Sony Patents Anti-Used Game Technology

sony patent

For the last year or so, rumors that the next generation of consoles from Microsoft and Sony might block the playing of used games have abounded. Arguments measuring the pros and cons of such a move have been bandied back and forth, as have arguments about whether or not it’d even be a wise move. According to a Sony patent filing that’s hit the web today, however, the rumors seem very much like reality.

The filing is for an “electronic content processing system, electronic content processing method, package of electronic content, and use permission apparatus.” In short, the tech system can be used to scan an ID tag on a game disc, which will then be locked to a user’s account. The patent filing offers extremely detailed descriptions of the ways that the tech works, but Sony doesn’t hide its intentions at all:

“The development of electronic content including game applications (APs) is costly and therefore in a content business it is vital to redistribute part of proceeds from sales of the electronic content to the developers. On the other hand, the electronic content is being bought and sold in second-hand markets. In such a scheme where the electronic content is bought and sold in the second-hand markets or the like, the sales proceeds resulting therefrom are not redistributed to the developers. Also, since the users who have purchased the second-hand items are somehow no longer potential buyers of the content, the developers would lose their profits otherwise gained in the first place. […]

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. AsS 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.”

Game publishers and developers have long bemoaned the used game market, claiming (probably very justifiably) that second-hand sales have hurt their bottom line considerably. Taking into account how much it costs to make and distribute a game, to see so many people buy the game used and not get those profits must hurt.

But at the same time…isn’t that kind of the price you pay for operating in an economy such as this? To me, when I buy a thing—no matter what that thing is—it’s mine, and I should be able to do with it what I want as long as it’s not illegal (such as duping and distributing/reselling it). If I want to sell it to a buddy of mine, or on eBay, that’s something I should be able to do. This tech will still allow that, but it’ll make that sale worthless it seems.

From what I can tell, there don’t seem to be any descriptions of how a game’s tag might be transferred to a different user’s ID. For lots of games today, when you buy them used, you may not be able to play them online without paying a fee to get an access code. It’s not a pretty process, but it seems at least a little fair to the developers who lose money on used sales.

This, however, seems like it cuts the consumer—and retail reseller—out of consideration entirely. I totally understand the ways in which Sony and its software development partners will benefit from this. And as businesses, it’s their job to make as much money as possible—I totally get that. But it’s hard not to see this—if, in fact, the technology is included in the next Sony console—as a way to screw customers and retailers.

Freepatentsonline via Eurogamer

  1. Any info how this would affect multiple profiles/tags on the same console?

    I dont wanna sign out and let my friend sign in only to be then be re-directed to the dashboard..I wonder how it affects split screen..

    I keep games that I love but for the tripe I buy to mess with over the weekend I don’t want to a) pay full price for it and b) get rid of it afterwards. Otherwise I’ll just end up with a crazy load of discs just like my DVD cabinet because those things are useless once you’ve watched them.

    Confused and angry <3

  2. How does that work when i take my game to a friends house? Sounds shitty to me…

  3. Well here is why this is dumb:

    I am a Gamestop employee, of course this is BAD NEWS for Gamestop considering our entire business model revolves around reselling used merchandise. There is nothing wrong with this. The way it benefits the general user is as such:

    1) You can try the game and if you hate it you can just return it (can’t with new games)
    -Of course this looks terrible for game publishers.

    2) This can theoretically lead to improved sales, in an age where every game is released with a years worth of DLC, you’re better off letting people buy your game cheaper and banking on them loving what they have and invest in your DLC.

    The issue I have is that this is just a slap in the face to loyal customers. There is something to be said about rewarding your loyalty when it comes to sales. If you limit every person based on the action of a few you’ll only piss everyone off and lose money. Its common sense.

    Moreover this only ever made sense for PC gaming because piracy is just incredibly rampant. So I don’t mind it here. But consoles? I have never seen a pirated copy of a console game, have you?

    • Pirated copies of console games are all over the place. Anyone with a jtag/rgh Xbox or jail broken ps3 can pirate any game they want. Plus there are people with xboxes who can read burned discs.

    • The only thing I have to say in reply to this is that when speaking from the position of a publisher/developer, buying a used game is not buying it “cheap”, it’s buying it free, from a third party, without paying them a penny. It is paying somebody else for their product.

      As much as I disagree with a system like is described in the article, I don’t think the source, the developer and the publisher, should have to change the way they make their games just so that a third parties like Gamestop can continue to exist. I know I certainly don’t want to be part of a gaming world where I am forced to buy DLC after buying a game to fund the creators, I am perfectly happy to pay them up front and take my product home.

      Business is business and these guys need to look out for themselves, like Gamestop have been for years.

