Sony Patent Could Stop You From Playing Used Games

A patent application published today resurrects the rumour that Sony's next gaming console will suppress the playing of used games and outlines how such a scheme would be accomplished without the use of an always-on internet connection for verification. In short, an RFID ID stamped onto the new discs would track their usage history and restrict them to one console.

Sony Computer Entertainment Japan filed the application in September, six months after the first details of the next PlayStation, codenamed Orbis, emerged in an extensive leak published by Kotaku.

First discovered in this forum thread on NeoGAF today, Sony's technology would check a game disc's RFID tag, which is capable of remembering if that game had been linked to a different machine or account. This check is performed offline and before the game is played.

While this describes the capability to completely block a used game — or any game that had been played on another console — it's important to remember that it also can be used to simply restrict some of its features, such as online play that some publishers have subjected to one-use "online pass" codes since 2010. The system described in the patent application would obviate the need for online passes, and also end the revenue stream they generate, but the point of their existence is to drive sales of full-price retail copies, with the $US10 fee serving as a kind of clawback for the time being. It also would allow for rentals to use all multiplayer features; a code supplied by the renting party could unlock all capabilities for the life of the rental; currently, some games with online pass restrictions offer free three-day trials.

This is not the first time Sony has been rumoured to examine used-games restrictions in its hardware. The PlayStation 3 faced speculation that it would not accept used games. Obviously, that did not come to pass. The last statement from Sony on its used-games posture came from Jack Tretton, the head of Sony Computer Entertainment America, said he was "totally opposed" to blocking used games. Of course, Tretton and SCEA answer to SCEJ, which applied for this patent.

The patent application number is 20130007892, and may be accessed by querying the US Patent and Trademark Office, or here.

Sony has researched new tech for suppressing second-hand game sales [NeoGAF]


    It's not just used games. This would also stop you from loaning games to your friends. I hate where the AAA gaming industry is headed.

      If they were smart, they'd allow a function where you could "loan" it to another person's account/machine for a short time period (24hr?). It'd open up any number of possibilities such as small discounts for people who buy after playing through a loan; or even tiny commissions for the lender.

    Not worried.

    They had a similar patent with the PS3.

    Most likely creating a licensing patent for the future.

    Steam works fine, and has opened the way to a lot of indie games. I think this is a good move. Buying secondhand might save you $5 but it means more DLC and cash in sequels because there isn't a tail end for sales anymore.

      This won't reduce DLC and cash in sequels. They'll just keep the extra cash!

      You have made an awesome point ;) but.... it worked for steam for one reason, they do not have over priced games! retail console games at full price are such a rip-off paying up too $60-$120 for a standard edition and now they want us to only buy new games ^.^ hah nope! some people will be fine with this, but I know I will not any signs of needing a constant internet connection, capabilities to restrict games to one console. In the end this might lead to less console sales ^.^ well me not buying one anyway :P but in the end it is just easier to use steam ^.^ as I do indie games rule hotline miami at the moment is great!

        Before Steam, PC games were sold at crazy prices. Without preowned sales, there won't be as much pressure to sell the game for such high prices because there'll actually be some longevity in sales.

        Pre Owned Sales and lending games to friends might be convenient to you, but they're not what's best for the industry as a whole.

          Exactly which industry are you saying it's not good for?

          I know for a fact that EB would not survive without pre owned sales. It's their bread and butter because there's only a tiny profit margin on new game sales and hardware.

          Their use of protectionist measures is what is killing them and the industry. People know they can get it cheaper elsewhere and they always will.

          Before it was just Steam and the retailers. Now it's Steam, the retailers, grey importers/discount game stores, cd-key stores, game trading (ie green man gaming) and who knows what else. Out of that list it's only the latter three which give us what we want.

          You could even say that Steam/Valve is distancing itself from the big game publishers. Look at how much they've invested in community gaming (workshop, greenlight etc) and indie development.

          Our habits have changed and the industry (particularly retail) is lagging behind because they're playing stick in the mud.

          Edit: Much like mstrcatchowming I'm also ignoring the big games for the indie titles. Great value for money and they're every bit as good as the big title games. The big publishing houses haven't seen a single dollar from me in the latest Steam sales.

          Last edited 04/01/13 11:29 am

    as long as the console is region free I dont mind

      If they link it to a PSN account then region free or not goes out the window.

    some companys patent things just to spite their rivals

    Won't be buying the new Playstation if this is true, i borrow games from friends and they borrow from me all the time.

      yeh wouldnt this new shit they are coming up with, ruin the gaming community a little?

    I don't mind this at all if it ever came in fruition, it would mean games will more likely go through reproduction due to demand and getting a brand new game 5 years past release becomes a lot more common.

