PS4′s ‘Answer to the Pre-Owned Games Question’ is Still Just as Unclear as Xbox One’s

We’ve all seen a lot of flak hurled at Microsoft for its lack of a satisfying answer to the question of used games and DRM even for disc-based games. Even I’ve decided that the fact that Microsoft has to actually work out a policy for such things is a strong indication that they’re taking an anti-consumer approach.

Frankly, trading and buying used games shouldn’t require any kind of “solution.” It should be possible and practical by default because they’re based on physical freaking media that can serve as its own DRM if companies are really concerned about people simply installing and giving their discs away. Why does it have to be any more complicated than “if you want to play media installed from the disc, you need the disc”?

Microsoft isn’t alone in being horrendously vague and unclear about the “solution” to pre-owned games – implying of course that pre-owned games are a problem that has to be “solved.” Sony’s contributed its fair share of non-answers to the discussion as well.

Just following the PlayStation 2013 meeting, NowGamer specifically asked PlayStation UK Managing Director Fergal Gara about PS4′s policy concerning pre-owned games:

Well first of all, we haven’t stated that second-hand games…we haven’t made a statement on the second-hand games question. There was a lot of reaction to a patent that was filed, which is a matter of course for a technology business like us, to file various patents at various times, many of which many never see any application but they are good to have depending on ideas that might be building.

So what we’re here to do is offer the best value and the best gaming experience for gamers. The answer to the pre-owned question isn’t clarified just yet and we’re working through that and we’ll announce our position in more detail as and when we can.

fergal-garaDon’t read too much into the stammering in the first part of that quote. I’m sure the question caught him a bit off-guard. That he seems to have stopped himself mid-sentence doesn’t necessarily mean he’s got anything to hide.

The more telling concern is that, like Microsoft, Mr. Gara treats “pre-owned” like a “question” that Sony even needs an “answer” to.

Sony VP of Worldwide Studios Michael Denny delivered a similar statement, but went a little more in-depth on the variables at play:

It’s a massively important issue and I understand why it’s one that keeps coming up and will keep coming up, because people want to know what the exact stance is. In relation to points like that, of course we’re mindful of what the game development community wants and what the wider industry issues are with those things. I think in good time that will become clearer.

The bolded part should send up some red flags. It’s clear from their attempts at publisher-based DRM that “the game development community” seriously wants to restrict used game sales. While many have praised the likes of Ubisoft and EA for beginning to step away from their draconian DRM schemes, could it be that their conversions to the light side are in fact a PR ploy because it is in fact no longer necessary for them to enforce used game sale restrictions now that they have game consoles that can do it for them?

Denny went on to add the following:

It’s not something that I feel I have any further announcement or comment to make on, other than to acknowledge with you that it’s a massively important issue and of course we are going to do the right thing.

“The right thing.” That sounds nice. But “the right thing” for whom, exactly? For publishers? For consumers? Some kind of compromise between the two?

shuhei-yoshidaSony’s President of Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida gave a slightly less vague statement to GameSpot:

When you purchase the disc-based games on PS4, it should work on any hardware. So that’s what I’m saying.

That might almost be reassuring if Microsoft didn’t technically also fulfill this. You can play Xbox One discs on any Xbox One console… as long as you’re signed in to the original account.

To make matters even more concerning, Mr. Yoshida mentioned in a roundtable discussion that publishers can require activation codes for secondhand games, a similar DRM measure to the one we expect Microsoft is using with Xbox One to ensure the appropriate transfer of software between owners. When asked whether Sony will implement such a measure, he simply replied that Sony wasn’t ready to talk about it.

If you’re thinking of jumping ship from Xbox One to PS4 because of Xbox One’s DRM for discs, you’d better wait until Sony reveals its full hand. From the sound of things, PS4 could implement the same restrictions.

You’ll notice that amid the jabs Sony took at Microsoft on social networking, the backlash about used games still hasn’t come up.

