Sony Patents Technology Capable of Rejecting Used Games

Published 2 years ago by

PlayStation Sony Used Game Patent

Used games are a crucial commodity for retailers like Gamestop and consumers in a pinch. But the for the first time, well, ever, the next-generation of consoles may have to power to render them obsolete. Particularly the PlayStation 4.

Rumors surfaced in March of 2012 that Sony’s still-unveiled next-gen console — perhaps codenamed “Orbis” — might be able to prevent the playing of used games (this was in addition, allegedly, to eschewing backwards compatibility for PS3 titles). Now, a new patent from Sony itself has hinted at the very same intent, detailing an “electronic content processing system” capable of detecting previously played discs… and prohibiting them from use.

Filed by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, the patent revolves around a reproduction device within the console that would use NFC technology to scan each disc. Think of a barcode reader at Walmart. The device (essentially the console) would transmit unique user-ID data to the disc, which in turn would be coded with terms-of-use data. Once the two are paired, the device could decide whether a user’s ID satisfies the disc’s terms of use — in other words, are you the original owner?… and is it still cool if you’re not?

“When the game is to be played, the reproduction device conveys the disc ID and a player ID to the use permission tag. The use permission tag stores the terms of use of the game and determines whether a combination of the disc ID and the player ID conveyed from the reproduction device fulfills the terms of use or not.”

Here are some of the patent’s blueprints for how the technology might function. Note the salient step “S26″ of the start-up decision tree:

Sony Patent Blocking Used GamesPlayStation 4 could Block used games

Sony also highlighted the flexibility of the design: The system isn’t just limited to accepting or rejecting games — it can allow temporary access to a game, limit its number of uses, or even serve as an automated online-pass scanner. While the patent goes on to speculate that the technology could be adapted across a wide range of hardware — accessories, peripherals, even “an office suite, images, and music content” — it doesn’t specify any intent for the PlayStation 4 (and never once mentions Sony’s current-gen systems: the PS3 and PS Vita).

Perhaps most curious, though, is the document’s forthright championing of the “suppression” of second-hand (i.e., used-game) markets. In the past we’ve seen high-profile Sony executives like SCEA President Jack Tretton decry any notion of blocking used games — such a move would be “anti-consumer,” he cautioned last May — but the patent’s language nearly paints it as mission statement:

“As a result [of the design], the dealing of electronic content in second-hand markets is suppressed, which in turn supports the redistribution of part of proceeds from sales of the electronic content to the developers.”

It’s important to consider that, occasionally, manufacturers in every industry seek out patents as insurance. Whether or not Sony’s device goes (or has gone) from concept to console isn’t a certainty; the option, as far anyone can tell, is merely on the table.

And it might turn out to be an important decision for Sony in the next generation. Second-hand games don’t look to have much relevance beyond the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720, given the likely ratio of physical to digital media in, say, 2022. If Sony insists on a more… preliminary countermeasure against the practice while Microsoft remains patient (because it’s not like they aren’t intrigued by the idea, either), they’d be ceding quite an unnecessary advantage to the Xbox 720 and Wii U.

How do you think next-gen consoles should go about handling the second-hand market?

Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.

Source: FreePatentsOnline [via Eurogamer]

TAGS: PS4, Sony

  • Gooch

    most likely/ideally sony only secured this patent because of Microsoft patented something similar that uses Kinect hardware to scan a room and make sure the number of people in the room match the number of the licenses purchased by the owner, as well as other rumors of them not allowing used games on their hardware. I honestly believe that whoever implements this kind of technology first will bankrupt themselves

  • Dovahkiin

    Note step 22, and 14, they both indicate it would be up to the developer to choose, idk if that is good or bad.

    • Dovahkiin

      When is the edid tool coming gamerant?

      • Dovahkiin

        and that is why you don’t use the touchscreen of a computer to type…

        • doc

          And that’s why these comments need an edit function.

  • The_Philosopher

    If Sony or Microsoft goes through with this. It will hurt the video game industry a lot.

    Most game I bought, were introduced to me from a friend or family letting me borrow theirs for a while. (or letting me play while they visit)

    I only have the Tekken games because family would bring theirs over my place and beat me match after match. I wanted to get better, so I got my own.

  • The_Philosopher

    It’s possible that Microsoft let the rumor loose of “Anti-Piracy Technology”, in order to bait Sony into committing product suicide.

    • KanTstandya

      i bet thats what happened. smart people making very smart moves.

      • dan

        On the flip side, now that Sony has the technology patented, it could be that they only plan to license it to Nintendo and Microsoft and make a tidy sum off of their competitors. I’m not a PS player, but I’m pretty sure Sony isn’t oblivious to this being product suicide if they use it. Honestly, I’m betting Microsoft ends up trying to copy the tech into the next Xbox.

  • Alter

    i don’t see how this could work with out the use of CD keys devs Forbid lol

  • boogoo

    It’ll be pretty ridiculous if you can’t let a friend borrow a game.

    • nuk60


  • Adam

    Back to PC gaming for me if this happens.

    • doc

      Say hello to steam.

  • The mighty avenger

    If this happens I’d probably just start downloading from the network. Saves me a trip from te store. I really just buy cuz I like the collection of cases but I also let friends borrow and I borrow from friends. And also half my games are bought used from somewhere so yeah.

  • jt

    Never realy been a fan of the preowned market, but i will admit to buying some games preowned when they stop production on a game.

    Ive followed sony from the playstation, to the ps2 to the ps3, and to tell the absolute truth this technology worries me. If they proceed with this not only will they alianate the consumers, but that would be a larg f***you to gamestop probly their largest retailer oulet for their product.

    In short, this could destroy sony.

  • jack

    I do not like this if it is true. I tried to find RPG Maker when it first came out but none of the stores in my area had it. I finally found the game at Gamestop sometime in 2009. The game came out on PS1 back in 2000. The same thing happened with Breath of fire IV and Parasite Eve 2 except I still have not found those games and gamestop no longer sells PS1 games. (Walmart had both of those games for only one day. After that they did not get those games in stock). If the used market goes away, then some of these niche games or limited release games would be even harder to find, since I only buy games in store-retail.

  • Glenn

    well i see this as a good-bad kind of thing. its a good thing for people who live with thier parents who force them to sell thier things for money and want to keep them. its bad for when you buy a game you dont research or is a fad type game like most fps games out today. i mean seriously, you ever really go into a gamestop or any other gamestore and look for sports games? now people will think twice about buying. personally, i hope every game is on psn at the start so that when a game because so rare in physical copy that you need to download it.

  • Shalkowski

    If this is true then they better put out demos for everything. EVERYTHING. Not the picky and choosey crap they are doing now.