Sony Files Patent That Could Prevent Second Hand Game Sales

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.

“In view of the foregoing problems described above, according to the present embodiment, a recording medium and a radiofrequency (RF) tag storing the terms of use (use condition) are included in the same packet (package) of electronic content.”

“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.


  1. I’m sure i read in 2012 that European courts ruled second hand sales as legal and not something that could be blocked. I’ll see if i can find the article.

    • where will you find it Jimmy?

      • What if this doesn’t prevent, but does mean you need to pay to get the RFID tag cleared and reset? Like the ultimate online pass.

        Also, you can’t sell your digital copy of Windows, can you, in the EU?

      • The court ruling was only 6 months ago and the full implications haven’t been sorted out yet but in theory MS aren’t allowed to stop you.

        You may have to pay to get it reset but then that could only be a very small fee as legally they could only charge reasonable amounts to pay for the work/systems to reset it.

        Doesn’t mean that this system couldn’t be implemented in our regions but there is also a court case going on about reselling digital music in the US.

      • yeah but what they say is a reasonable charge is likely to be a million miles away from what is actually reasonable, look at bank charges, apparently 30 quid is a reasonable charge for sending you a letter.

      • Don’t know where you bank but I’ve never had that.

  2. If this happens, bye bye to Sony and gaming altogether for me.

    • Yeah I’m feeling the same sort of way with next gen, even though I don’t buy many second hand games, but I don’t like it. My issue is mainly digital content over physical and the amount of DLC and Season Passes for games now – I hate that if I want every part of a game now I would sometimes need to pay £60-£80 (particularly if there is a multiplayer element). Another issue for me is how games are released broken, and patches sometimes coming months later – in general I just don’t like a lot of things about the current gen. Also, I’m 30 in March, I have my second child due in June, and I have a huge amount of decent PS3 games I’d still like to play, and there’s always my Vita!

      • I’m with you on that. With many of the generation growing up and now having kids, they need to target those people too. I’m with you on DLC/Patches and all that, I’ve had enough of all of it, broken games on release and only fixed months later with a patch, its a joke. Unless something can be done I might be buying a PS4 but not even playing games on it. I’m already bored with the current gen games, it’s all very boring and samey.

      • Indeed. I might buy a PS4, but only buy one or two games a year – especially if there is DLC as I like to have all the extras – I won’t spend anything like I have this gen. I’ll probably choose games with little to no DLC, that comes from the more reliable developers, and probably games that are solo or co-op only.

        The other day, I calculated that Final Fantasy XIII-2 has over £33 worth of DLC (which are mainly skins and weapons), which is an incredible amount for a SP game and when the game costs £40. It’s not annoying as I’m a big fan of the series but I won’t be mugged into buying all the extras.

      • I’ve found a combination of lovefilm and playstation plus keeps costs down and gives me plenty of games to play. Then I pick up others I want to own months after release for a fraction of the cost

      • Yeah, PS+ (only) might be the way to go for me next gen – it will be a bit of a lottery of what I get, but that’s not a huge issue as my time will be limited!

    • Or you could get a gaming pc and steam.

      • They said they don’t like DRM and want to sell on their games.

        Steam IS DRM and it’s impossible to sell your games once they’re in your library.

    • Online gaming really doesn’t interest me and the whole excessive pricing/lock down stick with the consoles annoys me too much so I’ve already given up on the PS3.
      If the PS4 doesn’t have vastly superior performance to my PC, and I’m not holding my breath ;) Then there will be nothing to tempt me back and I shall not be bothering with that either.

      Of course some PC games have restrictive DRM as well, but in general they are so much cheaper (compared to their console versions) it is less of an issue, for me anyway. Plus modding can be fun :)
      Before someone points out the obvious, I know that the total spend of equipment +games is less on the consoles due to the cost of decent PC hardware, but I already have/need the PC so that’s a mute point for me.

      • Hmm, do I correct the spelling and look like a dick for doing it or leave it and look like I can’t spell? Choices! :)

      • A PC isn’t really an option for me sadly. Aside from the cost, my wife and maybe visitors would want to use it, and in my experience as soon as that happens and people decide they want to download software or delete something, that messes everything up! I’d also be addicted to constantly updating it with new hardware, thus spending more money! ;)

      • Thats not even mentioning the porn. You’d have far too much!

      • Yup, and the porn!

  3. The new proposed copyright laws in the UK also make it legal to copy your own purchased media for your own use as much as you like which also farts in the face of DRM. Still needs someone to challenge it though.

