Sony Secures Technology Capable of Blocking Used Video Games3 Jan, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Sony Computer Entertainment Japan reportedly has secured a patent for technology that would only allow playback of video game discs specifically licensed to the pending PlayStation 4 console.
Speculation Sony is eying content restrictions on the new PS4 renewed when it was disclosed (by neogaf.com) that the consumer electronics giant in September filed a patent for technology that restricts the use of electronic content dealt in the secondhand markets.
Not allowing playback of used games would be a blow to a gaming industry in the midst of a significant sales downturn. Sony is on record saying it has no intention of restricting consumer choice — a strategy on which it would be foolish to renege, says Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.
The analyst said the new Nintendo Wii U allows playback of used games — a reality it and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 would likely exploit should Sony restrict gaming access on the PS4. Pachter said new consoles account for only about a 10% increase in sales of new games.
“Sony’s sales would rise only marginally if the PS4 blocked used games,” Pachter wrote in a Jan. 3 note.
Meanwhile, news about the technology sent shares of GameStop — the nation’s largest video game retailer — down sharply. Used game sales accounted for 27% of GameStop sales and 46% of its gross profit during its most recent fiscal year.
“While the blocking of used games would be a significant blow to GameStop, we think that a unilateral action by Sony would not attract much publisher support, would trigger a marketing blitz by Microsoft, and would result in severe loss of share for Sony in the upcoming console cycle,” Pachter wrote.