) is getting a lot of attention this week after it was revealed
that the Japanese tech giant filed a patent for a new method to
keep consumers from playing used games. The technology is
fascinating, to say the least. Sony believes that it can apply an
RFID chip that will keep track of a game's usage history and
prevent it from being played on multiple consoles.
While some consumers are accepting of the concept, most are
"What happens when your PS4 or Xbox 720 craps out and your games
are all locked to that console?" one user, who goes by the name of
wrote on Kotaku
Another user, The_Hyphenator, said that this could keep him from
buying another Sony console. "If this is the case, then I'm
definitely going ahead with my plan to go Wii U/PC only this
generation," he wrote. "If all console games (except the Wii U) are
going to be DRM'd like this, then I may as well go with the PC for
all my non-Nintendo needs, since I can at least get my DRM'd games
on the cheap that way."
"We keep hearing about this patent, but it never actually shows
up," added Kotaku user TRT-X. He said that in addition to limiting
the sale of used games, this technology would prevent consumers
from lending or borrowing games. "My guess is that everybody is
rushing to be the one to own the technology, but nobody wants to be
the first to implement it due to the completely understandable
backlash from the gaming community."
In May 2012, former Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi
that game companies might limit themselves if they eliminate the
sale of used games.
"If Microsoft bans used games, then maybe I don't go to GameStop
) and buy a new game," said Sozzi. "So it could have a cascading
effect where you cut your nose off to spite your face."
At that time Microsoft was rumored to be experimenting with new
anti-used game technology. Benzinga outlined
five key reasons
why Microsoft will ultimately abandon any plans it may have to
eliminate used games.
One of the most important reasons involves the hundreds of
millions of dollars that are spent on new games
with the help of store credit
. That credit is obtained by selling old software.
In 2011 alone, GameStop
returned $1.2 billion
worth of trade-in credits back towards the purchase of new video
games. No company -- not Sony, Microsoft or any other firm -- would
sacrifice a billion dollars just to eliminate the sale of used
These are just a few of the reasons why PlayStation 4 will play
used games. Here are a few others:
The Added Expense Cannot be Justified
While it is wholly possible that the standard MSRP will rise
from $59.99 to $69.99 during the next generation, Sony cannot
afford to implement a technology that raises the cost of every game
sold. It would not be worth the trouble -- or the added
Patents Reveal Proof of a Concept, Not Proof of a Product
), Google (NASDAQ:
), Research In Motion (NASDAQ:
) and Nokia (NYSE:
) hold thousands of patents they will never use. Sony is no
This anti-used games patent is an important part of Sony's
portfolio. The company may never build a product, but it could use
it to defend against a potential lawsuit or to legally attack other
firms that attempt to ban used games.
The Patent Might be a Dud
Anyone can file a patent that explains the theoretical solution
to a problem. In practice, however, most patents are duds. They
provide a nice blueprint for how something could work, but the
results are rarely on par with the vision.
Thus, Sony may test this technology to see if it works, but that
does not mean that it will.
Retailers Can Fight Against It
despised the PSP Go
, a newer version of the original PlayStation Portable that could
not play games that were purchased in-store.
Sony released the device to see if consumers were comfortable
with an online-only environment that required users to download all
of their games, just like an Apple device. Consumers were not
impressed. Thus, Sony created a cartridge format for its new
handheld, PS Vita.
At the same time, Sony
rejected a concept
for an online-only game console. Once again, consumer acceptance
was at the core of the company's decision.
However, retailers hold just as much power, if not more. While
Best Buy (NYSE:
) and Target (NYSE:
) may not care to get into a fight with Sony, GameStop has the
power to refrain from selling PlayStation 4 if it contains
anti-used game measures. This might sound like an unorthodox
strategy for the retailer to take, particularly when it did not
fight against the online pass system implemented by Electronic Arts
) and other game publishers. If this feature were built into the
console, however, it would be far more serious.
Investors seem to agree. Shares of GameStop declined more than
six percent Thursday.
The Technical Hurdles Would be Catastrophic
If Sony overcomes the initial obstacles and bring an anti-used
games console to market, the company will still have to deal with a
cornucopia of problems once the machine is used by consumers. From
glitches and chip failure (ex: RFID chips that are broken before
the game is purchased) to hardware and software malfunctions, this
anti-used game technology is a disaster waiting to happen.
(c) 2013 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice.
All rights reserved.
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