  4. Considering the Wii U happily plays pre-owned games, Sony and Microsoft would be idiots to put this sort of restriction in place. Wouldn’t put it past them though…

  5. This would also destroy the rental market.

    • Unless rentals copies didn’t include them but maybe they want to kill the rental market especially if various trials etc… available digitally

    • I’d reckon it would destroy retail. People who want to buy a version cheaper cannot, all release games fixed at £45 -50. GAME would just blow up probably lol. CEX may scratch their heads and just decide to sell second hand anyway even though the games cannot be used :P

      The rental market could be solved through implementing licenses. However that ‘implementation’ might be more complex. I’m thinking a shop could sell 5 days rent, hand the ‘rent licensed copy’ over with a code (one that gives 5 days) and then the user can just put the game in and authorise it for 5 days with code.

      Sony might help themselves by putting a time limit on games. Say a game is free of this DRM a year from release. That might help their profits. Otherwise the only way I can see this working is if the new games become incredibly cheap, and an actual full long game gets put on the disc as opposed to a bit of dev work and a f****ing library of DLC which requires the bloody Internet.

      For me WiiU has sold itself. I’m still considering getting one a little later on. It being WiiU and quite popular I reckon it will have a wider range of games in no time.

      • Retail on the high street is virtually gone already. The second hand prices in the likes of game are still higher than new copies online.

        Sony already have a time limit of games on the PSN, they’re called Full game trials

      • Yeah and you can’t get trials from Blockbuster. I’d reckon the only way they can provide rental hard copies is to create a batch of games that have a ‘rental’ license which requires a code to be input. The shop can provide a code for how many days you want to borrow. Then just punch the code in and there you have it, a game rented for 5 days or so and it can be returned and re-rented by anyone.

  6. If they make download prices consistently cheaper than the best store price then this wouldn’t be necessary.

  7. Can’t see it unless its aimed at the outlet/resellers who are selling on a 2nd hand copy of a game to once again make money out of it.
    If I purchase a game then sell it on… fare enough. On the other hand, if I purchase a game, play it, then decide to give it away to a friend its up to me, I bought it, I own it. Just like a music CD… I’m bored of this, you can have it as my gift to you.
    Just like mobile phones, once your contract is over the network have to unlock that phone for free as it then belongs to you to choose which network you want to use it on etc.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m no law student & probably wrong but thats my view. :)

    • I think you’ll find you ‘own’ less than you think.

      • Especially if you’re married! Luckily I’m not.

      • haha yeah. No one owns Starcraft 2, the £40 tag is just a loan out not a buy out. I have AC2 but I don’t own it. If the publishers want to end the party they just have to switch the servers off.

      • I can’t see whats so hard to understand…
        eg: I offer to buy an attractive young lady a drink & she accepts the drink – therefore, I own her.
        Simple, whats so hard about that?

      • I love you.

      • Wanna drink?

  8. To be fair most traded game pricing is is pretty piss poor compared to the initial cost on release especially if there’s an online pass involved that’s been used up. I’d rather see the price of new releases fall to levels that are seen with most games after a few weeks/month of initial release.
    Simply charge £20 for each new game (which includes the online pass) and maybe £15 for an online pass on the PSN store.
    If this was the case then there wouldn’t really be any advantage financially in trading used games long term and maybe everyone could be happy with the compromise.

    • That’d be great for me as I very very rarely play any game online.

      I prefer the Starhawk model they used recently where you could buy the single player campaign separately and upgrade to include the online if you wanted.

      • That was a great model and really should be the way forward but there’s a lot of heel dragging in progress it seems!

  9. Eventually we will move to online buying of games only and If the prices for big games are still large on the PlayStation Store I’ll just switch to PC.

  10. If they do block preowned sales, they will see a huge majority of gamers abandoning them. It would also affect the market as the preowned sales help to support it. What about the rental? Will they destroy that too thus ensure less sales? Hopefully, they have only patented the idea so no-one else can use it. If they do implent it, i may be very unlikely to get a PS4. Suspect EA wishes that they could lock their games to every console.

    • i suspect ea would create a disc that disintegrates after a single use if they could get away with it.

      exagerating for effect there, but seriously, disposable games seems to be the way the industry is headed.

      • Nah, they would create a disc that strangles you and shouts “YOU FILTHY SCUM” if you buy it preowned. If you buy it new, it laughs at you. By god, EA will create terminators! :O

      • Didn’t Kojima say that he want discs that blow up if you died in the game?

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