Thursday, May 25, 2006

The PS3 and Used Game Sales

I'm getting a ton of e-mail about this story:
High street games shops have been told by Sony that there will be no PS3 pre-owned sections in their stores as it will be illegal for customers to sell any next-gen PlayStation games that they've bought, retail sources have revealed to GamesRadar.

Is this impossible? No. Sony has a patent on a technology in this area, actually. From Joystiq:
From the registered patent description:
"A device and method for protection of legitimate software against used software and counterfeit software in recording media… A specific title code is read, and if this title code has been registered, the main unit shifts to a normal operation. If the code has not been registered, verification software is initiated… If matching does not occur, the disk is processed as illegitimate software… Since only titles for which legitimate software has actually been purchased and which have been initially registered in the machine table can be used, resale (so-called used software purchase) after purchase by an end-user becomes practically impossible."

That description doesn't even make any sense, really, but let's assume it actually works. So why wouldn't Sony use this to stop used game sales? Because as much as they might want to kill the used games market, it's an unimportant tactical objective compared to their primary strategic one: establish Blu-Ray as the high-definition DVD standard.

If they implement this technology, and it actually does eliminate used game sales, you know what the PS3 becomes? A doorstop. And if they tried that in the U.S., they might as well not even release it, because it would be DOA. What would that do to Sony's chances of establishing Blu-Ray as the standard for high-definition DVD? Well, it would kill it.

All Sony cares about with this console is establishing Blu-Ray. If a healthy used games market means more people buy the PS3, then temporarily, the used games market actually helps them. They'll grit their teeth and put up with it for now.

Now do I think Sony is logical? Not necessarily. And I actually see a restriction or elimination of used games as something that might happen down the road (with the next-next-gen, so to speak), unless legislation prohibits it. But to try it now would be suicide for everything Sony wants to accomplish.

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