News Article

Talking Point: Why the PlayStation 4 Won't Block Used Games

Posted by Sammy Barker

Keep calm and carry on

Sony likes to patent a lot of things. The manufacturer is so trigger-happy with its technology registrations that we could probably dedicate the entirety of our editorial output to the innumerable crazy ideas that the company has. The reason that we don’t is because ideas aren’t nearly as interesting as final products, and a lot of time patents amount to little more than wasted paper and bad diagrams. It’s for that reason that you probably shouldn’t worry too much about today’s anti-used games filing.

As reported earlier, the document – posted by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan on 12th September – proposes a scenario in which games could be tracked by a contactless tag. The writing suggests that once placed inside a machine, the software would be automatically associated with that system, essentially rendering the content useless to anyone but the original owner. But while the philosophy initially sounds foolproof from a business perspective, there are number of pitfalls that would need to be conquered before it could become a reality.

The most obvious issue pertains to broken consoles. Hardware is not infallible, and unless Sony intends to track PlayStation Network data, it would need to offer some kind of service in which existing titles could be linked to a new machine. We’re not technicians, but that sounds like a logistical nightmare, and certainly not worth the effort or cost. Furthermore, if it were to adopt the aforementioned online route, it would put added pressure on the platform holder to maintain a flawless infrastructure or risk locking legitimate consumers out of their games.

The reality is that neither solution is practical or particularly valuable. Used games sales are a problem for publishers, but there are easier ways for them to be tackled. The online pass system – while controversial in its first innings – has evolved into a scheme that rewards consumers for buying new. Additional characters, costumes, and weapons are all common with first-time purchases, and while cynics may argue that they should be part of the out-of-the-box offering anyway, it’s not really an issue unless you’re purchasing pre-owned, which is kind of the point.

Indeed, regardless of the worrying dialogue depicted in Sony’s patent, this is much more likely to be the direction that the platform holder moves in. Current online pass solutions demand serial codes and download keys, but we suspect that the entire process will be automated on the PlayStation 4. That will still allow publishers to recoup costs from pre-owned games, without needing to lobby for a system-wide block on the market.

Such an unnecessary move would be far more damaging than beneficial anyway. Not only would it give Sony a serious competitive disadvantage, but it would also upset the retail space which still holds the power to make or break a new device.

Besides, we’ve been here before. Back in the hazy days of 2005, a similar patent teased the addition of hidden DRM technology to PlayStation 3 games, promising an end to the used game market and rentals. The scheme was never implemented, making the backlash at the time look laughable in hindsight. It’s perhaps worth keeping that in mind before you freak out all over again.

How regularly do you purchase used games? Do added incentives and online passes encourage you to purchase more sealed titles? Let us know in the comments section below.

User Comments (17)



moomoo said:

I always thought they wouldn't do it simply because I highly doubt Gamestop would stock the machine had it forbade used games from working. That would put quite the damper on the sales of the system and its games.



hYdeks said:

@moomoo yay I figured as much too. I liked it better when my gamestop first came around, they never really had used versions of the new games, just older games that you can't find anymore. Maybe GameStop should be forced to do that?

But I buy alot of my games new lately because of the added bonus (sonic and all stars racing transformed), and the online pass (fear 3, ps all stars) and even the cross play (ps all stars, and I actually have sly cooper re-ordered!) because they really make it worth purchasing, but otherwise I usually wait for it to be lower in price used, just cause it's a game I might like, but not play alot.



Splat said:

I never buy used games. I only have two places to buy games in town Walmart and GameStop and 9 times out of 10 I can get a new game cheaper at Walmart than the used version at GameStop.

That said I pretty much always wait for the game I want to drop in price and get it on Amazon which is easily my go to place to get games.



Stuffgamer1 said:

I buy used ONLY when it's an older game that isn't even available new anymore. I am a firm believer in supporting the developers of my games...if nobody did, the industry would kind of implode. That said, I have nothing against the existance of the used-game market, and neither did the video game industry, up until the economy started heading south.

I also hold this personal rule when it comes to trading in my games: I hold on to the really good stuff and trade in bad/average/kinda good games. If everybody did that, the mere availability of a game used would be an automatic indicator of inferior quality, and the people making the great stuff would all make out! So I do my part for that ideal, anyway.



Ginkgo said:

To be honest it is a strange idea. The world is full of second hand books, CDs, DVDs. Entire businesses exist around this idea. Why should games be any different? If I buy a game, why should I not be able to sell it to someone else if I want? not even sure if preventing such trade would be legal in some countries.

