Has Sony dropped the big one? Will this be a megaton failure of epic proportions, dooming the PS4 before it even comes out? If this patent comes to fruition, it will mean many things for consumers.
Reportedly the patent was filed last last year on December 9th 2012 by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, and will use a contactless disc tag that your console can read, that links the ID for the disc (it’s tag) to your player ID (system or system account) in order to block used games from working. The disc will only work if the two IDs, that on the disc and that on the console, match, following the initial use of the disc.
Chief among concerns if this system proves to be true, is the fact that trade-ins will no longer be possible. Borrowing games from friends will no longer be possible. Selling your games on ebay, Craigslist, or back to the store you bought it from, like GameStop even, may no longer be possible. And buying used games from retailers like GameStop will also no longer be possible.
Of course, if Sony does go down this perilous route, retailers could retaliate and refuse to stock the PS4… which would kill it off immediately; and game analyst Michael Pachter has sounded off that retailers would react exactly that way if Sony chooses to block used games from working on the PS4. Then again, Pachter is ALWAYS wrong….
However DFC Intelligence’s game analyst David Cole echoed Pachter’s thoughts on this new next-gen development, as have other analysts.
If this patent proves to be true, then big things are afoot. It has been common knowledge for a long time that publishers hate the used game industry, which is where GameStop makes the largest majority of its profit. And for years they have tried to come up with various ways to stop the trade-in industry. Nintendo sued Blockbuster back in the day to stop them from renting Nintendo (NES, Game Boy, SNES, etc.) games, but the courts ruled in Blockbuster’s favor, opening up the used games and rental industry and protecting retailers like GameStop who would go on to build much of their business on trade-ins.
However with the advent of the digital age, and the ability to download games digitally, as well as rising development costs for AAA releases, a harsh recent economy, and the huge profits of retailers like GameStop who profit off of used games, as well as the controversy over pirated videogames, the winds have been turning against the trade-in industry as far as the console manufacturers are concerned for a while now. And the popularity of Steam and the rise of digital game sales on services like PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade and Nintendo Download (eShop, DSiWare, Wii Virtual Console, WiiWare) has proven that consumers ARE willing to purchase digital products even if they must sacrifice the ability to trade them back in. Often gamers will go digital simply for convenience. However there is a pretty big caveat, in that a lot of gamers will only do so if the price is right. Steam gets the price right, for other titles and publishers it has been a tougher sell.
Still, we have been here before.
Does anyone remember the PSPGo? That redesigned 2009 PSP system was DIGITAL ONLY. It was Sony’s attempt to create an all-digital console where consumers would be forced to pay the higher digital prices and would eliminate the used games market entirely. However, the PSPGo was a failure, and people continued to buy the hardcopy-supporting PSP 3000 even after the digital-only PSPGo’s release.
Sony then announced, originally, that their next-gen PS Vita system would NOT feature actual hard media and would be digital-only, just like the PSPGo. However the backlash was so enormous that Sony reversed course, and the PS Vita did launch with hardcopy games alongside digital versions, giving the consumer the CHOICE on which way they want to go.
Hopefully Sony will get the same type of backlash with this proposed patent being unveiled (although not officially announced) and Sony will not go through with it. Because if so, the PS4 is doomed. UNLESS Microsoft follows suit… then things will get VERY interesting… although not necessarily for the better.
What do you guys think of this? Sound off in the comments!