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. Sony: “Forget console development, let’s just figure out how to get more money.”

  2. If I made a console, then I would make it use carts which would use special chips to lock the game to the owners console and track the users use of the game to stop piracy. But the clever bit is that you can still lend the game to your friends and family by using the internet to unlock the game for lending purposes, this is done by putting the cart into the console and selecting the game, then you go to the other option and select lend and enter your password, then you can set the time limit for the game ( up to 2 weeks max ) and who can play the game ( by selecting their Online User ID ) and click ok to give your friends and family the right to play the game for the time allowed.

    As for selling the game second hand you go back to other option and select sell and enter your password to unlock the game for the second hand market and wait for all the paid for DLC to be deleted and you repeat this all games you don’t want anymore, as for the digital games you can store them to the special cloud storage service that is linked to you Online User ID and based its value and popularity you get a discount your next digital purchase which can be higher if you are using a premium account.

    As for renting the games special rental carts can be used by shops like Blockbuster to allow games to be rented as long they pay a small charge of 7% of the prices value which is split between the publisher, developer and platfrom holder respectively.

    So guys and gals what do you think of this system of dealing with piracy without screwing over the consumers who buy the products.

    • Interesting suggestions, with the Vita using carts I’d have though it would be a no brainer for the next gen – easier control over locking to consoles and less moving parts for the system.

      I don’t think they’d be keen on the lending suggestions though as they’d rather a friend just bought the game from your recommendation.

  3. The economical expected lifetime of the ps3 suddenly increased with many years.

  4. Sadly I can see it happening, I just hope there’s a massive backlash from it. Glad I’ve moved more over to PC gaming now!

    • I don’t mind playing a few extra years with my ps3, I have invested too much money in PS3 hardware. But I used to be a avid pc-gamer before I turned console in 2004. I have kept up with updating my pc-hardware, but if the next PS becomes a dressed down pc, then I won’t jump ship and go 100% pc again. I’ll try hard to pursuade my TSA mates to jump with me.

  5. It could make new games cheaper – if a publisher knew they were getting their cut of every disk sold retail prices could be less. A console that didn’t use it could suffer on multi-format titles if the ‘locked’ consoles version of a game retailed for a reasonable amount less.

    Many use trade-ins to fund new game purchases, which Sony and other publishers must realise. So if this does come into effect, a drop in the RRP is the only way to lessen the blow – especially as each new generation seems to add £10 to the retail price of games for the new format.

  6. If Sony blocks pre-owned games and makes a system like Steam (one game per account), the console gaming will become no more interesting.
    The most valuable thing in console gaming is to lend game with friend or bring game in friends or family house. If this disapears, lot of gamers will migrate to another brend (MS or Nintendo) or to PC gaming.

  7. Maybe I’m in the minority but this really doesn’t bother me, but then I only buy 2-3 games per year and never bother to sell them on. Although I rack up 10-15hrs of gaming per week, going online with these games (you can probably guess which ones) keeps me sufficiently entertained.

    I do have Playstation+ but I should probably cancel as I rarely play any of the games it provides.

    However at the grand age of 36 I am starting to wonder if I should make better use of my spare time and therefore 4th gen may not be something I invest in :-(

  8. How do they not realise that this will hurt their sales. People won’t be buying a lot of new IPs nor games that they just don’t know or aren’t that interested in. People won’t want to make the gamble if they can’t sell it.

  9. Also you say Microsoft will surely follow, but if they didn’t then they would surely win the console war this time around, if they accept pre-owned games then most people will go with them.

  10. Bit late posting, but here goes..

    Think people on forums in general need to look at this in the cold light of day and if nothing else, stop acting as if this is PURELY a SONY thing.

    As an ex-PC owner, i got sick and tired of the DRM/Always on internet connection required/can only instal game 3 times CRAP, so this is nothing new and was around long before Sony filed a patent.

    Also, so far, it’s just that, a filed but not yet granted patent and it’s NOT Sony as a whole, but Sony JAPAN, so it could just be region specific, Jack trenton, Sony USA already said he’s very much again’st the idea.

    Plus, least we forget:rumours were doing the rounds about similar tech.being in the PS3 prior to it’s launch, it did’nt happen, but things like on-line pases did and not JUST from Sony, but E.A, Ubisoft etc, so, as soon as tech.does appear in 1 form or another, do you really think Nintendo+Ms won’t be using similar?.

    Also, how many patents has Sony filed? how many come to anything? could the PS3 manage a decent web browser/cross-chat? lets not give Sony TOO much credit here for having stuff that works, lol.

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