Sony and the Used Game Market

Used games from the game store.

By this point most of you have heard about the newest patent filed by Sony Japan. This patent was placed to prevent games from being resold after their initial use. Essentially this prevents one from purchasing a used game and playing it on their console. Is this really a bad thing? Is this really something to worry about?

Truthfully, I don’t think we have anything to worry about. The gaming industry as a whole is rampant with piracy, and is continually losing money to the used market. Piracy is a separate beast, and sadly every attempt to thwart it is met with an onslaught of nerd rage. Used games is something the industry hasn’t been able to deal with, but has recently started trying. Online Passes have been packaged with numerous games. The online passes, when used, give the player access to a specific aspect of a game that would otherwise be locked. If the Online Pass has already been used, the player is prompted to pay for the access to the locked material through the consoles online store. Generally this costs about $10.

The idea with the Online Pass is to encourage the players to purchase new copies of games from their local retailer, instead of purchasing the used copy. Since the used copies sell for about $5 less then the new copies, then buying new and using the free online pass can save the player about $5. It’s a neat trick, but I’ve noticed that GameStop, my primary source for used games, started offering a free code for the Online Pass with the purchase of a used copy of a game. Since their profit margin on a used game is so high they can afford to do this for most major releases, and still make a ton of money. It’s sad, because all this does is takes money out of the hands of the Developers and Publishers we love.

Sony plans to do away with the Online Passes with the use of an RFID stamp and reader built into their next console. When a disc is places into the “Orbis” the RFID reader will read the stamp on the disc. It will then register this disc to this specific console. The game will start up and all will be fine. If this disc is brought over to a friends house, or traded in and sold to someone else at GameStop, the RFID will read the stamp and. . . well we aren’t sure. In fact no one knows at this time what type of measures will be taken with the device and this new technology. Most speculate that it will prevent the game from being played at all. I’m in less of an extreme, and I think that Sony will block certain features, like multiplayer modes, and force the player to purchase access to those features. Then the Orbis could re-write the information on the RFID stamp, and allow the player to use it in their console permanently.

However, this could create issues with lending a friend your game. You don’t want them erasing your console from the RFID, which then forces you to pay for an aspect of the game you already had access too. I could see it permanently locking that game to your console, and when lending the game to a friend they just won’t have access to certain aspects of the game unless they pay for a new copy entirely. One other thing I could see happening, is that if a game is placed in a console that it was not originally registered with, the Orbis plays the game without any restrictions but, for just 1 hour. Sony does have the 1 Hour Trials on their store, and when the hour is up you’re given the option to turn the game off, or pay for the game to continue. It would be a nice way to let your friend borrow the game, and check it out, while also preventing Used Game Retailers from selling the games.

There is one item worth mentioning. Someone asked me, “What if I buy used games because I don’t have enough money to buy games at the “new” premium price?” Answer, with Devs and Publishers no longer worrying about trying to make a profit and competing with used game retailers, they’ll be left to just compete with themselves. A new game debuts at $60. In 6 months that game is down to $30 because sales have gone down due to used game retailers selling used copies at $45. Instead of worrying about what the used retailers are selling the game for, publishers will need to worry about what other games are being released at the same time. “Oh! We’re competing with Halo and Call of Duty this year?! Hmm. . . let’s drop our debut price by $10 to encourage some extra sales.” And you know what? That will work. We’ll see games starting at lower prices since overall sales will be just as important, if not more so, then the current launch sales. Currently, if a game sells 8 million in 6 months, but half are used sales, then only 4 million count for the devs and publisher. But with Orbis if 8 million sell in 6 months, all of it goes to the devs and publishers, but they’ll still need to compete with all of the other games on the market. And a competitive price point is going to be the best way to do that.

Face it, lower prices with more DLC is the direction the industry is heading anyway. This is just a safeguard to ensure the initial purchase of the game goes to the developers and publishers too.

Regardless of what Sony does with it’s new RFID/Anti-Used tech, it’s going to be exciting for the industry as a whole. The more money these devs make, the better quality product we’ll see from them!

Tell us what you think about this controversial new tech from Sony in the comments below!

is not a boss.

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