Well, this is bound to spark some controversy. On 09/12/2012 Sony’s Japanese Division filed a patent that could possibly stop the sale of pre-owned games, as well as stop people renting games or borrowing them from friends. The “War” on pre-owned games, as its so often referred to, has been going on a while now with publisher arguing that they see no profits from the pre-owned market, which is of course true, while us gamers argue that the pre-owned market is an essential part of the culture and that nobody seems to have a problem with the sale of second-hand DVDs or books.
Anyway, here’s a few bits taken from the patent to give you an idea of what we’re talking about:
“According to the present embodiment, realized is the electronic content processing system that reliably restricts the use of electronic content dealt in the second-hand markets. As a result, the dealing of electronic content in the second-hand markets is suppressed, which in turn supports the redistribution of part of proceeds from sales of the electronic content to the developers. Though in the following description a game application (AP) is exemplified as the electronic content, the present embodiment is similarly applicable to various kinds of electronic content such as an office suite, images, and music content.”
“By employing the game playing system 1000 according to the present embodiment, the use permission tag 220 together with the game disk 210 is supplied to the user, and the use permission tag 220 actively determines the use permit/rejection of electronic content. Thereby, the use of game AP stored in the game disk 210 can be restricted as appropriate according to the attribute of a reproduction device. Consider, for example, a case where used is a game package 200 distributed in the second-hand market. Then the ID of reproduction device for the game disk 210 differs from the legitimate use device ID stored in the use permission tag 220, so that the game disk can be reproduced in a mode which is predetermined for those bought and sold in the second-hand market. Also, for example, a content key may be supplied to the reproduction device 130 and the encrypted game AP may be decrypted using the content key only if the reproduction device ID matches a legitimate use device ID. Hence, use of game APs bought and sold in the second-hand market can be eliminated.”
Alright, so this is a lot of confusing jibber-jabber, but to cut a long story short, here’s a summary of what this patent entails: each game would be assigned RF tag which is capable of remembering whether it has been assigned to machine or account before, or in other words the first console or PC it was played on, regardless of Internet connection. If it detects that it has been registered to an account or machine before then the game will simply not play on another one. Got that? No? Well sod it, I’m not repeating myself.Of course this would essentially bring the sales of pre-owned Sony games or games that use the technology to a halt, because nobody would be able to play them. It’s not just pre-owned games that would suffer, though, because naturally this would also bring to a halt game rentals, or just lending a title to your mate. I lend a lot of games to friends so they can have a shot, and if they like it they’ll generally go out and buy it. Damn you, Sony! *shakes fist, rages against world etc.*Still, we should actually keep in mind that companies, and Sony on particular, file patents all of the bloody time, like they’re going out of fashion, or something, and the vast majority never actually see the light of day. As such it’s statistically quite likely that we’ll never see this technology implemented, but that doesn’t stop it from being mildly terrifying. Yes, in case you hadn’t guessed I’m firmly in the camp of keeping the pre-owned market alive, because I used to by a lot of them and appreciated the option to do so. I’d much rather see a deal made between publishers and retailers that see’s the publishers getting a percentage of every pre-owned sale, although would inevitably mean that pre-owned prices would rise, sort of defeating the concept in the process. Ah well.
The other thing worth remembering is it seems quite unlikely that Sony would implement this tech in the Playstation 4 if Microsoft don’t show signs of doing the same with their Xbox 720, because I can’t help but feel that doing so would result in quite a lot of consumers picking up the Xbox over the Playstation. I know that I would.
So, what do you think, are we going to see this tech? Or is it going to be like most patents and kept in a dark, dank dungeon somewhere?