When the Internet decides to collectively believe something that’s just not true, we have to cry out… Just Stop! This is what’s making a Warp Zoned editor rip his computer from the wall in frustration today…
Even though Sony’s February 20th presentation is still officially known as “Meeting 2013,” and unofficially as their “See the Future” event, the gaming populace is resolute in its belief that the PlayStation 4/Orbis will be unveiled to the public on that Wednesday evening. Actually, I have a hard time disagreeing with the hive mind of the Internet on this one. The PS4 reveal is but a fortnight away, I’m sure of it. But the drones of the Internet have also decreed that Sony will include some kind of nefarious scheme within the PS4 that’ll disable used games on the system.
No! Just Stop! YOU. ARE. WRONG.
I guess I should back up. Not everyone believes that Sony will include a lockout system in the PS4. Noted game analyst Michael Pachter has gone on record to say that the idea is “so stupid as to be laughable.” And “The Pach” is never wrong… oh, right, I forgot. But hear me out. In this case, I think Pachter has a point.
Nintendo launched their next-generation system, the Wii U, last November to middling reviews, but outstanding sales numbers. As of January 31, Nintendo has sold more than three million Wii U consoles worldwide. That’s the second-best three-month start for a console ever (the Wii has the best three-month start, by the way). So the system is gradually reaching the point of critical mass and could step in as the mainstream system if need be. The Wii was a bit too out there for most to adopt it as their main gaming system, but the Wii U’s pluses (traditional controller layout, universal hard drive compatibility, no used games lockout system) have positioned it nicely as a potential replacement for the hardcore console crowd. So if both Sony and Microsoft do block used games on their next-generation systems, they will have ceded the future to Nintendo.
To be fair to the “used games are doomed” side, Sony and Microsoft aren’t doing anything to dissuade the public away from these rumors. Sony filed a patent for a used games lockout system last month and many see that as proof that the DRM scheme is a lock for inclusion in the PS4. However, Sony filed a similar patent in 2006 and nothing ever came of it. Companies file patent and trademark applications all the time (some guy actually owned a trademark on “video games with the word ‘edge’ in the title” until very recently), often just to protect some vague speck of an idea. And speaking of Edge, the UK game magazine posted a rumor yesterday that claimed Microsoft is looking to lockdown its Xbox 720 with an online activation system.It’s not a stretch to believe that Sony and Microsoft both want used games to go away, and some form of collusion between the companies could occur to ensure they both announce a used games lockout system in their respective next-generation consoles. There’s only one problem: The US has some serious anti-collusion laws and if they both made the leap together, it would surely raise an eyebrow or two at Uncle Teddy’s Trustbusting Department. And Roosevelt had some impressive eyebrows.
If we ignore the prospect of collusion, the idea of a used games lockout system becomes a Mexican standoff situation and neither company wants to be the first to blink. Because that will then give a huge advantage to the other. Quoth Pachter, once again, “[I]f one of them did that unilaterally, the others would say, ‘Hey wait a minute, we have a disc drive. Ours will play used games. Buy ours instead of theirs.'”
The US isn’t the only country that would have a problem with a used games lockout system. In July, the European Union’s Court of Justice ruled that software makers have to give their customers the option to resell disc-based and download-only software. This leaves the door open for an online pass-based reauthorization scheme, but it ensures that killing used games outright would result in a lengthy legal battle for the first company to try it.
So here’s what I think will happen on February 20. Sony executives will get up on stage and tout the sheer awesomeness of the PlayStation 4 in a way that’s completely disproportionate to what the system can actually do (remember the “it can render Toy Story” and the Killzone 3 real-time video claims?). What they won’t mention is any kind of used game lockout system because doing so would be corporate suicide. In fact, I believe that If you were able to see into a thousand different universes, Sony wouldn’t announce such a system in any of them.
And, if for some crazy reason both Sony and Microsoft block used games in their next-generation systems, Japan may undergo a shortage of champagne because it’ll all have been diverted to Nintendo HQ.