First things first. I've been very loyal to Sony ever since the PS1, always buying the next gen consoles and games upon release whether they've been used or new. Recently, Sony have submitted a patent for technology that blocks the usage of any "used" games. This means you will only be able to play new games on their consoles if this technology is used.
How does it work? It is actually quite simple: When you load a game into the console it sends your account data and CD ID to a server to verify the "Terms of service". If this is approved your account information is recorded with the CD ID on their servers. If the game is then put into a different console it would find that the game has already been registered against another account and would block the user from playing that particular game.
Before we look at both the pro's and cons of what Sony have developed it is important to note that Sony have not yet confirmed that this technology will at all be used in their next generation consoles or for any of their other products at the time of writing this. The purpose of this is to pose some hypothetical questions/answers as to why this could be a bad or positive move for Sony as a developer. Feel free to contribute in the comments section.
The first issue is that it is assumed you have an internet connection. I understand that most people in this day and age do have access to the internet but there is still a minority that do not. Does this mean that they will not be able to play the new games on the new console that they have purchased? They won't be able to play these games (hypothetically) because each game requires verification from Sony prior to having the ability to play the game to check the "Terms of Service" of that disk, right? This looks like Sony are already discriminating against a section of their current market before their product is even released yet.
What about if a friend wants to borrow a game? Everyone knows that gaming is about community, right? What if I want to take a game over to a friends place to show them a game I'd just purchased? Does this mean I would need to take my console over to my friends house too? There are a couple of ways that this could work out; If you had your friends account on the PSN this could allow your friends to play your games for a certain amount of time or for a small fee. I feel a little bit off about the whole thing though, It just feels like money grabbing. This then leads to my next point...
What if I was taking my console over to my friends house to play a game and I accidently dropped and broke the console? Not even, what if I broke my console at home or the console stops working? Does this mean I need to re-buy licenses for those games I've already purchased? I'm sure Sony wouldn't let this happen and let common sense prevail - The games will most likely be recorded against a users account as opposed to physical console but this is still a valid question to address.
Now let's take a moment to think about the younger demographic - I remember as a kid I wasn't generally able to buy new games due to the price as I didn't have a full time job. I would purchase a used game, play it and then trade it in again for another game. This technology is going to kill the trade in market which means gamers cannot get a better deal on new games or consoles by trading in and this has gamers on forums furious. This could mean Sony faithful defect to another platform as most games released these days are ported onto various platforms (assuming that other platforms don't also adopt this same technology).
This technology will see the end of the used games market as we know it. This is going to have a negative affect on the retail industry because many stores rely quite heavily on renting and/or trading video games. If you don't think that this will have a negative impact on the retail industry it already has: GameStop shares tumble following Sony patent application.
Perhaps this all could have been avoided if new games were competitively priced? Perhaps then gamers would have purchased new games instead of used ones. Unfortunately I don't think so - Retail stores have much more of an overhead than online stores do and a lot of content is digital these days too so I feel that if Sony do use this technology the days for the bricks and mortar retail stores are numbered because consumers will resort to purchasing online to get a better deal.
Whilst there are many negatives about this technology there is also some positive aspects for the gaming community as well. With this technology it means that developers are getting back what is rightfully theres. Used game sales mean that developers are not making any money on their own titles whereas the retail stores do. By not making money from the sale of used games, developers are losing money from potential customers that were going to buy their game anyway, that they the developer, have spent a lot of time and money to develop. Developers will have higher profits which means more money can be spent on new IP's that are polished and are of a much better quality which is only a good thing for the gaming community.
This could also mean that developers could hypothetically release all of the Downloadable Content with the release of their title with free updates because they no longer need to gouge consumers with DLC in order to recooperate costs.
There are some pro's, there are some cons but do the pro's outweigh the cons? Will Sony actually implement this technology within their next generation if the patent goes through? I guess we will have to wait and see.
A Look into Online Gaming
Another "hot topic" of contention this week is EA's decision to shut down online only services for 12 games. This may be a strategic decision to save costs due to the fact that EA seem to be going through some financial trouble as they were recently delisted from the NASDAQ-100. EA's financial position is not my topic of discussion, it is the longevity and prevalence of online gaming and it's rise and place within the gaming community.
Online games are a great thing for developers. Online content that can be purchased and downloaded from home means consumers can purchase and play games at any time of the day or night. Consumers are no longer restricted to a bricks and mortar retail environment which creates a global market, not just a local one. This is particularly important for indie developers that are trying to get their titles out there.
The fact that so many games and DLC is online can also be a problem in it's own right. The DLC and/or games will only be online if the servers are kept up to hold the data. Recently Star Wars: Galaxies shut down all of their servers after nine years. This was very hard for some fans but it made way for Star Wars: The Old Republic which is a newer and fresher MMORPG. What about nostalgia? Many of the old consoles like NES, SNES, Sega Mega Drive, Sega Saturn, ETC, I like to pull out and game with on occasion and when I finally have kids they will be able to appreciate what it was like for me gaming when I was a child. With the prevelance of online gaming it doesn't look like many of the great titles we have around currently will be around for others to enjoy into the future.
This has cause for concern. If these online based games shut down after complete success the digital world of DLC would surely be on the chopping block as well. Imagine not being able to download certain content for a game because the server this content was available from has shut down.
There is also the fact that games like COD: Black Ops, Battlefield, ETC play much better via online multi-player as humans are much smarter than the NPC's in most FPS games. Imagine if the servers for multi-play were shut down for these titles? You've then lost half of the game. You won't need to imagine because this will be a reality.
Enjoy all of the online games and DLC that you can now because I doubt very much that it will be here into the future. Sad but true.