Sony Patent Could Stop You From Playing Used Games

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.

  • 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.

    • 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 😛 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

        • 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 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.

          • 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 ?

          • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Yeah nah, this ain’t cool. I don’t particularly care about being unable to trade in games, since I generally only do that with cheap games I’ve bought specifically to take advantage of trade deals rather than to play. But I wonder how it’ll affect the return of games people have played for all of five seconds before deciding it’s garbage and needs to go back. If the disc becomes a coaster to anyone but you the moment you use it… how could you return that to the retailer, since they’d be able to do nothing with it? Are they able to sell the useless games back to the publisher?

    But more importantly, what would this mean down the road for the history of games? Imagine if right now, across all your classic systems from previous generations, you could only play the games that you bought new and still have. There’d be games out there that just wouldn’t exist any more and nobody would be able to play. That’s a horrible thought.

  • RFID is akin to tracking, Sony is akin to a large company with massive issues holding onto private information. Also wtf happens when the chip in your game dies, your locked out of something you paid money for. Maybe EB can supply a 1 year scratch / RFID chip warranty.

  • I understand the motives behind it but they would have to have a simple process available to trade your rights to a game onto a different console in case there was an issue with the console e.g Yellow Light of Death

  • 2nd hand games in retail is no different to your first downloading the game from ThePirateBay. No money gets to the developers and the sellers make money.

    IMO the second hand game market in retail stores should be shutdown. And Sony is making a step towards that maybe. Personally I don’t have issues with people traiding with friends or private sales though but unfortunatly due to greedy EB and those other shops these issues have come up. Blame them, not the hardware / software developers.

    • It’s not the same as piracy, there are no spontaneous and exponential new copies being made. The original buyer still paid for it new and they must give up ownership upon selling.

  • What happens if you own 2 consoles? Probably won’t be a problem initially, but I have 2 Xboxes bought over 5 years (an original and a slim) – the inability to move a disc-based game between them would be a real deal-breaker.

  • I get a bit annoyed when people talk about second hand games and about how it’s detrimental to the publisher because you’re giving Gamestop/EB $55 when the new one is only $5 more. Okay, yeah. People trade in AAA games and that, but what about those niche, hard to find games that you only discover 3 or 4 years down the track that are out of print? I have a few of these that I had to buy second hand because it’s just impossible to buy a new copy!

    There will always be these, those gems that get looked over and only gain traction a few years in. I don’t want to be told “you can’t play it because you didn’t know about it when it was released”. This is the only thing I’m worried about here. I don’t generally buy second hand games, but if I don’t have the choice to buy new, then I will.

  • I highly doubt that implementing this technology will make up the sales lost to the second hand market, and whilst the patent does suggest eliminating the second hand market it doesn’t necessarily mean so. The way i look at it, is that for most games, it will remove the need for having to input an online pass in and allows publishers to allow second hand or loaned games limited access to online features (level caps, timed access etc.). Additionally it provides additional security for if/when the console is hacked to prevent piracy by adding another authentication step, which ironically was one of the methods discussed when the ps3 was hacked and the master key was released. Don’t forget that at the end of the day, publishers make the call on how they want to utilise the technology, just as they had the option to be region free or restricted on the ps3.

    I also take it that the user permission will take down hardware ID and user ID to allow use of multiple accounts on the same console, and other consoles where the user ID is logged into.

  • If this turns out to be true then that will kill the next generation of gaming consoles.

    The only people complaining about second hand sales are the publishers are have already taken developers for a ride. Buying a game first hand at retail does not support developers because only a minimal amount actually goes to them. If you want to support the developers then make a donation to them directly.

    Publishers have this tendency to make unrealistic expectations about games when then reality takes them out of their ivory towers then go looking for a convenient scape goat: piracy and second hand sales being the popular ones. (The root cause is easily found, publishers, make your execs look in a freaking mirror!)

    On a personal note, if I choose to buy second hand (either because I am short on change or the game is out of print), I should be able to do so without being treated like I got the same product via The Pirate Bay.

    I do not get into my second hand car and find the radio doesn’t work unless I pay $200 to Ford. I do not get a second hand copy of Lord of the Rings and miss out on the last three chapters unless I pay $15 to Alan and Unwin (or whoever has the publication rights these days). I do not get a second hand jacket to find I can only use the pockets if I pay $5 to Rivers. So why should the game industry be treated any different?

    As I have said before, second hand sales *have not* harmed any industry in the least. It has happened for books and the publishing industry is fine (even with the loud yet insignificant threat of digital publication), it has happen to cars and the automotive industry is fine, it has happened to clothes and I don’t see Gucchi, etc, going under.

    At the end of the day, my role in the game industry ends when I get my receipt from the clerk at the counter. My choice of first or n-th hand purchases have no correlation to the future of game developers what so ever. As I said before, if you wish to support developers, send them donations because you are doing them only a minimal favor by buying retail. The publisher (which is often separate from the game developer) gets the lion’s share. Unless you are the likes of Valve.

    The other point that easily defeats this fight against second hand sales is what happens to consumer when the game goes out of print or if the publisher goes bust? Second hand is the only way to actually get a real copy in that situation. Games are not printed forever and publishers are likewise.

  • Personally I’m just getting a bit sick of caring about publishers and developers. Buying games used to be about nothing more than: give money -> get game. It’s a nice thought and all to want your contribution to go to to the makers but that’s usually done by them making a good game everyone wants to buy.

    I don’t pay extra to the guy at McDonald’s for my burger just to be nice. I just want my burger.

    • If I may follow your example, Snacuum, but why should you have to pay extra for a good burger? It should be good from the get go.

      With the quality of games at the moment, I have to remind myself it’s not 1983 again.

      • The quality of games/burgers is subjective and of course anybody may question the need to pay more for better/worse games/burgers.

        Simply I’m saying that I do not need to take into account the livelihood of the employees when I buy a burger. Of course I think that the employees should be treated fairly as a generality, but not as a part of my desire for a burger. I feel the same way about games: It’s nice to think “oh I’ll support the developers I like” but only like them because I thought about exchanging money for just the game in the first place.

  • It’s good to see we learn from history. SecuRom was such a smashing success that Sony has decided to take it further… The more I hear about the next generation of consoles, the more I feel like going back to just being a PC person.

  • I wouldn’t mind so much if this put an end to all the other bullshit we currently put up with to dissuade used game sales. As an avid gamer I’m always buying games on day one, not for the extra maps or skins – just because I’ve been following development of a game I cant wait to play. As a reward for being exactly the kind of consumer the industry wants please just sell me a complete package – one free of downloads and exclusives that I can sink into my console and enjoy immediately!

  • Because we all know RFID can’t be spoofed… Oh wait.

    But then I wouldn’t put it past Sony to implement technology more secure than our fucking -passports- because TEH PIRATES.

    And then hackers will break the security anyway, and have a more convenient gaming experience. SO IT HAS BEEN, SO IT SHALL CONTINUE TO BE.

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