Sony pwning preowned PS3 games?

Source: The story first showed up on the screen Gamesradar, with countless others following. The official story: Inquiries into the matter went unanswered as of press time by Sony. What we heard: Anyone who has walked into an EB Games or GameStop to buy a new release has probably heard this from...

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Source: The story first showed up on the screen Gamesradar, with countless others following.

The official story: Inquiries into the matter went unanswered as of press time by Sony.

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What we heard: Anyone who has walked into an EB Games or GameStop to buy a new release has probably heard this from the clerk: "Would you like to buy a used copy? It'll save you some money." The deal is symbiotic--the gamer saves 10 bucks or so, and the aforementioned retailers take in a higher profit on the transaction.

Publishers, on the other hand, are the big losers in used games sales. First-party companies, in particular those who are launching a system that at $599 is still taking a loss (we won't mention any names...OK we will, Sony), are obviously particularly concerned over preowned games as those pennies slip through their fingers. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo can all afford to take a financial beating on selling systems because they rely on sales of new copies of software--where the real money is.

If a report on Gamesradar is to be believed, gamers who wish to purchase Heavenly Sword or Resistance: Fall of Man will have only two options: pay full price or get the out of the store. The UK-based Web site claims that retail outlets in the country have been told by Sony that selling preowned PlayStation 3 games won't be possible because there won't be such a thing as preowned games.

Confused? According to the report, Sony is adopting a PC-like mentality and only selling the license to play the game, not actually to own it. If users did not agree to the license, they would be left with an expensive plastic coaster.

GameSpot News asked industry analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan Securities for his take on the legalese. "There are only two ways to create a license: Either the user has to agree to the license or the licensor has to copy-protect its software," he said. "In the first case, the user (licensee) has to AFFIRMATIVELY agree to the license. You see this whenever you install software, and a box pops up requiring you to check 'I AGREE' to a long boilerplate license agreement." (Emphasis in the original.) However, such a system would require that each PS3 be connected to the Internet--a lofty goal, even in today's Web-rich society.

The only other way a user license agreement would be viable would be to require the input of a code, just as publishers do in PC software (think Microsoft Office or Adobe products). To do so, Pachter says the PS3 would require a chip (or similar technology) that registers the disc to the console when first run. "I think it may be too late in the PS3 manufacturing process to include such a chip," he says, presuming one already isn't in the machine.

If this sounds a bit familiar, it's because we all went through this late last year. A rumor hit the Net about PS3s not being able to play used, rented, or borrowed PS3 games--for example, each game could be used with only one console. Sony refuted those claims by saying, "PlayStation 3 software will not be copy protected to a single machine but will be playable on any PlayStation 3 console."

That said, Sony is notorious for its draconian copyright-protection schemes. Late last year, the company had to do major damage control in the wake of the now-infamous Rootkit controversy regarding digital rights management of its music CDs. More recently, it has come under fire for its Japan-only Portable TV service, which lets users download videos onto their PSPs. However, many who pay money for the privilege have been horrified to learn that the videos are playable only for a certain time, after which even the free offerings reportedly erase themselves. Sony must be tempted to impose similar measures to try to recoup the billions of dollars it has spent on the PS3 and its Blu-ray disc format.

Bogus or not bogus?: Say it isn't so, Sony! No? OK, how 'bout you, Pachter? "The rumor about Sony limiting the resale of used games sounds phony to me," said the analyst.

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