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Sony Japan patents NFC tech to suppress second hand game sales – report

Thursday, 3rd January 2013 10:16 GMT By Dave Cook

Sony Japan has allegedly filed a patent application for near field communication tech that is rumoured to quash second hand game sales going into the next generation.

UPDATE: Sony has issued a ‘no comment’ reply on the below story. Treat this as you will.

ORIGINAL STORY: NeoGAF member gofreak has unearthed what appears to be body text from Sony Japan’s patent filing this morning, although we are still looking for a solid URL source on this, so please treat it as rumour for now. The patent was filed on December 9th.

The excerpt reads:

“According to the present embodiment, realized is the electronic content processing system that reliably restricts the use of electronic content dealt in the second-hand markets. As a result, the dealing of electronic content in the second-hand markets is suppressed, which in turn supports the redistribution of part of proceeds from sales of the electronic content to the developers.

“Though in the following description a game application (AP) is exemplified as the electronic content, the present embodiment is similarly applicable to various kinds of electronic content such as an office suite, images, and music content.”

“By employing the game playing system 1000 according to the present embodiment, the use permission tag 220 together with the game disk 210 is supplied to the user, and the use permission tag 220 actively determines the use permit/rejection of electronic content.

“Thereby, the use of game AP stored in the game disk 210 can be restricted as appropriate according to the attribute of a reproduction device. Consider, for example, a case where used is a game package 200 distributed in the second-hand market.

“Then the ID of reproduction device for the game disk 210 differs from the legitimate use device ID stored in the use permission tag 220, so that the game disk can be reproduced in a mode which is predetermined for those bought and sold in the second-hand market.

“Also, for example, a content key may be supplied to the reproduction device 130 and the encrypted game AP may be decrypted using the content key only if the reproduction device ID matches a legitimate use device ID. Hence, use of game APs bought and sold in the second-hand market can be eliminated.”

In plain English this means that games using the NFC system would communicate to Sony’s device – allegedly the PS4 in this instance – to tether the game to that specific console, blocking repeat preowned sales.

This does raise questions about ‘always-on’ net connections, or what happens if a console bricks and a replacement is needed. Does one then have to buy a new copy of the game, or is it tied to the user’s PSN account?

These are all valid questions all being raised over on NeoGAF, and we’ve reached out to Sony for comment on the matter. We’ll update if and when we know more.

Meanwhile, our own sources have given us a full run-down of the PS4′s specs, AMD 10 chipset and pre-E3 announcement plans. Get the full overview here.

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46 Comments

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  1. Erthazus

    Thanks Sony, hackers will like to speak with your next system.

    Vita already failed, so good luck Shmony.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. HauntaVirus

    These sound like pretty extreme measures. I can see a lot of gamers turning to keygens if they actually implement this type of DRM. Of course using a keygen would result in a permaban but there are ways around that too.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. The Auracle

    This has all the makings to go down as well as the SonyBMG SecuROM technology.

    All I can say is that when manufacturers develop this sort of thing, it’s like kicking a hornet’s nest. Sony’s intent may be to prevent losses but seeing how Sony’s previous DRM solutions have contributed to the huge financial losses they’ve already sustained and the amount of sub-communities within their own loyal fan base they’ve managed to piss off, I can’t see how they think this would be a good idea.

    Of course, this is all assuming whatever NeoGAF has reported here is true… I tend to take everything NeoGAF says with a grain of salt.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Fin

    Filing of a patent doesn’t mean it’ll actually be used.
    Look at all the Apple ones that turn up, pretty sure Microsoft filed one about pausing a game to watch adverts last year.

    @3
    “seeing how Sony’s previous DRM solutions have contributed to the huge financial losses”

    Got a source on that bro?

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Clupula

    I could swear Sony patented the same type of thing for the PS3 and never used it. I was actually convinced this must have been an old article that was resurrected due to a spambot or something when I first saw the headline.

    I remember months before the PS3 came out, people telling each other not to buy it because it couldn’t play used games.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Dave Cook

    @4 “Filing of a patent doesn’t mean it’ll actually be used.” You’re absolutely right there, although if this filing stands up to scrutiny then it suggests that Sony is thinking about how to crack the preowned nut in a serious way.

