Is the PS4 headed for “Game Block” City?

Ever since the report by IGN about Sony Japan filing a patent for linking game discs to to a single console, the soap opera drama is sounding very familiar. As for how that code works, the technique is similar to people owning a bankcard with a chip. An identifier tag will link a specific disc id with a unique player id, and no network connection is required to register this data.

The good news is that this patent has yet to be carried out. Should the concept be fully realized, it will be for Sony’s next generation console, the PS4.

An analysis of the flowchart published by Gamezone shows the code will run before the game loads. The disc has to have this algorithm incorporated into its startup routine, which makes the choice up to the publisher if they want this protection or not.

Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO, Jack Tretton has allegedly said that he is against the idea. To block them would be “anti-consumer” and his statements were deemed to be more of a personal opinion than a reflection of Sony Japan’s plans.

PS3 owners have nothing to worry about. If Sony surreptitiously does an operating system upgrade without warning users about what they are upgrading to, they will definitely be targeted for another class action lawsuit. Some consumers may remember the copy protection rootkit scandal from 2005. Customers inserting a CD into their Windows computer had software secretly installed that unintentionally created a back door that hackers could exploit.

The bad news is that should Sony carry out their plan, stores specializing in selling used games or even renting them will be severely impacted. Owners with game consoles needing to be replaced will be out of luck. With locked games, most gamers will not be able to bring their favourite games to play at a friend’s home in competition play. There will be no more Street Fighter with the buddy from down the street. Should this block be carried out, many Playstation faithful may well look to other consoles to get their fix.

Even the next generation Xbox had their scandal early in 2012. Jameson Durall, a game designer for Volition Inc. and Paul Raines, the CEO of GameStop, weighed in the pros and cons. Other analysts think the whole idea of blocking games is a huge mistake. Should this happen, the pile of old, unplayable, games will be larger than the landfill hiding all those discarded Atari cartridges of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

With this latest fashion faux-pas, gaming industry analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities sent a memo to investors downplaying “the idea Sony’s next console would outright prohibit used or previously played games,” as Owen Good reported on Kotaku.

That did not help GameStop’s stock from losing shares after the IGN report of Sony Japan’s plans.

“We think it’s unlikely that there would be that next-gen console [that blocks used games] because the model simply hasn’t been proven that works,” said Raines to Computer and Videogames, a news and information site.

If this scare tactic is being used to gauge how customers will respond to blocked games for the next generation systems, then the results are obvious. The responsibility is in who wants to use this security feature. With a closed doors event happening in February potentially about the coming release of the PS4, many parties will no doubt want to sound off on whether or not they want this feature.

If console gamers simply want an unrestricted machine, then they should stick to PC gaming. These days, half the games are cross-platform. For exclusive console specific titles like God of War or Halo, even gamers will want to weigh in if  the upgrade to the next generation is worth it. Or perhaps, maybe revisit Nintendo. They have been quiet during all this debate.

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