Sony’s always held their cards close to their chest, and for a while now, they’ve been known to attempt to reduce the expanse of the secondhand game market through bonus content tied to a game’s primary sale. But now it appears that Sony has patented technology that can actually nullify used games on their system altogether.
Essentially what Sony plans to implement is a device called an RF tag. This tag will be built into all games and ties the physical copy of the game to a console or PSN user account. Before starting the game up, this RF tag will check to ensure the machine and account it is being played with match those of the time it was first played. Hopefully this patent won’t come to fruition, but if they follow through with this system for PlayStation 4, you can kiss your used games goodbye. Not only does this affect used games, but if you have a friend who wants to borrow your game when you’re done, they’re also out of luck.
It seems like this is an attempt to optimize profit in an age when Sony is already struggling, but with the secondhand game market as large as it is, this can only serve to further ravage their financial standing. They see it as promoting sales of first-hand games and giving developers more cash to pocket, but what they fail to consider is why people buy and sell used games in the first place. Often, the price is not just a few dollars lower, but enough to actually make the difference in what game a consumer buys. On a tight budget, if you see a used copy of Assassin’s Creed for fifteen dollars and a new one for sixty, you’re undoubtedly going to go for the cheaper option. If that option doesn’t exist, you won’t be convinced to buy the sixty dollar copy—you’ll instead look elsewhere. It also means that people are less inclined to buy games in the first place if they know they won’t be able to sell them back to the store once finished.
By killing off consumers’ rights to redistribute a game how they please after purchase, Sony is essentially killing off the PlayStation 4 before it hits shelves. If you knew you wouldn’t be able to buy nor sell used games for the console, would you even consider buying it? Surely the percentage of gamers willing to pay full price for every game and never let it go is very small. Smaller still are those who think limiting their options is worth sticking with Sony. I love everything PSN has to offer, and I’m quite fond of Sony’s first-party IPs, but if this is the direction the PlayStation is headed, they’ve actively prevented my continued support.