First, let me preface this article with a statement: The only used games I buy are old, and I don\’t see a problem with licensing games to customers even if they are physical media (it’s like Steam, with instant downloads!). Retailers like GameStop can fight the publishers to rescue their profit of the used-game market (bye bye shelf space!), I will fight this to guarantee access to the games I rightfully own.
In September of 2012, Sony Computer Entertainment Japan filed a patent application in the US for tagged disc media designed to bind that content to a user account. On February 21, 2013, Eurogamer published an interview on the matter with Sony Worldwide Studios head honcho, Shuhei Yoshida. During the conversation Yoshida allayed fears that the technology would be in use within the PS4 to a degree, stating that: “… used games can play on PS4.” In another interview, held on the same day with Gamespot, his stance was somewhat different: “It’s a publisher decision. We are not talking about it. Sorry.\”
Since then, Sony has firmed up on the official line, repeatedly saying that it’s within the control of publishers. This points of course to the conclusion that the tag-reading hardware must be employed within the PS4 to support that choice. Since Sony loves to establish new media standards with its consoles, we will also undoubtedly see this technology applied to combat the piracy and trade of blu-ray movies, and possibly even music.
The recent Xbox One unveiling on May 21 revealed that this same technology was also at the heart of Microsoft’s offering. To enforce this form of DRM, the system must connect to the internet at least once a day, or it’s game over. As you might expect, this was met with significant opposition by the entire webosphere. Microsoft’s mention of a \”fee\” associated with second-hand games instantly caught my attention, as that word was very deliberately chosen to dampen the very real possibility of having to pay full MSRP.
So how is the PS4 going to regulate game licenses, and which publisher would institute such an attack on the used game market? Well, the recent and incredibly public panning of the Wii U by EA might finally have a clear source. Who would like to control the second-hand market more than EA? This is the same company that MASSIVELY botched the recent release of Sim City; a game for which they allegedly tried to mask the “always online” DRM of under the appallingly weak guise of cloud processing (also a “feature” of the Xbox One). Subsequently, many people either lost access to their $60 game, or endured a crippled experience for no good reason.
To check whether or not your PSN account is linked to a license-protected game would require an online connection, since PSN is free from being hardware bound (you can log in to the same account from different devices). This puts the PS4 in EXACTLY the same situation as the Xbox One, a situation where the ability to play games you’ve laid down money for is subject to external influence.
Odds are that Nintendo, renowned for their “slow adoption” of internet services, chose to shun any technology requiring a connection to play physical media-based games in spite of their ability to include the technology, and so were promptly dumped by EA. Cue politically-driven smear campaign.
This, to me, is the most likely explanation for the whacky PR rollercoaster ride we’ve been on. In the span of a year EA went from an “unprecedented partnership” and showing off a potential port of Battlefield 3 (powered by the apparently unfathomable Frostbite 2 engine), to clamouring for interview opportunities to take yet another shot at Nintendo.
You may not be able to play
any many EA games on your Wii U, but if you move house or your internet connection goes down, you’ll still be able to play every single one of the games you’ve purchased. Thanks Nintendo, i\’m sure you\’ll enjoy an unprecedented partnership with both consumers and retailers.