Personally, I virtually never buy used games (I think I own 2). Still, I don't think that Sony would be stupid enough to try this. If they did, I would probably look at switching to a different console. Free DLC for original owners where second hand users have to buy is a much better encouragement.

A carrot is always better than a stick!



ShogunRok said:

I honestly never buy used games. If I want a game, chances are I'll grab it day one if I have the money. If it's a bit expensive, I just wait until it's on sale. I don't think I've bought a used game since... the PS2, maybe.



ThreadShadow said:

@Sammy Thanks for talking about this issue. It's a concern to many, and it's good to talk about it.
Many companies are showing a continuing trend towards increasingly aggressive anti-consumer behaviour. All grasping at money that isn't theirs to touch. It's ridiculous. In this day and age, we need to be sure of one thing. If they can get away with it, or more appropriately WHEN they can get away with it, they will.

1. "Hardware is not infallible". Right, but why should this stop Sony from having people buy a new system, and replace their now useless library with more brand new games? It hasn't stopped Nintendo-at least on the digital side. Your Wiiware/VC games are tied to the system, and if that goes south, you'll have to rebuy your digital library. In the righteous anti-piracy cause, why can't Sony make that jump and require people to rebuy their retail titles too?

2. "Online pass-while controversial in it's first innings". I'd say it is still controversial, and rightly so.

3. "publishers to recoup costs from pre-owned games". I still can't believe this concept. Why isn't the movie industry crying about recouping costs from the sale of pre-owned movies at summer yard sales etc.? Why doesn't the game industry take the next step and pull a percentage off eBay from all their used game sales. Recoup their costs? They did that when they sold their product the first time end of story. They can't have their hand on that product forever more once it's out in the market. They need to learn to keep their greedy fingers out of my pockets, but as long as people don't fuss they'll get away with it, and push it further next time.

4. "serious competitive disadvantage". Sony and MS see each other as competitors, so if Microsoft is also doing this (which has been rumoured at times) then neither of them are disadvantaged by banning used games. And both can marginalise Nintendo because "it's a fun toy for kids", but we have blood swear, shoot kill 3 and our systems are the only ones that play it, so do as we say!

5. "upset the retail space". How so? I'm sure stores would love to sell multiple new copies of one game to single consumers.

6. "the scheme was never implemented, making the backlash at the time look laughable..". Perhaps the backlash at the time contributed to the scheme never being implemented? Once the backlash stops, companies, more likely then not, will push into that territory again, and if there is apathy, they'll settle right in, make it law, make it "just the way things are" and move on to the next scheme.

I like buying my games brand new too, but I'm not against buying a luxury item at significantly lower prices used. After all why should I pay $40-$60 for a new game when new dvds and cds cost $18-$25?

This is just one reason why I won't be along for the ride with Sony or MS anymore, anyway. This is my last generation with them. I'm going back to being Nintendo-centric, but even the Wii U will most likely be my last system. I don't like where the game industry as a whole is going, and all my favorite games are in the past.

We probably don't agree on the issue at hand, but thanks again for the article Sammy. Happy New Year!



Paranoimia said:

@ThreadShadow - "Why isn't the movie industry crying about recouping costs from the sale of pre-owned movies at summer yard sales etc.?"

To be fair, the industries are quite different in that aspect. The movie industry makes money on a movie multiple times anyway. A decent film will generally recoup costs and more in cinema takings alone, then they get DVD/Blu-ray sell-through, and a slice of rentals and digital purchases from Amazon/Google/LoveFilm/Netflix etc. And despite their claims that piracy is costing them a fortune, movie companies are making more and more expensive blockbusters each year.

Some games cost more than movies to make, and many times, the initial purchase is the only income a developer will get from a game. There are rentals, but I don't think game rentals (or sales for that matter) are on anything like the same scale as movies. How many game developers went out of business last year alone? And others are struggling. With more people buying used games, it's only going to get worse.

I could say it won't affect me because I only buy new games, but I sell on most of my used games - so it would affect me if I couldn't do that. Note that I said 'sell on' and not 'trade in' - trade-in prices are a joke, and the profits from them only serve to line the pockets of the stores. When I sell on, the money I get always goes on new games - and I mean 'new' in every sense.

I actually do believe in developers getting something for used game sales, but for me, methods such as the one described in this patent are not the way to go about it. It would be wildly unpopular, and in my opinion, introducing it with PS4 would cost Sony dear - not only in the cost of implementing it (presumably retro-fitting Blu-ray disc production facilities), but also in the number of gamers who would jump ship to other platforms. Something like this will only be viable if all of the platform holders agree to introduce it simultaneously, and I feel that's highly unlikely.

