It seems like Sony has shot itself in the foot yet again. Yesterday those meddling kids on NeoGaf unearthed another of Sony's nefarious plans: a patent that seems designed to prevent a gaming console from playing a used game. Here's the abstract:
In more readable terms (and as I understand this system), game disks would have an RFID tag embedded in them, and the gaming console would read that tag to determine if the game could be played in that game console. If it's a new game it would get bound to the account ID associated with that console and the ID or a relatable tag would be written to the chip. If it's a used game the tags won't match and the game won't run. Or it could be more granular than that. Perhaps the game's single player mode would run but it's multiplayer mode wouldn't.
The key here is that the console doesn't have to be online in order to do this check, which means it'll work on non-connected consoles, or during those times when our Internet connection goes out. So is this a good idea? I have no idea; hopefully Sony has, or will, run the numbers to be certain they'll make up in sales what they lose in ill-will, because it's pretty much certain that it won't be a popular idea. That, of course, is assuming they actually go forward with this tech. A patent filing doesn't mean a company will actually implement the idea they're patenting, after all. Back in May of last year analyst Michael Pachter related a conversation he'd had with SCEA president Jack Tretton in which Tretton said, in response to being asked about blocking the sale of used games, "for the record, I'm totally opposed to blocking used games. I think it's great for the consumer that they can buy those. We haver a customer that buys our console late in the cycle, pays less, is looking for value priced games, and I think it would be anti-consumer for us to do that." Of course for now it doesn't really matter if Sony is planning on implementing this system on their much-rumored PS4 system or not; many gamers who hear of this patent will assume that it's a done deal and grab their pitchforks and torches. Kyle Orland at Ars Technica has more details on this patent and his post is well worth reading. One other possibility that occurred to me: perhaps stores that sell used games would have a way to restore a chipped game to 'new' status by using a system that they have to pay Sony for access to. That way Sony could get a slice of used game sales but places like Gamestop can continue to rip-off gamers by buying back used games for $5 and selling them for $45. Hopefully Sony will be revealing some actual facts about the PS4 in the next few months and maybe that will put gamers at ease. If they're expecting to launch something next fall they need to start marketing by E3. Speaking of E3, Xbox's Larry 'Major Nelson' Hyrb added a countdown to E3 timer on his blog with the simple caption "And it’s on…" Many have taken this to mean Microsoft is planning to officially unveil the Xbox 720...or Durango...or maybe they'll just call it the Xbox, at this year's E3 show. Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.