further clarified to me that the channel won’t be able to be downloaded through any other means," wrote MTV Multiplayer’s Stephen Totilo. "You won’t be able to get it off the Wii Shopping Channel manually, nor would you be able to buy it. Essentially, the Wii Speak Channel will be available to new purchasers of the Wii Speak mic and that’s it."
While it’s no secret that publishers and developers want to cash in on used games sales, Nintendo is one of the first to address the hardware aspect. However, just last week Epic Games’ president Michael Capps spoke out about used games and rentals, saying that some developer comrades were pondering over the idea of making end-game battles downloadable content to purchase, thus forcing the "secondary market" to shell out bucks nevertheless. Thus, the company released Gears of War 2 with a special download code for five classic maps that can be used only once.
But if Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft decide to address hardware sales as well, that may ultimately hinder overall sales of gaming equipment, forcing gamers to decide if the purchase is worth a lifetime commitment. After all, most consumers are accustomed to "upgrading" hardware by bringing the equipment in to retails shops such as EB Games and GameStop and receiving a credit towards the purchase of a newer model. These retail outlets in turn also depend on the sales these used games and equipment, as all profits go straight to the company, and do not filter down to manufacturers. A new copy of Alone in the Dark Inferno will sell for $50 when released this Tuesday, yet EB Games will purchase a used copy for $19 and re-sell the game for $45. That’s $26 Atari will never see.
But if the industry moves to digital distribution, local used game stores and industry giants like EB Games will face a huge crunch in numbers, possibly closing some retail outlets altogether. But publishers and developers couldn’t care less: they just want to see green, and Bungie’s audio director Marty O’Donnell hinted to that when talking about used games sales hurt the Halo franchise.
"It’s hard to gauge the effect of used game sales on Halo, but I’m sure it’s big," O’Donnell commented. "Complaining about sales when you have a multi-million seller is somewhat difficult to justify, but it seems to me that the folks who create and publish a game shouldn’t stop receiving income from further sales."
He’s correct in that aspect, and perhaps in the near future there can exist a happy medium for gamers who purchase hardware and software new, and for those who like to wait to pick up the items at a cheaper price. Perhaps the answer to the whole deal is to simply cut the retail cost of everything, then perhaps said companies could rack in sales where otherwise would go to other outlets.
But locking consumers to the hardware they purchase? That’s just crazy, and apparently Nintendo has no problem forcing consumers to shell out $30 for a microphone that will eventually become useless. Let’s hope that the auto industry doesn’t catch on and force consumers to keep their cars forever and ever.