On the bright side, we do have a voice out of Sony that offers a clear response on the issue: Jack Tretton of SCEA. Apparently he told Michael Pachter that he’s “completely opposed to blocking used games”:

He said, ‘for the record, I’m totally opposed to blocking used games. I think it’s great for the consumer that they can buy those. We have a customer that buys our console late in the cycle, pays less, is looking for value priced games, and I think it would be anti-consumer for us to do that.’

But he’s just one man, and that statement – if it is real, and if Mr. Pachter really is reporting it correctly (why does he have to be the one to share something like this anyway?) – sounds more like a personal opinion than a clarification of company policy.

Still, it’s good to see someone from one of the console makers calling such policies what they are: “anti-consumer.”

What about Nintendo? If you recall, Nintendo Executive VP of Sales Scott Moffitt was able to give a very frank answer to this issue as it related to Wii U when CVG asked him about it last year:

It is a reality in the marketplace. We haven’t incorporated any features that will discourage used game sales at this point. We’re not trying to circumvent that.

nintendo-wii-u-scott-moffittNo political maneuvering. No vague non-answers. No contradictions between Mr. Moffitt, customer support, and the rest of Nintendo’s PR team. Just a straight up “we aren’t doing anything to discourage used game sales.”

Guess what? They weren’t. You can pop in any Wii or Wii U disc into any Wii U and play it then and there. No mandatory account-based registration, transfer of ownership, or second system fee required.

By the way, Scott Moffitt also said in the same interview that he didn’t even know whether Nintendo had a policy on used games. As it turns out: Nintendo’s policy, while it doesn’t really have much love for the used market (and, amusingly enough, doesn’t realize how important the used market is for other media either), seems to be not to specifically restrict resale but to make games that people don’t want to trade in:

Reggie Fils-Aime: More and more retailers are experimenting with the used game model. We don’t believe used games are in the best interest of the consumer. We have products that consumers want to hold onto. They want to play all of the levels of a Zelda game and unlock all of the levels. A game like Personal Trainer Cooking has a long life. We believe used games aren’t in the consumer’s best interest.

I think that’s a “solution” that every gamer can agree with.

Thanks to Marleyman at NeoGAF for rounding up the quotes from Sony.

  • Ghabulous Ghoti

    No matter how much they stagger and mess up, I have to give them credit: when it comes down to it, they really understand the market.

    • MusubiKazesaru

      More importantly, they know how to make games.

      • Holyfire

        I got a WiiU. And while I’m no bargain hunter at all. Very proud to say this won’t be any issue for me. Nintendo need credit for all the things they do well by us. They’re WiiU 1st partys will be utterly great. We’re all just getting impatiant and wanting them to rush the releases.
        On a side note, wouldn’t being able to throw around ur finished games to friends be a form of free advertising?? And thats a valuable factor for the companies?

        • MusubiKazesaru


  • Colin McIsaac

    You don’t see any other industries restricting pre-owned sale or borrowing of books, or DVD, or clothes… Microsoft, Sony, this is the way the world works. Get over it.

    • Alex Plant


    • unbound55

      To be fair though, that could be due more to the fact that most other industries are not in a position to restrict pre-owned sales. I’m sure GM, Apple, etc would all be happy to eliminate used product markets if they could.

  • Aroè

    Well…. From the technology point of view, i can understand why they are getting so defensive about things. Say you know what you’re doing and understand how their software works. This is still a strange hack on some xbox’s. If you install a game, you can make a cracked copy of the disk, and use that as your “insert game disk” disk. Inject something into your dvd file that would read to the xbox that it is a valid game, and should be playable without reading it for too long, and it works just as an install disk, thus making it so you can borrow a game for 20 min, then its yours.

    • NOUFozzy

      Well they could just, y’know, prevent that from happening just like every console’s been doing

  • Matt Hubbell

    I think that’ll be such a massive mistake if XBO and PS4 end up actually restricting used games at all, it’s gonna push people away from either console and damage their sales quite a bit because nobody wants to pay 60$ for a game every single time they want something new, normal people don’t have that kind of money for this

    • Alex Plant

      Where is it going to push people who are dedicated gamers? PC? PC has the same restrictions. The worst case is that these players go to Wii U… or quit gaming altogether. And I think after last-gen both PlayStation and MS have good enough reasons to believe that the latter won’t happen (Steam), and they seem pretty confident that the former won’t either (Wii U’s current non-popularity with “hardcore enthusiast” titles).