    ID tags, tethered accounts. It’s all getting a bit ‘MGS 4′ for my liking ;)

    #6 2 years ago
  7. The Auracle

    @4 Sure do. Here are a couple:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SecuROM#Controversies
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_BMG_CD_copy_prevention_scandal#Legal_and_financial_problems

    Sony lost millions after that whole rootkit fiasco. Hindsight 20/20, it would seem this would set the trend for Sony’s copy-prevention and other security failings. The various PSN fiascos that followed cost Sony alone roughly $24 billion, apparently.

    http://venturebeat.com/2011/04/27/the-cost-of-sonys-playstation-network-outage-24-billion-or-20-million/

    As cool as the idea sounds, I have serious doubts as to whether Sony can execute this. Hypothetically speaking, Sony will sooner end up bricking consoles than killing off the second-hand market.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Dragon246

    @7
    That 24billion thing is something that someone pulled out of their asses. Sony has said that they incurred expenses worth a few millions because of the psn outage.

    About the idea, I have doubts as such a move will only happen if MS and Sony are working together.
    But I completely support such an idea. Games have changed in last few years. They have become services instead of end products. A game dev earns nothing from second-hand sales. It also doesn’t affect me as I went digital with vita, and will do so with ps4 too (although it will take me weeks to download a 50gb game, but whatever).
    Although ideally, they should allow a person to share his/her game with his family, by granting access with psn. Something like X grants permission to Y to loan his game. I think Amazon does something like that with its online service.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. G1GAHURTZ

    I agree with #8.

    Sony should do it.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Deacon

    Some sort of NFC device seems like a pretty good way to lock a game to a single console. It avoids any necessity to go online or jump through any other hoops, afaik. Sounds to me like a good option moving forward.

    Though I’m still not convinced that the second hand market affects devs in a truly catastrophic way, there’s no denying it affects their bottom line. So I’m all for a hassle-free solution that ties software to your console.

    I don’t buy used games these days. I like to think of it as me ‘doing my bit’. Most games (excluding the obvious) drop in price pretty quickly, so for me it’s easier to get a bargain online than to fight my way through a sea of pikeys in CEX or the horde of Mums in GAME.

    It’d be great if Sony got MS on-board to introduce something like this as standard next gen.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. viralshag

    If retail is going to lose the second hand option then they better egt ready to start dropping their prices pretty quick or offer well timed sales.

    I still think it’s a pointless exercise as I can’t see how stopping pre-owned sales will help grow the industry or save companies much money. I think they will lose more than they gain trying to combat that area of the market.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. ps3fanboy

    if sony does this the ps3 was my last playstation product i bought.. and i am the BIGGEST ps3fanboy here.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Dragon246

    @12
    You are the only ps3fanboy here :P

    #13 2 years ago
  14. DrDamn

    Sounds like a lot of effort and expense when what they could do is just make a system they already have in place (i.e. digital) more attractive to consumers. Not just price wise – though that’s an obvious issue – there are other good ways to make it a more attractive option too.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Dragon246

    @14
    I don’t think it should be too costly. Even wiiu has nfc. The patent will most likely refer to a software.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Fin

    @7

    $24b is total bullshit.
    As for SecuROM, controversies and legal action does not equal “contribution to huge financial losses”.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. chocy82

    So my system breaks and i buy a new one and i can’t play my previously bought games?

    Well then, i’m sure numerous fair trading government agencies around the world especially Australia will be deeming this technology illegal in their countries.

    Biggest attack on consumer rights in years.

    I’d laugh hard if gamestop refused to stock it.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. chocy82

    Also as Ed from team meat posted the other day. Lost revenue for piracy is not lost revenue, its money that does not exist because there is zero guarantee that the money would have been spent anyway

    this can also be applied to used games somewhat. Gamestop is going to have a field day. Their revenue would be shot to pieces, i would sell my shares in Gamestop if i had some right now. Clearly both MS and Sony after used games.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. DrDamn

    @17
    They would likely implement a system like MS does with digital content on the 360 – i.e. you can transfer your licences to a new machine.

