Last year, I wrote about using online content (especially the user-generated variety) to discourage piracy of single-player games. Of course, this strategy could help reduce video game resale as well.
It recently occurred to me that Xbox Live has provided an easy way for developers to make a (small) dent in game resale. It just requires a simple modification to an existing feature. I am referring to Xbox 360 Achievements, which have proven to be potent motivators for hardcore gamers. What if a given copy of a game could only generate Achievements for one Xbox Live account? Consumers who purchase used copies of the game can still enjoy it (as is their legal right), but can’t score points.
I admit that this won’t make a big dent, but it’s so easy that even if it decreases game resale by just 1% it might be worth it. And there’s no doubt that a large percentage of hardcore gamers buy used games… after all, many hardcore gamers can’t necessarily afford to buy all the games they want to play! (Achievements might very well prove attractive to casual gamers over time, too. But I can say for certain that they’re appealing to many hardcore gamers right now.)
If you’re skeptical about the long-term potency of Achievements, you need only visit Pogo.com’s premium service, Club Pogo. Users of Club Pogo can win “badges” by completing gameplay challenges. (Badges are simply images with no inherent value, beyond emotional value). While few people (if any) sign up for Club Pogo just to win badges, a high percentage of Club Pogo users eventually become addicted to the pursuit of badges. This has been going on for years, and Club Pogo has added several new features that enable users to better “enjoy” and pursue badges — purely in response to the surprising potency of badges as a positive motivator.
Now, a few potential problems: this might annoy families with more than one gamer in the house, and it might frustrate people who attend “gamer parties” (i.e. only one attendee of the party can score points.) The first issue might be rectified by introducing the concept of “family” into Xbox Live. (That might be a good idea for other reasons… it seems strange that everyone in a family should pay full price for Xbox Live). The second issue is trickier, but also seems less significant to me.
Regardless, you could address both issues by linking Achievements for a given copy of a game to a specific console, rather than a specific Xbox Live account. The problem then is: what if the console dies? (That’s an unlikely event, but worth mentioning.)
I’m sure there are other issues that I haven’t thought of, but I wanted to get a discussion going, so there you are. I should also note that, as I’ve said in the past: I am not inherently against used game resale. I think it opens the market to people with limited income. So I’m trying to come up with ideas that permit consumers to enjoy used games, but that make used games just slightly less attractive to people who can afford new games but simply choose not to buy them. It’s a delicate balance. Maybe I’m onto something here. Maybe not. What do you think? :)