It’s been rumored for quite some time now that Sony has been working on a piece of technology for its next-generation console that would digitally tag a used game and immediately render it unplayable on the user’s console. SCEA CEO Jack Tretton has gone on record denying these rumors but it seems Sony could be developing this technology after all. At least according to a patent (discovered by NeoGAF user gofreak) that SCEJ has filed.
What does this technology do exactly? Well, mostly what the rumors suggested. The device scans the game that's in the console’s disc drive and it detects whether or not it’s been played on multiple consoles (this is done by linking discs to user IDs). If it has, the game will be tagged and there’s the possibility the game could be rendered unplayable on that particular console.
Here’s a quote from the patent itself, to give a better explanation of its designed purpose:
"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."
It should be said however this is merely a patent and it doesn’t guarantee that the technology will be implemented in the PS4 or that it’s even in development. But it does show that the idea of preventing or at least "controlling" used game sales has crossed the minds of Sony executives at some point. I’m not going to lie I don’t like this at all.
I know developers don’t get a cut of used game sales and personally, I don’t think that’s right and a deal should be worked between retailers and studios to make sure all parties get a fair share in the profits.
With that out of the way, the main reasons why I defend used game sales are because there are a lot of people who depend on their lower prices to add more titles to their collections and the lower prices also make the games more attractive to customers who would be weary of certain games if they were priced higher. I’d like to think that most people who enjoy the game they took a chance on would buy future installments of that particular franchise “New”.
Sony and other big companies should be trying to embrace this model, rather than trying to cripple it.
I know this patent doesn’t in anyway confirm that Sony is planning to do this but I would like to agree with Jim Sterling
that the idea within itself is disheartening.