Sony Patent Disc-Tagging Sparking Anti-Piracy Fears

While the highly-anticipated ‘eighth generation’ of video games is being phased in as the sixth disappears, Japanese technology giants Sony have been revealed as filing a patent that could by very worrying to consumers if implemented in any new product.

sony_blocking_used_gamesIt has been revealed that the U.S. Patent filing was for a new form of ‘disc-tagging technology’ that could create the ability to stop games from being played on more than one version of the console, which in a worst-case scenario would completely eliminate the pre-owned games market for the console and lead to potentially costly mistakes by users (such as lending a game to a friend before trying it yourself, or a console needing to be replaced).

The technology, in theory, would tag discs with information on what consoles (if any) had previously hosted it, so while that in itself would not nessecarily mean new self-banning of second-hand games, it would not be much of a leap to put such regulations in, though Sony.

However, they do also note that ‘developing electronic content’ can be a costly process and as such it is ‘vital’ to pass as much of the sales income as possible onto studios, although that is what was also said about selling online in the PlayStation Store and Xbox Marketplace, and while that serves as a fix to piracy the downloadable prices are often twice those seen in retail stores.

However, unlike Microsoft’s ‘consistently connected’ proposal for their new console, Sony appear to be a bit more liberal with their patent, acknowledging that such an approach could cause inconvenience to their consumers, while at the same time previous offline measures have not sufficiently resolved the issue of video game piracy.

The filing reads: “In view of the foregoing problems described above, according to the present embodiment, a recording medium and a radiofrequency (RF) tag storing the terms of use (use condition) are included in the same packet (package) of electronic content. Proposed is an electronic content processing system where a usage mode of the electronic content is determined based on whether a reproduction entity, such as a reproduction device or user of the electronic content, fulfils the use condition or not. According to the present embodiment, realised is the electronic content processing system that reliably restricts the use of electronic content dealt in the second-hand markets.”

Fans will be hoping, however, that Sony’s patent is merely a precaution, as they had previously announced that any involvement in a ‘pre-owned sales block’ would be unfair and ‘anti-consumer’. Whatever happens, it is likely that more will be revealed in the coming 6 months, as Sony are set to announce their planned PlayStation 4 in a company event prior to the annual E3 Gaming Expo in Los Angeles (USA) in June, where Microsoft are now being rumoured to show off a first look at their 8th-gen contender. Publishers EA Games recently suggested that based on the console concepts they had seen so far, the releases (combined with general entertainment features) could introduce gaming to a global audience of up to a billion more people.

It will be hoped that such releases (alongside that of the Nintendo Wii U last year) will help reinvigorate an industry that is said to be flagging in sales figures, though imposing rules on what people can and can’t do with their discs will not be of any help to that PR campaign for games consoles at all. Or perhaps… Sony have looked to register the patent in order to either protect their own interests or bring a lock-down on the market, meaning that Microsoft (who have been more public in their anti-pre-owned stance) may not be able to implement the system either. If that is the case, then all will be forgiven by PlayStation owners for the PSN hacking controversy of 2011…

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