      • MusubiKazesaru

        how is Wii U the worst case scenario -_-

        • Lance J. Burns

          for microsoft and sony it is

      • billy bill-y

        i will go pc. pc don’t have same restrictions because if you know what you are doing you can download everything for free.. and trust me if i’m forced into pc gaming i will learn how to do it…… Because right know i’m one of those people who hate people who illegally download stuff i can’t stand it but if i’m forced into pc gaming i will become one of those people.

        • Alex Plant

          You can do the same thing on other boxes “if you know what you are doing.”

          You could do one better and just support the hell out of Wii U where there are no restrictions. Build the market there, and they will come.

      • Guy Rainey

        In my opinion, Steam offers a value in return for those restrictions: huge discount sales. If I can get a $40 game for $10 (that has happened to me), I’m not going to care about not being able to trade my games in. Sony and Microsoft may not offer the same kind of service in exchange.

  • bigevilworldwide

    So your cherry picking half a quote when they actually stated either later or the next day when asked that NO they would not be blocking used games…..Are people that butt hurt over the majority of xbox rumors being true that they are pretending Sony didn’t fully answer that question

    • Alex Plant

      Xbox One allows used games, too.

      • billy bill-y

        no they don’t if i buy a used game from i will have to pay fee to register that game to my console. if you have to pay a fee to play a used game thats as bad blocking them all together. because I want to borrow a game from my roommate I have to pay a fee to play it not
        unless I sign in on his account. but if I am signed in on his account
        then he can’t sign in and play different game. and me and my roommates
        all agree that we don’t want each signed into each others accounts we
        all play games differently and we all have our own friends list.

        • Alex Plant

          They haven’t confirmed that you will need to pay any kind of fee for used games yet. Just if you want to install them on a second system (implying you already/still have them installed on a first one).

  • Terrak

    This is what happens when you went a whole console generation without making a cent. They (sony and microsoft) are now looking at other ways to get their users to pay & find other means to profit. This was inevitable for sony and microsofts consoles because their users want high end but didnt want to pay for it. Because if they did they would have got a PC. Now look whats happening. Both sony and microsoft want to get paid and (some/most) the users are upset. Guess what you (the playstation and xbox owners who are upset that is) brought it on yourselves. Dont go whining now the $#!t hit the fan. I dont like sony or microsoft but i do understand they cant survive if they dont profit, so suck it up. You want a powerful console, well your going have to pay for it some way. Whether its an expensive initial purchase price or microtransactions in ever facet of what you do on the console or what ever. Dont like it? Get a Wii U. As far as we know thats where you know that when you buy a game on a physical disk its yours to do with as you please. You want power with out the nickel and diming and sneaky fees (apparently) then go get a gaming PC.

    I told you the way they were running things were unsustainable. With sony struggling thanks to the rise of samsung and lg, and microsoft slowly losing its windows dominance with android and apple they no longer are in a position to syphon billions of dollars from the parent company to pay people to use their consoles.

  • Tensei

    Erm…. when did used gaming become an issue? When the HD era hit. Games that dont sell millions/re-coop their losses or feed back to developers is when this really became a prominent issue.

    I’m all for spinning good Nintendo news but after having blind faith in Nintendo, I think it is time for a reality check. Nintendo has just hit the HD era and given how they learnt nothing from Sony and Mircosoft’s problems in terms how long/expensive HD development is, dont be surprised when the full reality of modern gaming hits Nintendo and suddenly their stance on used gaming changes overnight.

    That the great thing about being stuck in the past, you dont have to contend with contemporary problems but they will come for you all the same.