      • The problem with what you just said is that you already ARE a part of a gaming world where you pay full price for a game, only to be hit with notifications that you again need to pay roughly equivalent of that full price again to get a years worth of DLC or otherwise miss out on a lot of content.

        This has been a part of every game I’ve bought and loved lately. Borderlands 2, Assassins Creed 3, Forza Horizon and Black Ops 2 all advertise for me to spend another £40/$60 to get content I currently don’t have.

        I find it disgusting that I’m now expected to pay double to get all of the game. They aren’t going to stop doing this now it’s surely here to stay and no change in disc technology will suddenly make them give away DLC for free.

        Yes I could look at it in a different way, I’m being offered optional extra content. But I don’t see it that way. For example when I race online on Forza Horizon, I’m racing against players who are able to make their cars slightly faster than mine because they have bought the Rally Pack DLC which I have not and therefore don’t have access to the better suspension that they do.

        My experience on the game is impacted negatively because I can’t afford to effectively buy the full game again to get the missing upgrades.

  4. Wow, this will hurt so many actual buyers of the game at first-hand. I lend my games to my brothers and sisters all the time. And now they wont be able to play them.

    • My sister came up with a good point too. “What if the console breaks?” Which in Microsoft’s case they have a lot and the Playstation isn’t 100% break-proof either. What if their servers are offline? Will I be able to play the game then?

      • If I understood correct, it is probably like Steam, the game is account bound, not hardware, console breaks, you buy another, sign in on the same account and carry on.

        It’s a dick move, but the industry has been trying to get rid of the used market for, ever really, so it was just a matter of time before they start doing something like this.

      • But as he said also, what if you can’t sign in? Or better yet, what if you simply don’t play games online at all, and don’t hook up your console to the internet? You could argue that you can play Steam games offline, but only if you’ve already played them online previously. You can’t activate a Steam-based game (like Left 4 Dead, for example) without an internet connection, and thus, can’t play it at all. This would still apply to the DRM systems that would be implemented on consoles, and would leave it impossible for offline players to do anything.

  5. The interesting thing about this argument is that it affects the game console market. As a PC gamer, DRM has been in every game I have purchased over the last 10 years. There is no used PC game market anymore, since most software comes with a single use license.

    Would this suck for some console users if it were put in place? Sure. But in the end it is only bringing console software into line with PC software.

    As far as the argument that pricy is rampant only in the PC market, emulators on PC for consoles, as well as the wide availability of hardware mods, make that argument irrelevant. I could take a ripped PS3 game and play it on my computer right now, no problem. Piracy has never been easier for consoles.

    • This is an excellent point. I’ve long said that PC gamers deal with 100% absolute DRM and it’s managed in such a way to make it convenient and accessible.

      If the infrastructure is there — namely, if you can sign in to your account quickly from any PlayStation — this shouldn’t be a terrible system. That’s a big IF though.

    • AH the problem here is we’re talking sony, the very people who were sued and lost the supreme court back because they installed malware into peoples computers, only to do the same thing with video games no more then five years later. If people are going to go through all of this hassle for this BS then you’ll more than likely see a resurgance of PC gaming and a downgrade to console gaming because there will no longer be a real difference. Now if microsoft is smart they will allow used games and backwards compatability which will destroy sony, why buy a PS4 that forces you to buy new games when you can buy an xbox console and used games for five ten dollars cheaper than the ps3 price. If not then like I said you’ll see a resurgance of PC gaming like we haven’t seen in a decade, since decent computers are getting easier to come back and vendors like steam have really good sales that demolish retail pricing for most games even new ones sometimes. It will be interesting to see if Sony is that stupid, and to see if the sheep are that gullible. As for me Its not worth it, as it is i’m enjoying PC gaming more and more lately because of steam and the consoles constant willingness to drive me up a wall with the high prices for mediocre games with disk locked content and high costs of DLC.

      • Actually, if MS was smart, which they tend to be, they will follow suit with Sony. Hardware sales almost always result in enormous losses. However, Nintendo, Sony and MS make it all back and then sum thanks to the small cut they get from every game devs sell. Making it a 1 disc per console deal forces gamers to purchase the games retail, thus giving the “Trio” more revenue. In the mean time, yes, PC gaming rocks. I thought I would never touch another PC game after C&C Tiberium Wars. And yet, I’m busting back into the scene with all 2012 had to offer. Dark Souls should keep me occupied until somewhere around forever. :)

  6. The thing that seperates the argument that “PC’s have no used market” thing is that a used market for games has been part of the console culture since the first cartrages were released. There are entire chains of stores dedicated to the second hand distribution of console titles. If anything, this will hurt more buisiness than it will create.