      Or more likely you'd just be SOL if you wanted to buy a 5-year-old game.

    seems a bit slack to me - I know that it is a move to protect investments etc. etc. it does send a bad message - we don't want people to share. Will be bad for the console consumer and for the retail industry built around pre-owned games.

    Just another thing to push console gamers into PC....

      No idea what are you talking about pushing console gamers to PC. Most new PC games can only be activated once anyway unlike old DRM lock that allows specific number of installations.

      Not sure what argument are you trying to make.

        yes but PC if u give a install CD to a friend they can still paly offline just not online ..

          Which you cant because of online drm. When was the last time you played a game on pc?

          Last edited 05/01/13 10:22 am

    Same boat here. i like to borrow games from friends sometimes leading to sales. if it would stop me doing that they would lose sales from me.

    They won't use it to completely block the sale of used games for the next console. Won't happen, simple as that. Physical retail may be going to shit in Australia, but it isn't the same case in the US (who are they going to import games from cheaper than themselves? In english) and Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo rely very heavily on on GameStop etc for not only sales but marketing as well. If they put on a full block, GameStop and all other used game traders would go out of buisness/stop selling games, no money in new games, not enough to make it worth it.

    They will use it to stop using online passes at most for the next generation, generation after that who knows where we will be at. But the PS4 or Orbis or w/e won't do it, would be a nail in the coffin.

      Very interesting point regarding mutual marketing.

      I have to say the very thought of this kind of technology makes me angrier than i can describe, its just plain money grubbing bullshit to squeeze every last cent out of the consumer.

      But you have a valid point i hadn't considered. There is a symbiotic relationship between the retail stores and Micro/Nin/Sony so they would face alot of anger from those retailers alone at such a move.

      But The fact remains its like the proposed firewall for australia, sure if it only blocks kiddy porn its fine. But at what point will they cross the line and block things like abortion or politics. The same for this technology they would under teh guise of "online passes" implement it but thats only 1 step away from full on used game blockage.

      I have been an avid console gamer since I first saw a Nintendo 64 at a friends place but i will never support any machine that has that kind of potential, because one day they will take it too far.

        But when are we as consumers taking it too far? trading games is already TECHNICALLY against the terms of use anyway. When is it us taking advantage? We all like to say they are trying to milk us for money, they are getting greedy etc, but it is a 2 way street. We already get away with piracy so much, game trading, hacking and a bunch of other things that we are not meant to be doing.

        I don't agree with blocking game trading altogether, it is what got me through my uni days of gaming. It stopped me being more of a pirate than I could of potenitally been. But just like our wallets have a limit, theirs do as well. The consumer is not the only one who suffers in an economic down turn. Turning into a mob every time the corps. do something that is potentially just covering their own ass and making sure they can keep doing what they do is not an effective way to ensure we get a fair deal while they can still produce the products we want.

    Just because they have a patent doesn't mean they're actually going to use it. I can't see them going down this route if the competition aren't doing the same thing. Especially when the obvious, more consumer-acceptable route seems to be going to a Steam-like system for purely digital distribution where there's no second hand market and people don't seem to care too much.

    You do have to ask the question about what happens if your console dies or gets stolen or something? Suddenly your entire game collection is worthless because you don't have (and can't get) a console that will play any of them? For that reason alone I suspect this is just something Sony are patenting for the sake of having a patent that may be useful later, not something they're likely to actually implement any time soon.

      According to this article, the patent ties the disc to a user account, not to a console.

      Not sure if that's better or worse. But hopefully they won't actually implement this anyway.

    Definitely does make me concerned for the future of consoles if this plan comes to fruition.

    Granted it will be good for them to fight used game sales; but I also get the feeling that this kind of thing would give pirates the advantage (like on PC where pirates just bypass DRM's that cause havoc for legit customers)..... I really hope it doesn't become one of those situations though.

    If this happens there's no way in HELL I'll be buying a PS4. If Microsoft happen to do the same thing then I won't gaming on consoles any more. If people think this is a good idea then I really really pity them. If the market refuses to tolerate this it won't happen, so in the end if you let yourself get screwed, you'll be screwed time and time again.

      Just pirate games then. You'll be contributing just as much to the developers/future sequels as you would by buying it second hand.

        So are you against second hand sales?

          Aren't you?
          You've probably heard this before but second hand sales returns nothing to developers and publishers which is why they've been pushing Online Passes and DLC so hard this generation.

            I am not against second, third or whatever hand sales.

            In fact, i don't pay for a game until i try it first. Far Cry 3 is a good example of this, i downloaded the game for a free trial, didn't like it and then did not pay for it.

            There are a lot of people who can not afford to spend a thousand dollars a year on games (10 games @$100 each), so second hand sales help these people out a lot.

