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Sony patents new anti-used game technology

by on04 January 2013

GameStop shares drop by 5% over the news

The talk of pre-owned games being blocked on the next evolution of consoles has taken an interesting turn. Sony has filed for a patent for new technology whose sole purpose is block the ability to play pre-owned or used games that have already been “tagged” to another console.

The technology apparently takes a NFC-style approach where each copy of the game is “tagged” and then the title is tied to a console or user account or even the two combined. The system then checks the tag before playing the title and then it can block playback of titles that are not tied to the console or user account or the two combined, depending on how the technology is configured and deployed.

The news that both Sony and Microsoft were looking at anti-used game technology is not new. It has been previously rumored at certain points that either the PS4 or Xbox Next would deploy this technology as part of the console’s strategy to stamp out used game sales. Most analysts believe that the technology will not be deployed as part of the PS4 or Xbox Next, but with the news of this patent, it does seem to lead one to believe that this is where the future will be heading.

It is believed by many analysts that we have spoken with that a move to block the use of used games would be a move that could figure heavily into the ability to sell a new console. The move would be anti-consumer in nature and would certainly affect GameStop who both hardware and software companies have come to be partners with, like it or not due to the chain’s strong sales, which mostly come from the sale of used titles.

While clearly the technology to block the use of user titles has existed for a long time and, in fact, might have been possible to even have been deployed on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, both Microsoft and Sony choose not to deploy such technology; they have instead watched as software publishers have used one-use codes that have been bundled with new games that unlock online game play, for example, as the main weapon against used game sales. Forcing used game players to purchase the $10 code to unlock the block features has proved effective, according to those we have spoken with, but not as effective as software publishers would like. Some software publishers have expressed at least an interest in seeing strong measures deployed and available to software publishers as an option with the next round of consoles.

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