As I understand it from what I was told by the manager of my local GAME store many years ago, stores need a license from Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo before they can sell used console games. For me, the best solution would be that those companies renegotiate that license agreement so that developers get a cut of all the profits from the resale of their games, wherever they are sold. For me, that would seem to be the fairest solution.

I once traded in a special edition PS2 Tomb Raider game for £1 and saw it on sale a week later for £12 - £11 pure profit for the store; there's no reason whatsoever that they couldn't give £2, £3 or £4 of that back to the developer.

A solution has to be found, though, otherwise more and more developers are going to disappear.



NathanUC said:

The only time I'd buy a used game is if the game is either rare or no longer in production. I can almost always buy games brand new far far cheaper than used.



Azikira said:

I usually buy new for games I would get no matter what, possibly used for a rare/hard to find game and for games I wouldn't normally get I'd look for the cheapest price.



Ginkgo said:

@ThreadShadow : "This is my last generation with them. I'm going back to being Nintendo-centric, but even the Wii U will most likely be my last system. I don't like where the game industry as a whole is going, and all my favorite games are in the past."

I have to ask. What is it that you don't like about the current direction of the games industry, and what are the games of the past that you miss?

Personally I love the direction of the games industry and would speed it up if I could. Games are becoming more realistic, more immersive and allowing you to enter into entire worlds where you can roam and explore. I have waited may years for it to get to this point.

There are also more minis and mobile games than ever before to while away thoughtless hours if that is your thing.

Just curious as to what you don't like/miss.



ThreadShadow said:


Well, besides the whole treating consumers as pirates idea. "We want you to have our games but we don't want you to have our games" sort of thing...I call it the Dennis Dyak Dichotomy, MS and Sony especially are heading into a world where advertising to the extreme is on the dashboards and soon to be interrupting our gameplay. (If they can get away with it, they will.)

Good business is about pleasing the customer so they will return, not snagging them in a net and wringing every last ounce of currency from their wallet while bombarding them with ads and shutting away pieces and portions of games behind further monetary barriers. How is it making consumers happy when they "find ways to further monetize" such and such a service/ or aspect of gaming?

And as for games themselves, yes "more realistic, more immersive...entire worlds to roam and explore..." is great in many ways, but for some unfortunate reason that all seems to go hand in hand with more blood, more gore, increasingly excessive violence, endless and pervasive profanity, and darker more brooding heroes with nothing redeemable about them. Vampires, Ghosts, Zombies and Demons in all their gruesome detail are emblazoned across every package.
Gaming is a huge piano and the industry is playing the same four notes. Fortunately there are a few out there creating great things but it's few and far between.

Yes, I'm an older mature gamer but I don't get enjoyment from these things. I'm not amused by excessive blood/gore and violence, neither am I impressed when the same strings of cuss words come out of the villain and heroes mouths.

And that's another point. Almost every great series that didn't need these things before, now for some reason needs to include these things? We all loved MGS on PSone the way it was, so why did they need to boost the profanity for MGS4, and Revengeance? Tomb Raider seems like it's just a blood bath now, and I see it too has the descriptor for "Strong Language". Why do I need an exaggerated lesson in human anatomy when I shoot an enemy, why the geysers of blood?
Why the need to drop swear bombs in games, when in order to establish said gritty brooding atmosphere, they never needed it before in the same type of game?

If this is "mature" gaming then they are going to have to count this mature gamer out.

Games I like or miss. Well, the Legend of Zelda series is one of my top favorites. And that is because in my opinion Nintendo still knows how to deliver a "mature" gaming experience. Thus, why I'm sticking with Nintendo a little longer. Fumito Ueda's stuff is great, and I've enjoyed thatgamecompanies outings so far. I get a lot of enjoyment from a lot of the "indie" games that are coming out since 2007.
Super Mario Bros series, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI-VII, Portal series, MGS(PSone), LoZ: Oot/MM/WW/TP/SS. The Halo series (especially because I played it with someone I care about), Lostwinds series, Super Metroid, Prime series, Limbo. Super Mario Kart (SNES), Legend of Legaia, Super Mario Galaxy, Rareware of old.

Hmmm. So while most of my favorite games have probably already been made, I'm sure a 360, PS3, Vita, and especially a 3DS and Wii U will allow me to experience anything in the future that may catch my interest.

Not sure If I answered your questions...but thanks for asking and Happy New Year to you!



Zombie_Barioth said:

@ThreadThreadShadow GameStop gets a big chunk of profits from used game sales, as large a company as it is there would be a problem if they decided to not stock anything PS4.

