A story claiming that Sony is preparing to stop the potential sale of pre-owned PlayStation 3 games is being met with some skepticism by industry insiders.
According to a UK news source, citing retail contacts, Sony is preparing to make it illegal for consumers to sell used PS3 games. The plan would involve Sony adopting a licensing system whereby gamers would agree that they are purchasing a license to play a game, rather than the game itself.
If true, such a move would be a massive boost for publishers and developers which do not profit from the lucrative and damaging retail trade in used games. In fact, many publishers are furious that they have to spend support money on consumers who have not actually contributed a dime to the company's coffers.
In turn, it would be a catastrophe for retailers, which make a significant proportion of margin from used games. Consumers would likely be less than overjoyed.
Sony, which is refusing to comment on the story, does have a patent on technology which would tie a piece of software to an individual piece of hardware. But technology and desire are not the only parts of the puzzle. Whether the company would be prepared to take on retail, consumer goodwill and, most likely, the U.S courts, is another matter.
One expert in retail law told Next-Gen.Biz, "Sony can theoretically sell a license to play the game, but the user would have to acknowledge acceptance of the license. You've seen this when you install software on a PC. I'm not sure that the license agreement is enforceable if the licensee doesn't agree to it.
"Also, even if the agreement is enforceable, it's hard to preclude subsequent sale of the disc. The consumer could theoretically agree that he doesn't own the right to transfer his license, but why couldn't he sell the medium that held the license (the disc)? Sony can't enforce the agreement against a third party, as it lacks privity with the third party.
"Stated differently, I don't believe Sony can keep someone from selling a disc, even if they create a license agreement. The only way that this can truly be effected is to require registration of the disc with a specific PS3 console. Sony has a patent on such a technology, and could render a disc unplayable once registered. That would accomplish their goal (if they really have such a goal). In summary, I don't believe this is real."
A senior games publishing source told us, "Sony and the rest of us would love to put an end to this damaging trade, but actually making it happen looks like a fight that's beyond even Sony. I can't see it happening, but i hope I'm wrong."
Another senior manager at a third party publisher said, "I know that Sony is very upset about the used games market. But this story seems a bit far-fetched." [next-gen.biz]