For a company that’s made copious communication blunders over the course of the current generation, Sony’s handled the subject of used games in an unexpectedly cunning manner – primarily by shutting its mouth. While its closest competitor Microsoft has been hung, drawn, and quartered since the Xbox One’s unveiling, the PlayStation maker’s largely got away with its own silence relatively unscathed. But what if the unthinkable happens, and the PlayStation 4 ends up handling game ownership in much the same way as the Redmond-based manufacturer’s machine?

It’s important that we understand exactly what Sony’s said about its own DRM methods before we sentence the company to a crime that it hasn’t yet committed. After the firm’s PlayStation Meeting earlier in the year, Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida told a roundtable of journalists that any game registration requirements will be left up to publishers, and that the platform holder won’t obligate any for first-party games. The company also stated that the system will be playable offline, and that an always-online connection is something that it didn’t even consider.

So, how does this differ to the Xbox One? Well, Microsoft’s said that you will be able to take your console offline, as long as you connect it to the Internet once every 24 hours. Fail to do that, and you won’t be able to access any of your games. And this is where Sony’s clever wording comes in. Michael Denny told Official PlayStation Magazine that the “PS4 can still be enjoyed old school without an Internet connection at all”. But, technically, so can its counterpart – as long as you connect once a day. Could the Japanese giant’s impending system follow the same path? We simply don’t have enough information.

Ok, so what about used games? Again, Sony’s been incredibly vague in this area, too. As mentioned, the organisation’s said that you will be able to play pre-owned content on the console, and that it will be down to publishers to decide any game registration restrictions. This is much the same as Microsoft’s policy, although we have much more information on how the Xbox One will actually operate. For starters, you’ll only be able to sell your discs at “participating retailers”, meaning that trade-ins are likely to carry less value as a result. Furthermore, you’ll only have the option to share your games privately once, and you’ll need to do so with people who have existed on your friends list for more than 30 days.

That last point is the real knockout blow, as it completely changes the concept of game ownership as we currently understand it. On the PlayStation 3, for example, you’re able to sell your games on eBay, share them with friends, trade them with strangers, and pretty much do whatever you want with them. But on the Xbox One, that will absolutely not be the case unless you have a virtual association with the people that you want to pass your content onto, and even then you’ll only have the opportunity to do it once.

There are some "benefits" to Microsoft’s system, though. You can access your entire content library on any console, for example, but you’ll need to connect to the Internet every hour in order to prove that you’re the real deal. We’re not entirely sure how this differs from the current game ownership climate – you can play your existing discs and cartridges on any console, after all – but given the other draconian systems in place on the Xbox One, we suppose that we should probably appreciate this option, right? Elsewhere, up to ten family members will be able to access your entire “shared games library”, though you won’t be able to play the same titles at once.

Aside from being incredibly confusing – it’s taken us most of the day to wrap our head around all of this, and, to be honest, we’re still squinting at the terminology – the Xbox One sounds unbelievably restrictive, and we can only imagine the kind of backlash that it’s going to cause when unsuspecting consumers learn about these practices shortly after launch day. But is the PS4 actually going to be any better than Microsoft’s machine?

The problem is that we just don’t know until Sony clarifies its stance at E3. A recent movement on Twitter did prompt various executives to note that the company’s “listening”, but Microsoft mouthpiece Major Nelson said a similar thing not too long ago, and look how that turned out. As we pointed out in a recent article, it seems impossible to imagine that an organisation like EA or Ubisoft will restrict used games on one machine, and not on the other. However, divisive industry analyst Michael Pachter doesn’t foresee this being a problem, as he reckons that publishers will refrain from blocking pre-owned sales due to the fear of a “huge backlash”. Speaking with GameSpot, he said: “They wanted manufacturers to do the dirty work, and both refused.”

So, where does this leave us – apart from confused? Well, even if Pachter’s accurate in his assumption that publishers won’t crack down on used game sales, there are still plenty of lingering questions regarding the PS4. Will we be able to trade discs at all retailers, for example? Will we need to have a virtual association with the people that we share our games with? Will we need to login once a day before we can access our content? These are all topics that the platform holder’s cleverly dodged, and will be forced to address at E3. The even bigger quandary is: how will its answers affect your interest in the machine?


What’s your opinion of Microsoft’s stance on game ownership? Will you skip on the PS4 if it adopts similar practices? Let us know in the comments section below.

Will you still buy the PS4 if it includes DRM restrictions? (67 votes)

Yes, I'm not really bothered about this

24%

Maybe, I'll need to think about it

30%

No, I refuse to accept these practices

46%

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[via kotaku.com, news.xbox.com, officialplaystationmagazine.co.uk, uk.gamespot.com]