    • Terrak

      Difference is that Nintendo’s strategy involved some form of profitability and sony and microsoft eager to bash the other out of the competition did not. It failed spectacularly i might add, because neither won, and neither profited.

      Also the losses sony and microsoft sustained to sell their consoles at their incredibily low prices is something Nintendo never had to do so they dont need to recoup massive losses by finding other avenues and ways to profit. This is the difference. Nintendo just has to recoup the cost of development, not part of the cost of the console. This time i believe they are recouping part of the consoles cost but no where near as much as what we saw with ps3 and 360 which was reported to be (in ps3′s case) approx. 30% of the total consoles cost and in 360s case fixing the RROD issue (which cost billions to save face). Nintendo will have to find extra profitability somewhere i agree, but i dont think they need to do what sony and microsoft are hinting of doing and no where near the scale.

  • Kjetil Berthling

    Well, I was originally planning to pick up a PS4 after a price drop, or after a cheaper slim version came, but it seems like I will be sticking with my wii u now. I’m not going to buy a product that’s anti-consumer.

  • HylianBadger25

    I know Nintendo’s got the winning strategy on this one, as I’m continually asked by gamestop to sell back my games. Xenoblade, Mario, Zelda, etc. Apparently GameStop is willing to pay top dollar to get these games back on their shelves…but It’s not going to be from me. I’m attached. Too many good memories and optional replay.

  • BlackestNight63

    I’m not forming any solid opinions until Sony fully clears this up. For now it’s just speculation.

  • billy bill-y

    well I have roommates most of the time we all by the same games so we
    can play the multiplayer together but sometimes we each by different
    games and share them. because let’s say that Bioshock infinity was going
    to be released for the next gen console my house does not need 4 copies
    of Bioshock Infinite if I want to borrow it for my roommate I have to
    pay a fee to play it not unless I sign in on his account. but if I am
    signed in on his account then he can’t sign in and play different game.
    and me and my roommates all agree that we don’t want each signed into
    each others accounts we all play games differently and we all have our
    own friends list. So bottom line if Xbox 1 charge Usher feat a play used
    games we will not buy it we will buy 4 ps4. and if so any is stupid
    enough to follow Microsoft then we already agreed to get into PC gaming
    you can download everything for free. my one roommate has a gaming PC
    but he only plays RTS’s and simulators and me and my other 2 roommates
    don’t we like PC gaming but if that’s what it take so be it..

  • jphuff

    Bottom line, restricting or eliminating used game sales IS anti-consumer. What makes games different from a DVD, Blu-Ray or CD so that I shouldn’t be able to loan one to a friend or family member or sell it to someone else? I get that publishers miss out on money that way because the dollars don’t come to them, but that’s the market model we have. If I buy a product from any other market segment, I have the ability to sell it to someone else if I’m tired of it or just want to recover some money. Why should games be special? Game makers want games to be treated equally with movies and music when it comes to definitions of art and entertainment, but want special treatment when it comes to the free market economy? Can’t have your cake and eat it too. At least they SHOULDN’T be able to.

  • disqus_1aV2tj9AvQ

    The fact that the PS4 does not and never will require an Internet connection (meaning you never are forced to connect to the net) makes me think there is no way for them to properly implement a previously played game management system like Microsoft.

    A PS4 that has never connected to the Internet has no way of knowing if a read-only game has been played before, so it seems impossible for it to be blocked if read from BD-R media. I hope this is the case at least.

    • finalmattasy

      Sure, but then you’ll never be able to import your trophies, and never get dlc. If it’s in their interest, they’ll make dlc that is very attractive just so the console checks in and exposes what disks have been played.
      I’m waiting because I don’t even have home Internet. I surf on my phone and my phone account doesn’t allow tethering. Chances are, I’ll be retiring from gamedom. =)

  • Blake Wigert

    Mircosoft and Sony, clear as mud injected with ink. Nintendo clear as day, and I agree Nintendo makes great games. I haven’t sold a first party game ever.

  • Nevan Lowe

    Plus, that DRIVES MORE SALES!