    @18
    Just because it isn’t guaranteed that doesn’t mean it’s not lost. Just unknown. It’s not the inflated figures some like to put about but it isn’t zero or negligible either.

    @15
    It is a cost though, and something which will need to bee in each disc too, so a cost per disc.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Zohar

    So my thoughts reading this were that this is just an advanced “online pass” system, only instead of trying to verify the game online with some kind of account (usually you would enter your EA account details) it would just read the chip inside the package or something to verify, then ask you for $10 or something to have online play.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. RandomTiger

    I assume this will effect renting too. I really worried about this next generation of consoles. Perhaps its time to buy a nice PC and press the big picture button on steam.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. OlderGamer

    Step one remove any chance to sell second hand games.

    Step two sharply increase the price of new games.

    Truely without strong measures to ensure that the next gen game prices don’t go up(something I am already convinced will happen), something like this will be a disator.

    Keep in mind, second hand sales do generate money for pubs. People often buy DLC for those second hand copies. I agree second hand games are a major problem. But banning used games from spinning in the system is beyond stupid.

    What about renting? I often rent from gamefly, then buy the games I enjoyed. If I can’t play the actual game(far better then a limited demo), I won’t buy the game. This gen I had 4 xbox systems running in my home at peak, I could always toss in a game on either one. Because of that I spent money on four systems. If I can’t do that, i am buying only one system, if I buy any at all.

    And the worse thing of all is the fact that it will piss off core fans. Many people won;t have a clue, they will think they can grab there new systems and run to block buster or share their games with friends or wait for the second hand copies to come out, won’t they be pleased once they find out that their only option to play comes in the form of 85usd new retail or downloadable games.

    Imo, a move like this will kill Trip A publishing.

    The solution?

    Put out your game. I am going to once again use CoD as an example. The game costs 60usd. The single player is playable out of the box, and the first month of OMP play is free. Then each month of online is 15usd. Each month you get one new map. Every now and then a new game mode via an update FOR FREE(obvoiously not free you are paying 15/month)(but not extra). Each year or every six months, you put out a new or expanded single player campain. The campain is free if you subscribe to the yearly play pass, otherwise it costs around 20usd.

    That is a service. What we have now isn’t a service. It is price gouging. And attempts to stop second hand sales are nothing more then attempts at price fixing.

    In sort CoD and other such games should be run like WoW. Mostly because with WoW you can’t sell a second copy at the store. It generates soid revenue flow. And even tho it has a sub it is still cheaper per hour of content then almost any game ever made. However the key for it to work is to offer the gamers enough content to make it worth it. Sadly running around a bowl shaped map the size of a walk in closet shooting each other over and over and over isn’t all that deversified gameplaywise.

    I think games need a hella rethink on many many levels.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. SlayerGT

    I hear you OG, but what about single player games. If the retail cost of games doesn’t go up, and folks consistently buy finish and trade in sp games, we won’t see them anymore. No more Heavy Rains, BS:Infinites. Should they abandon certain types of games?

    #23 2 years ago
  24. MadFlavour

    Wise business move this, in the current economic climate when people are tightening their belts across the board, make it harder for them to buy the thing you’re selling. Really strategically brilliant.

    I think I’m going to forgo the next gen.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. Fin

    Why do people never complain about not being able to resell PC games?

    #25 2 years ago
  26. Dragon246

    @25
    Because many people are hypocrites.

    #26 2 years ago
  27. stretch215

    If Sony were to go through with this, and ms doesn’t, Sony can count on losing TONS of sales.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. viralshag

    @25, Maybe because PC prices are often lower and more competetive. Even at retail the PC copy will often be at least £10 cheaper than the console version.

    #28 2 years ago
  29. DrDamn

    @27
    Though if it has a meaningful impact on revenues to the publishers they would force MS to do the same.

    @22
    Agree with the gist of that. Bottom line is they need to rethink console game pricing and payment methods.

    #29 2 years ago
  30. monkeygourmet

    @25

    Because PC games are often half the price of console titles, Steam Sales or people just pirate them…

    Case in point:

    Zombie U for the Wii U…

    £39.99 – £49.99 (highest price) shop retail

    £54.99 On E Shop!!!!

