We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, next generation might well bring fancy graphics and oodles of power, but it’s also likely to wheel in stronger DRM and more restrictions as to what gamers can actually do with the games they buy.
The area of second hand sales has always been a contentious one with the platform holders, who don’t see their royalties passed on after a game’s initial sale, and it looks like Sony have been working on ways to combat this over the last few years.
Now, this doesn’t mean any of this will apply to the PlayStation 4 – patents are filed every day and only a subset ever come to fruition, but according to this thread over on NeoGAF Sony Japan have indeed come up with a way (albeit in theory only, perhaps?) of locking a game to a single console or user without an internet connection.
“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,” says the filing, pushed live in December 2012. “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.”
The patent discusses the previous requirement for a web connection:
“As a technique to suppress the second-hand sales and purchase, a user may be first required to send a password or the like to a remote authentication server from a reproduction device (game player) via the Internet and the reproduction of content may be permitted only for the device that has succeeded in authentication.”
“However, where the reproduction device is not connected to the Internet, use of the content cannot be controlled. Also, where the connection to the Internet is an absolute requirement, user’s convenience may be significantly reduced. Besides, users may communicate to share the password between them and therefore the second-hand sales and purchase cannot be eliminated reliably.”
And then discusses how to get around this with radio frequency tabs, which is actually quite a good way of getting around any restrictions – NFC (near field communication) is getting more and more readily available and accepted. And wouldn’t be a much stretch to implement.
“Proposed is an electronic content processing system where a usage mode of the electronic content is determined based on whether a reproduction entity, such as a reproduction device or user of the electronic content fulfills the use condition or not.”
Of course, this begs the question as to what would happen access to a user account is lost, but remember this is all conceptual anyway – at least as far as we can tell – and there’s nothing to say this is all for definite for the near future. It’s (the RF bit) a clever idea, even if you’re totally adverse to the idea.
But one thing’s for sure, if Sony do this, Microsoft are sure to follow.