Sony’s Rumoured Clampdown on Second-Hand Games

Gaming, Piracy Add comments

As regular readers of The Shelf will know, we are firm supporters of the Playstaion 3 over the Xbox and Blu-ray over HD DVD for a variety of reasons, of which Sony sponsorship is not one of them, having access to the latest gadgets before they hit the market would have its benefits.

However, recent rumours have started to concern us here, and although they are unfounded according to Sony there has been increasing talk of the PS3 manufacturer taking steps to cut down on the second hand games trade that has been o popular retail model for high street stores such as game.

The plans that have led to an explosion of opinion in forums, blogs and journals online include the insertion of code on game discs that binds it to the machine it is first played on, thus eradicating the second hand sales market overnight.

“The technology would allow an authentication code to be read and then rendered unreadable; making the software unplayable on any machine but the one which first read it.”

The supporting argument here is that second hand game revenue is not shared with the manufacturer of the original game. Although they have clearly already been paid once for the game title, the argument is that often resold games use server resources in the form of tech support. A significant number of people calling up saying “I don’t have my serial number” are quite likely to be from second hand sales and this cost manufactures money.

I personally believe that this is a bit far fetched, when you pay near £50 for a title are you not paying for technical support for the games life – whether it was you who paid that is by the by – the fee for this support has been received.

The other point is that second hand game stores will often promote second hand titles over new ones, and as companies do receive revenue from second hand titles they are loosing revenue. As such manufactures would like to see an official refurbished games policy where both the shop and game manufacturer gets paid.

I see a problem in this. Games manufactures have already been paid once for a title and as such the most successful games are those that sell the greatest volume, and in reality this is a fair assessment. Would implementing the aforementioned policy simply encourage game making to aggressively advertise mediocre games?

After initial sales disappointment in the product would be encouraged so that the game title is sold onto the next person, with the manufactures taking a slice of the re-sale profit. We would the be left with manufactures measuring the success of games by the amount the game is circulated second hand, not by initial sales encouraging lower quality games to be released.

From a user perspective I think this would severely restrict the offering of any console implementing this technology, not to mention an incredibly bad business idea. As a result

1. Users could not sell a game after you’ve played it
2. Users could not buy or play any second-hand games

So what happens when I’ve bought round to a mate’s house to play, even if it’s to encourage him to get a copy so we can play online? I can’t bottom line.

Secondly if you invest in a bad game you are stuck with it, which would mean make people more reluctant to buy game titles.

Thirdly all games that a consumer has invested in throughout the years (for instance PS1 and PS2 console games) would be unplayable on the new PS3 with this technology.

Lastly I don’t know what would happen if like many first generation consoles they needed replacing under the manufacturers warranty. The new console would make the games bought to date redundant, meaning a customer has a lot of expensive drink coasters on their hands.

A quote from Sony has said

“I would like to clarify that this is false speculation and that PlayStation 3 software will not be copy protected to a single machine but will be playable on any PlayStation 3 console. “

But there is often no smoke without fire. Could it be such plans were in the pipeline only to be shelved because of the consumer reaction? Either that or a very clever marketing trick from Microsoft.


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