    Granted, the buisiness that I’m speaking of wont effect the developers and publishers, but they could still feel backlash. I’ve bought a couple games that I borrowed from a friend that I never would have tried otherwise, not to mention dlc sales from those second hand titles I have purchased. All I can see this doing is restricting the market.

    • Yeah but what about 8, 9 years from now when the next “next” gen arrives? by then Internet speed worldwide will be good enough to justify consoles being entirely digital, there will be no used games anyway.

      Eventually the used market will be a thing of the past, either people like it or not, might as well get used to it sooner rather than later.

      • A console like that already exists. OnLive has a game system you can buy, and it is just like their PC service, instead of it streaming the games to you’re PC it does so to you’re console.

        Though when I last used it ( a few years ago it seems ) it was a bit of a connection hog. ( The PC version, never used the console version. )

        A bit ahead of it’s time in my opinion due to how the infostructure is for most countries.

  7. The second hand market is the reason given for such a high priced for a new game, if this mean’s that I can buy a new game for around £20 instead of £40 than I am all for it. Cannot see this happening though can you?

  8. This makes me feel like new IP’s will be even more scarce. People will be more wary if the have to pay full price for all their games and will rather stick to what they know and love rather than trying somthing new.

    • Maybe, but also look at the new wave of Demo trials that have been pushed out ahead of new releases. There is a try it before you buy it culture already in place. If anything the revenue stream available from removing the used market would encourage more investors, not discourage.

      I am neither for nor against the idea of bringing DRM for consoles in line with PC games, but in the end this is going to happen. A post above mentioned that most games are going to be on demand soon, due internet speeds increasing faster then game file size. Gamestop not only deals with new items along with its used market, but has also stepped up the digital availability of games (similar to Steam).

  9. Is this only on the PS3 right now? Forget the PS3 i’m about to switch to xbox 360 or PC

  10. That would totally ruin the entire used game profits for businesses like gamestop, and then things like redbox couldn’t rent out games, and especially things like gamefly, it would put them out of business.

  11. I hate this idea because say for example I buy a game and I don’t like it, what will I do then. Right now I can walk into a game shop and sell it to them or ever sell it to a friend, but with the new “thing” in place, I would just get to suck a dick. Or what if my account gets hacked. I doubt that someone is going to give me a new game. The bottom line is the cons out weight the pros, and I pay like a $100 per game now anywhere because of the government, if it goes though I will give up gaming,

  12. These companies make millions and millions of dollars off their games, more than enough to keep the company alive and paychecks fat, whether they’re bought new or used yet they’re still complaining like little money-grubbing bitches because their profits could be higher..

    The greed of these companies is pathetic.

  13. I’m not sure this is a very good move. For me at least, if something like this happens, a lot of the games I’d usually buy used (which still gives people/devs money) I just wont buy at all and I feel like this might hurt things more than help if other think the same way. :(

  14. Xbox 720 is looking a whole lot better now..

  15. If it is account based you could sell the account with the game, unless there’s a restriction on the amount of accounts that could work.

  16. Lol, you think MS isn’t thinking about the same thing? Though, don’t make this out to be the end of the world. They may adopt that Apple deal, where they let gamers share their stuff with five others connected to their accounts. Besides… Digital is going to eat up hard copy games for breakfast. I have no doubt about it.

  17. If something like this were to come into place, and you don’t like it or you think its a bad idea, then the simplest thing to do, is to make a stand for yourself and not buy their console.

  18. Well then, I guess I should go buy myself a Wii U.

  19. Ok so, you might save a few bucks if you buy a game second hand that’s good for you! right? that’s also good for the retailer. tell you who its not good for? the people who made the game, the people taking the risk. so instead of the money going to a game developer or studio, it goes to the retailers. This isn’t very progressive for the gaming industry if the people who makes games don’t get it, only those who sell it do.

    Think about the future of our respect-less hobby!

  20. Unless sony creates a way for the user to remove that ID when a consumer wants to return a game, this is just going to be all sorts of bad.

  21. In all truth I do not think this is a good move at all. This is only going to drive away customers. If they impalement something like this at least. Same thing for any of the console companies that are considering this. The sells for both the console and it’s games will fall big time.

    Part of the reason people own consoles is due to the fact that they can rent games, as well as trade games. I play on Both PC and Console.. and to be honest.. never owned a Wii. Though a system like the Wii + WiiU is looking more and more interesting compared to a PS4 ( if that is what they name it ) if they end up doing this.

    I just don’t see it doing well in the console market at all. PC market, yea we have been dealing with that for a very long time, but then again we also did not have rental services either. Regardless would be interesting to see what will happen with companies like Gamefly,Blockbuster, and others of that nature. Same with companies like Gamestop. ( Though Gamestop will still see sells for games, just not the trade in/used stuff. )

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