    This would be a shitty step by Sony or MS and they would deserve to fail because of this greed.

    If the obliterated second hand by offering games for £19.99 – £24.99 (Which they could: No shipping, No packaging etc…), then that could work.

    Thing is they never will. It’s always be £49.99 or £54.99 which is bullshit.

    Next up, Sony & MS will remove import play, it completly cuts down choice.

    I don’t want all my games to become fucking subscriptions. Def gonna stick with Wii U this and next gen if MS and Sony start dicking around like this.

    #30 2 years ago
  31. OlderGamer

    I think, SlayerGT that trip A SP games may be a casulty down the road. Could be a good chance that those games will shift away from top teir products and land in the hands of smaller studios. I think, if done right, digital publishing on consoles could create a middle ground for now smaller/indie devs to grow and expand allowing them to fill the gaps that are now being created by failing larger pubs(think THQ). If the consoles do not change and encourage indie digital publishing then Tablets and PC will continue to grow and much of the now console market may well look else where down the road.

    Fin, I think you need to look at Steam and compare it to XBL, PSN, and Nintendo Network. That is where the lions share of the digital PC market is. Steam is always running sales. Even w/o sales the price on games steadily drops over time. A game that launches this year for 50usd could well be 10usd next year. Compare that to MS, where digital games get placed on Games on Demand at higher prices then they have been retailing for. MS has said you will pay more for the convienance.

    I think when looking at that track record and those comparisons, you can easily understand why PC gamers don’t complain. While it may not be your cup of tea and may not be for everyone, many gamers feel that PC offers the best games and holds the most value(even with a higher entry price). I do. I can not tell you the number of games that me and my friends have bought this year on Steam, and most of them were not at full price. Hell I even buy extra copies of my steam games and trade the download codes with friends for their extra copies. And even with the extra copies I am still paying less then a console single copy. I bought four packs of L4D and L4D2 on Steam, each set of games cost me 15usd. So for 30usd I got 8 copies of games. L4D2 on XB360 is 30usd.

    If consoles started selling their new games for 30usd average, their year old games for 20usd, and games three or more years old for 5usd-10usd while at the same time dissallowing second hand useage, I doubt many gamers would complain.

    #31 2 years ago
  32. DrDamn

    Triple A SP games can end up going episodic and digital only too I think. See The Walking Dead. Get a shorter experience out there with lower initial costs and expand as sales dictate.

    #32 2 years ago
  33. OrbitMonkey

    Well you won’t need 2nd hand games on the ps4, become a psn+ member & Sony will give you games for free… Or heavily discounted.

    Guess that’s the plan.

    #33 2 years ago
  34. OlderGamer

    The Walking Dead is a great example Doc.

    #34 2 years ago
  35. RandomTiger

    “I think, SlayerGT that trip A SP games may be a casulty down the road.”

    I think its much more likely AAA SP will just thrive on platforms that support them, new and used (or at competitive prices). The industry would be mad to give up on making the likes of Skyrim, Bioshock, Batman, Mass Effect, GTA.

    #35 2 years ago
  36. Cobra951

    Devs and distributors are not entitled to profit from secondhand sales. Why is no one mentioning the obvious? They already made their money on each copy they sold. Why should they leech more? The service paradigm some of you embrace is dodgy at best, certainly debatable. Games are products. They are subject to the same rights and protections as other products. I can’t copy the Toyota Corolla’s design and go manufacture it for sale (except in China). But I can sure as hell resell one without even looking at Toyota. Why the hell would I give a crap what Sony or anyone else thinks if I sell my copy of God of War on ebay? Come on, people. These uber-rich businesses don’t need you championing their efforts to hoard even more of the pie.

    #36 2 years ago
  37. Joe Musashi

    @30 In cases where a digital vendor has answered the question “Why should I pay 50 bucks for your digital copy when I can buy it 30 in a store?” they usually respond by saying the publisher sets the price. So whilst the complaint about high costs are valid, it’s worth knowing who sets that cost.

