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Sony Patents Anti Pre-Owned Game NFC Tech

Jonathan Lester
Patent, Pre-owned games, PS4, Rumour, Sony, Used games

Sony Patents Anti Pre-Owned Game NFC Tech

A recently-discovered patent suggests that Sony is keen to suppress the pre-owned games market, potentially using Near Field Communication to tether game discs to specific consoles. Like, just for example... the PS4?

According to the patent, found by NeoGAF member gofreak, game discs would contain a small electronic tag that automatically syncs with the first console it's registered with. Other consoles would either be unable to play it or could only access limited functionality.

As always, the patent is worded in the most obtuse way possible, but here's the relevant section:

"According to the present embodiment, realized is the electronic content processing system that reliably restricts the use of electronic content dealt in the second-hand markets. As a result, the dealing of electronic content in the second-hand markets is suppressed, which in turn supports the redistribution of part of proceeds from sales of the electronic content to the developers.

"By employing the game playing system 1000 according to the present embodiment, the use permission tag 220 together with the game disk 210 is supplied to the user, and the use permission tag 220 actively determines the use permit/rejection of electronic content. Thereby, the use of game AP stored in the game disk 210 can be restricted as appropriate according to the attribute of a reproduction device. Consider, for example, a case where used is a game package 200 distributed in the second-hand market. Then the ID of reproduction device for the game disk 210 differs from the legitimate use device ID stored in the use permission tag 220, so that the game disk can be reproduced in a mode which is predetermined for those bought and sold in the second-hand market. Also, for example, a content key may be supplied to the reproduction device 130 and the encrypted game AP may be decrypted using the content key only if the reproduction device ID matches a legitimate use device ID."

"Hence, use of game APs bought and sold in the second-hand market can be eliminated."

Rumours already suggest that the PS4 will attempt to combat the used game market. Could it use this tech? And, if so, would it affect your purchasing decision? We'll have to wait and see.

Add a comment8 comments
anonamouse  Jan. 3, 2013 at 14:37

Wouldn't this also destroy the rental market and the ability to lend games to friends?

Still, a patent application/grant doesn't mean that tech will see the light of day.

Last edited by anonamouse, Jan. 3, 2013 at 14:37
LancerVancer  Jan. 3, 2013 at 14:50

It will just force the pirates to work harder to break the tech. Having spoken to a lot of friends about this, none of them would buy a console that locked the games to it. You go and spend 30 notes on a game your not sure about, its locked to your console and you find its a buggy mess or you just don't like it. This just wouldn't work.

JonLester  Jan. 3, 2013 at 15:10

@anonamouse: you're right on all points. Such a move would have far-reaching consequences throughout the industry, some of which are impossible to predict.

Also, yes, patents and products are very different things.

What's interesting about this patent is that it clearly shows that Sony are actively interested and engaged in finding ways to suppress the used market, even if it's only theoretical.

@LancerVancer: my personal opinion as a gamer is very similar. We've discussed used games at length in a podcast last year. http://www.dealspwn.com/pwncast-season-1-episode-8-ye-olde-games-debate-98032

Last edited by JonLester, Jan. 3, 2013 at 15:21
stevenjameshyde  Jan. 3, 2013 at 15:36

The tech can't just be as black-and-white as one game, one console - there needs to at least be some support for license transfer in the event of hardware failure and multiple consoles in one household, so there should be some way of sharing games with friends. Maybe have the ability to set up a designated ring of four usernames who can use any disc activated by any one of the users

The patent seems to suggest that the tech can be made to work by restricting games to be played in a 'limited form' on consoles other than the original machine - perhaps for a limited time period, for example, thus enabling a rental market to exist

Equally Sony's Gaikai acquisition might pave the way to a 'try before you buy' model - everything available digitally, with streaming demos of every game available on demand?

All speculation of course, but things are definitely about to get interesting. Would love to see what happens if, for example, Sony block second hand sales but MS don't, or vice-versa...

Doors  Jan. 3, 2013 at 15:38

Have to agree the harder you try to make it for pirates etc the more enjoyment they get from cracking it. There is no point in this sort of technology at the moment. What happens to a the games when a console inevitably bricks itself?

bggriffiths  Jan. 3, 2013 at 20:35

I never buy used games anymore as I often look out for a good deal later on and get it unused and cheap. However, I do rent titles and enjoy being able to sling finished games on eBay, so this wouldn't be great for me.

Another way to look at the patent though could be that maybe they'll use it to replace the online access codes? It'll be registered first time automatically for the new buyer, then anyone else would have to buy a pass to play online. Wishful thinking I know.

Late  Jan. 4, 2013 at 14:18

...I often look out for a good deal later on and get it unused and cheap...

That'd come to an end.
Without the used game market you'd likely see unused games retain value for much longer. I believe the main reason for AAA titles going cheap a few months after launch is that so many people are completing the game then selling it/trading it in. Games that are less likely to be traded in (e.g COD and FIFA) tend to stay expensive for much longer.

Late  Jan. 4, 2013 at 15:48

(Forgive the double-post...)

Random thought: I bet someone tech-savvy could (and would) program their nfc enabled phone to lock every ps4 game in a shop just by waving at them - unless ps4 games are to ship in lead-lined cases...

If you need to be within a few centimetres it might be pretty obvious, mind.

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