The used vs. new game debate has been a hot topic for a while now and it seems soon it may be a moot point altogether. An astute NeoGAF member named gofreak has found a patent filed by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan in which future consoles will have a have a way to determine if the game you are playing is in fact a new copy or one that you have purchased/acquired used, in which it will not let you play at all.
As the Abstract of the patent describes;
Sony's Used Game Blocking Patent
This will impact us as consumers because, if this actually goes into effect, how will we be able to bring our favorite games over to our friends homes? Will we always have to bring our console? It would make much more sense if it was tied to your PSN ID so you can log in and be allowed to play the game wherever you go. This also brings up the question of if your system breaks, or if you have multiple consoles in your home. How will you be able to play your library of games if they are all tied to that broken console? There will have to be a lot of explaining or the backlash may be too much for these companies to handle and they could potentially lose a lot of loyal fans and customers.
Brick and mortar stores such as GameStop will also suffer immensely as they make most of their profit from used games sales, and you can already see the impact as their stock actually fell by $1.30 or 5% after this news broke.
When GameStop or Best Buy sells a new game, the sale is split between the store, the developer, the publisher, etc. However, when you trade in your games and someone picks them up for a cheaper price, the people who made the game get NOTHING and that store gets everything. Developers/publishers have tried many ways to quell this, such as Online Passes in which you get a code with new games that you'll need to play online or you are forced to purchase one to enjoy the benefits. This is just the next logical step, cutting out used games all together.
This will have ramifications that will rock the very foundation of this industry. Imagine if Orbis, PS4 or whatever they end up naming it launches with this technology and the Xbox 720 does not. Microsoft will be at such an advantage because the used market is huge and people will want that option if it is still available to them. The only way for this to make sense is if Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and whomever else involved get together and go forward together. This sounds outrageous but for it to make any sense from a business standpoint it would have to be a combined effort or one company will have a huge one-up over its competitors. Sony is smart, and they will not knowingly dig themselves a grave.
We will just have to wait and see because the end of used games is not a matter of if, but when. Another trend we are seeing is the move to digital distribution, and sometime in the future all discs will be obsolete so this argument will be a silly one because used games will be a thing of the past.
So just remember that this patent does not suggest we will be seeing this in a few months when the new consoles are announced. What it does show, however, is that these companies will never stop fighting until they can secure all the profits from the games they create.
How do you feel about this? Should Sony push forward and make this step and ensure all money from games comes to them? Or could it be the first step down a very dangerous road? Let us know below!
Adam Bankhurst is one of the co-hosts of The Gamer's Advocate. Send him all your thoughts or questions to email@example.com. You can also follow him @adambankhurst