    I’d be interested to see a new generation of console – where most of/all the content was digital and therefore can’t be resold. But to sweeten that bitter pill, prices were closer to 20-30 rather than 50-60. It could be enough to convince people to keep buying new and really entrench digital as the ‘retailer’ of that generation. Apple have shown how powerful this approach can be with their devices, iTunes and content sold at impulse-level prices. Is anyone upset that they’re unable to resell their apps after they’re bored of them?

    JM

    #37 2 years ago
  38. Kabby

    Digital content may eventually be forced to allow re-sale. Backing the ‘single sale digital item’ methodology championed by Steam could come back and bite them in the ass in a big way.

    Games are products, they shouldn’t have special rules governing re-sale. Guarding against re-sale is a design matter than needs to be solved. Enforcing DRM and leaving the customer with no ability to resell is wrong.

    #38 2 years ago
  39. DrDamn

    @36
    I think game pricing has traditionally taken into account second hand sales to an extent, but they are feeling the pinch as costs rise and prices remain flat. If they are to remove second hand sales they need to share the gains though. I’m not against the idea of removing second hand sales as such – it just needs to be managed better than they appear to be doing it. Keeping prices the same or higher and removing functionality and cost saving from the consumer is not a good plan.

    There is a difference between a Toyota Corolla and a piece of digital entertainment though. A car is physical and has a significant set of components that cost for each and every one you produce. There is also a market for cheaper second hand cars which are not in as good condition. With a piece of digital entertainment the product doesn’t degrade, become less reliable or become closer to useless (though the delivery mechanism may). Hence a second hand game can offer exactly the same experience as the game bought new.

    #39 2 years ago
  40. DrDamn

    @37
    I’d like a digital sales system to allow me to trade my games back to them. I’m not using it any more give me some credit back. Credit returned can be based on price you paid and time you’ve had it.

    So the mechanism could also work like a rental system too. “Return” a game within a day or two and you get a good chunk of the money back, keep it for over a year and you get very little back.

    #40 2 years ago
  41. Dragon246

    I agree that the prices should be reduced in such a case, but it will happen eventually. App store prices were very high initially, but competition forced prices to go lower.
    What people need to understand is games have now become services, not products which they were until a generation ago. Like it or not, second hand sales will go away, and rightfully so.

    #41 2 years ago
  42. DSB

    @40 I’m not sure the problem lies with retailers, generally they only get 30% off of every sale.

    Publishers keep getting lucky by being offered services like that, but for some reason they still can’t run a profitable business, even with help from Mountain Dew and Doritos.

    Until someone figures it out, I just don’t see business models really going anywhere. You need some executives in the industry with a brain to actually change things like that, and right now it’s hard to spot one.

    #42 2 years ago
  43. NocturnalB

    Damn.. i really wanted to get a Sony console this coming generation too.. If they do DRM like that though i won’t be. I’m sorry but i have NEVER felt sympathy for Devs or the publishers that use DRM. Like someone else said when i buy a book i’m not gonna stand for the author to say I’m not allowed to trade that book in or give that book away.

    When i spend $60+ on a video game i OWN that game, i have the right to do with it as i please. I can understand Devs have got to make their money, and they get screwed pretty hard when it comes to costs but that is an industry problem, not my problem. The industry needs to fix itself, not pass the bullshit on to me, the consumer.

    I have not, do not, and never will support DRM. I’ve heard all the reasons and excuses from the minority that does support DRM, it’s strictly about money. Now what i CAN understand is actual businesses reselling like Gamestop. If they want money then places like Gamestop should be charged an annual resale fee/license. But as a consumer i should have the right to trade/buy/sell/give away/borrow games between me and friends, not be told what i can and cannot do with my property.

    #43 2 years ago
  44. woe

    Its bad enough that Sony charge for onine passes, but this is a pure disgrace.

    #44 2 years ago
  45. Mr Sparkle

    The only thing that truly makes an impact in the business world is money. Don’t buy it.

    #45 2 years ago
  46. fuchikoma

    I love Sony most of the time. I buy video games new to support the developers too. Still, if any of the big players implemented a system where I could no longer buy a second hand system and game after the company folds, and expect them to work… I would wait until the system was cracked and pirate every game I wanted to play. I’m a collector – I’m in it for the long haul, and if I have to ask a third party permission to access “my own” content, then it’s worthless.

    #46 2 years ago