I agree with you about the rest. As far as I'm concerned if your having trouble making profits due to your budget size its your budget that needs to change, nothing else. Unfortunately its an industry wide problem thats unlikely to change but it shouldn't stop them from clearing out the bloat, I've even seen celebrities play small roles (I recall Woody Harrelson playing an uncredited role as a villager or something in skyrim, can't find it but I remember getting excited over it).



ThreadShadow said:


Yes, I agree that Gamestops business practises aren't up to par. Honestly, your example one trade-in prices is spot on, but neither of us believe the used game market should be shut down because of Gamestops/ or other big box resellers' bad policies. It's free enterprise, and they are free to be greedy, and we are free to buy from them or not. But we as consumers should have the right to "sell on" our used games. And that's the main thing I'd like to emphasize. I'm not sticking up for Gamestops greed, just my rights as a consumer to sell and buy used games.
Devs and resellers hashing out a deal for a percentage of the resale price? If movies get a cut of rentals, then I can see publishers/devs getting a cut of rentals, but movies still don't get a cut of resales, so why should publishers/devs? Then we get into the area of greedy publishers. Would the developers actually see any of that profit, or would publishers keep the lions share? We might still see devs shutting down left, right, and centre.

Hmmm, if I'm a starving beanbag chair maker, why should I expect to have a hand in every resale of one of my chairs evermore? That question still bugs me. Plus the fact that like you said, some games cost more to make then movies, yet brand new at retail they still cost more then a retail cd or dvd. Oh yeah, you talked about the initial take on tickets etc....but then it seems like comparatively the two should break about even...maybe?

Hmm anyway, thanks for the discussion. Beautiful cat avatar! I have a silly cat very similar to that, long haired though.



rjejr said:

I dont know why anybody is even bothering with this, once everything goes digital downloads it wont matter any, now will it?



Ginkgo said:

I haven't seen much advertising in games to date, but that doesn't mean it won't come. I have seen DLC used really well, and also really badly. Removing the Omega Campaign from ME3 and making it DLC is one of the worse money grabs I have seen in recent history. I personally have refused to buy it.

Although I don’t share quite the same feelings on violence and swearing, in many ways your comments made me think. “Gaming is a huge piano and the industry is playing the same four notes.” The situation is perhaps not entirely as bad as that, but I take your point. So many games, especially the big budget ones are focused on violence and contain swearing. There are many other gaming experiences but you do have to look harder to find them.

Honestly I am not sure that the industry has changed it focus over the last 20+ years, games were just as violent back then but the graphics have improved, so it is certainly more in your face. Yes there is more swearing in games nowadays and it is probably over used. You could easily lay the same charge against Hollywood. Not trying to excuse anything.

In terms of blood, I think that as games strive for realism (which I like) there needs to be blood. If you shoot or stab someone, they bleed and seeing the impact of your actions is important. It should feel uncomfortable. I actually don’t like it when games show no blood or when someone is killed and then the body quickly vanishes, because that cheapens death. It is too easy to kill with no consequences. But I’m not interested in seeing death glorified. I don’t need/want dismemberment cut-scenes.

When I got back into gaming a few years ago (after a long hiatus) I had no desire to play shooters. Just running round shooting people/things has never been particularly interesting to me, but I have found myself playing some regardless. Even really enjoyed a couple. Hard to say why, perhaps because many of the big budget games are shooters and I get sucked in. I know my wife complained to me recently about the level of violence in Far Cry 3. I’ll think on that.

Dishonored is an interesting game as it not only gave you a no kill way to play, but also punished you for excessive killing, including changing the ending. Only killing when absolutely necessary was essential to achieving a good outcome at the end.

What I do like about the industry is better storylines and interactive worlds. I am a “mature” gamer, and I really enjoy games that explore adult themes. One of the reasons that I bought a PS3 was to play Heavy Rain. Loss of a child (I have 3 personally) and subsequent breakdown of a marriage. I loved that game despite its many flaws. I am very excited about Beyond : Two Souls.
In any case, yes, Happy New Year! and I do hope that you can continue to find great games that enthral you (on whatever system) well into the future.



bauckster said:

While I don't have much to add personally, I want to say that I really enjoyed reading this thread. It was pretty thought provoking, especially some of the comments about the current state of the industry, violence/cursing etc. I'm actually heading out to MAGfest (Music and Gaming Festival) tomorrow, and I wonder if any of these issues will come up at any of the panels (I wouldn't be surprised if they do). Happy New Year everyone!

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