            The big issue here is not paying for a game, it is paying TOO much for a game. Cheap games from 10 years ago are a lot more fun to play then the same-ness crap that we get from EA, Activision, Blizzard etc.

          Second hand sales are a big part of why games are now marketed the way they are.

            Second hand sales are a fact of life. When they make a game and expect me to pay $78-120 (the typical aussie price). then release that game every 6-12 months (cough call of duty). You can be damn sure im going to minimize any cost on my part, its human nature.

            While the only 2nd hand games i've bought in the last 2 years are ds one for like $10 or a game i previously owned i 100% support their right to exist.

            IF they even dare to eradicate used games it will do nothing but stifle the industry. Becasue contrary to what these publishers think we gamers do not shit gold bricks. We have limited funds and as such can only purchase so many games per year. So if its cheaper to buy 2nd hand games people will.

            If the publishers really wanted to make more money they should stop being so damn greedy, $10 horse armours or paying for DLC already on the disk and online passes. Perhaps if they lowered the price for new games from $50-60 US to say $30-40 they see a massive increase in sales.

            Look at how successful steam is, its not because there is no used game market on pc's. Its because that shit is cheap enough that everyone gets a piece of the pie not just the super duper AAAA block buster owners because most people can only afford 100 or so $ on games a year. You cant expect them to buy every one of your shitty titles if you want them to poney all that up for a single one.

              Steam is only cheap BECAUSE there is no second hand market for PC.

                so lets take this to another perspective...
                if u brought say a toyota car <-- does it give the right for toyota to stop you from selling the car and for other people to use it ?

                  If the profit margins were as slim as games, then yeah.

                Steam is only cheap because there are no other costs involved. Production of disks, shipping, retailers ... digital distribution wipes 3rd party overheads off the map.

    Am I reading it correctly: the console would write to (part of) the disc?

    If this is a feature of the next gen, I won't be upgrading in any kind of a hurry.
    Also, retail sectors will suffer, as the profit margin is far greater for used games.

      Only to an RFID tag on the disc, not the actual storage part of the disc.

    The real question is, who on earth would buy into a system like this?

    If this feature is implemented in the PS4, it will be the end of Sony, at least in the gaming industry. Gamestop/EB and GAME will refuse to sell it, which will make it suffer immensely. Remember the last time Sony tried to cut them out with the PSPGo?

    After all the money they lost on the PS3 and both the PSPGo and Vita being complete failures, Sony absolutely cannot afford to screw up the PS4. Doing so will mean the end of them.

      You really think the gaming department will bankrupt every other department? Mobile phones, PCs, Cameras, Car Audio, TV and Home Theatre? All of it?

        It's not gonna bankrupt every other department, but with that said, every other department is bleeding money. Every other company is beating their brains out in those other departments.

    Ah, it becomes more and more clear where the gaming industry is headed: Straight to the OUYA! And then to the OUYA 2 with the Tegra 4. Goodbye Sony. You are the weake$t link.

      You are the weake$t link.

      I can't believe, in 2013, that people are still saying this!

    If the DRM is on the disc, then how does it handle you buying a replacement PS4 if your one dies or a Slim comes out?

    If this is real then Microsoft should play it smart and not have this BS in Xbox 3 and get people to convert to Xbox.

    I doubt that Sony is stupid enough to implement something like that, but if something possesses them to do it, I know I and many others won't be buying it. More often than not I buy used. I rarely have money to waste on games, so when I do, I'll usually go for the best value I can get for my money.

    Ultimately, being able to trade a game in adds to its retail value. It reduces the risk of purchase, because if you don't like it, you can sell it or give it as a gift and still feel okay about the decision to get it in the first place.

    But if you're forever locked in, I predict prices will need to come down to attract the same level of custom that the current gen is attracting, ala Steam (though probably not to those levels).

    Also, people on budgets buy games used, and then get hooked enough to splash out on a new copy of a sequel, or follow-up from the same developer.

    For anything but a mega-AAA title, this patent is not good news, because the risk of purchasing a game will be increased significantly. No one will want to take a risk on an unestablished franchise, publishers or consumers, and we'll be offered a choice between COD and Assassin's Creed and not much else.

    My predictions if this technology is brought into play.

    Last edited 04/01/13 11:28 am

    Im ok with this, i can't do it on pc, i don't buy second hand games, and i only buy console exclusives, if i can get it on my pc ill buy it on that, also those trade-in things are a huge rip off

    This argument hasn't bothered me since I moved to 100% PC gaming, but 2nd hand sales are better when it comes to older games. Just as I bought some 2nd hand games for some older PS2 exclusives that aren't manufactured anymore, people would benefit in, say, 5 years time when the only way to get Uncharted or Halo Reach would be preowned.

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