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 still find it offensive that I don’t own the things I buy, this just shouldn’t be the case.

  2. Sony are already using this technology. It’s called cross-play. I would see them extend it to online passes. As long as it’s used to get rid of store codes included in the box and not to kill 2nd hand market, I’m all for it.

  3. …Could be the dumbest thing ever to happen to the industry, the crash is looming….

  4. If that happens, i’m going to look into hacking.

    • I’m not joking but if this seriously happens I hope that Sony get hacked again and are put out of business for good – as a whole.

      People are out to make as much money as they can for their products, I see that, but this industry is fuelled by a hell of a lot of greed recently. Odd comparison here but it reminds me of The Hobbit :P. The dwarves got too greedy with all of their masses of gold in Erebor, and a Dragon came to get rid of them and punish them for their greed. I like to think of the big greedy companies (that have to make money sure, but can try to do so without shafting a large portion of their consumer base) as the dwarves, and customers as the dragon. If these practises carry on again and again and again, people will get pissed off. There is only a certain amount of ways to restrict people before they realise they are being taken for fools.

      • That’s not quite the hacking i meant :)
        I meant i’ll probably hack a ps3 to pass the time if i’m feeling disenfranchised.

  5. if i’m not gonna own the games, i bloody well aint gonna be buying em.

  6. I’ve said before that the games industry has always had preowned sales, yet its still gone from strength to strength. This is just corporate greed wanting every penny their customers.

    I’ve seen nothing to attract me to the next gen consoles so far, but plenty of leaks & patents that put me off.

    • Games are costing more and more to make and developers are going out of business on almost a weekly basis now. It’s the smaller developers that get hit the most. Either by the big yearly games losing revenue which could be put into more interesting projects or the smaller projects not bringing in enough revenue to survive.

      Games will only cost more to make on the next generation which means tighter profit margins and it being far easier for games to fail. One bad game or under performing game is already enough to see some developers out of business. Look at Free Radical, one bad game looks to have costs everyone a new Battlefront and Timesplitters. Even EA has been at risk of buy-outs due it’s financially situation.

      • The thing is games don’t HAVE to cost so much to make. Some of my favourite games from last year were smaller budget indie-type titles likes Sound Shapes and Walking Dead. And a lot of devs get shut down because they’re owned by corporate suits who will accept nothing less than CoD style sales.

  7. I just about never trade in any game, but this would seriously suck if I want to let my friend borrow a game, unless they make the authentication-changing process easy.

  8. One benefit is if a disc is locked to your account then they could provide you with the digital copy free of charge until the disc is unlocked from your account. A digital version would be able to be copied from the disc without the need to download it too which is good for things like cross platform play.

    You wouldn’t get the PSP to PSPgo issues any more as well as they could guarantee who had the genuine disc and give you the digital copy.

    “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.”

    That sounds like a way to control piracy. If they can track who is making the copies of games and stop them then you could have a system there doesn’t need so many firmware updates or even the potential for a more open platform. If each disc has it’s own ID and stores user/console IDs then they can track its source.
    If you can’t copy a game without getting caught then that would massively hit piracy.

  9. If people cannot sell their games it could cost Sony as they may have less money to spend on new games.

  10. This should be fucking illegal.

    As they should have been Online Passes.

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