Game-disc lock tech could save retailers $6 billion - Study

The retail trade association claims publishers, retailers could earn $6 billion using a radio-activated lock; could hit retail shelves Q4 2010 for games, DVDs, Blu-ray.

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Anyone who has worked in retail knows that theft is a serious problem. This is especially true of high-value items like games and game hardware, which are all too often the subject of heists planned from the outside and inside. Now many entertainment retailers are considering a new kind of security measure for DVD and video game merchandise, after a report today revealed that such devices would allow retailers and publishers to earn several billion dollars each year.

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The report is the second part of a project commissioned in 2008 by the Entertainment Merchants Association, titled "Project Lazarus: Study of Benefit Denial." The retail trade body found that game publishers, motion picture studios, supply chains, and retailers could earn as much as $6 billion annually by adopting a new security device.

Specifically, the study considers the impact of so-called "benefit denial" technology that could render DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and video game discs unusable until they are physically unlocked at the moment of purchase.

The EMA said antitheft technology would be evaluated and developed given the promising $6 billion figure produced by the report. If upcoming evaluations remain positive, the technology could hit store shelves by the fourth quarter of 2010.

Speaking to GameSpot, EMA's vice president of public affairs, Sean Bersell, tried to allay fears that the disc-lock tech was a Trojan horse for greater digital rights management. "This is not about DRM or other coding of the discs," he said. "The technology to which we are referring would be a physical lock that is opened via radio frequency at the point of sale. (Think of a key card that unlocks a door.) And this is not about fighting piracy (illegal reproductions), but rather fighting shrink (theft of legitimate goods). The purpose is to make it easier for the consumer to purchase the product and enabling additional retail channels that have significant shrink issues to carry the product."

But while retailers are enthusiastic about the Lazarus technology, the consumer advocate group Entertainment Consumers Association remains suspicious. "Publishers would likely be interested if EMA would guarantee that games wouldn't be resold through the use of the technology, but probably wouldn't say so overtly for fear of offending retail partners," ECA president Hal Halpin told GameSpot. "I'd think that the low-hanging fruit might be the rentailers, who could implement this system and manage inventory more efficiently--provided that they had control in the locking/unlocking process, of course."

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