With rumors swirling about oppressive DRM features that could be part of the next-gen consoles, many people are starting to wonder about the future of console gaming. In an article on TechSpot, it has been reported that Sony filed for a RFID patent that would only allow discs to run on one console. If the disc is then tried to be used on another console it would block access to the game, or block certain parts of the game.
Edge is reporting rumors that next-gen Xbox games will come with a one-time activation code that will need to be entered to unlock use of the game. With other sites reporting that the new Xbox will need to be online all the time, consumers and companies in the used game business must be crossing their fingers that these just stay rumors.
Used game and rental companies like GameStop and Gamefly will most certainly take a big hit if these DRM features are implemented. It is understandable that developers and producers want to make money every time the game is sold, and not only when a new copy is sold. In a recent Bloomberg article, GameStop stated that 75% of its 2012 sales were associated with PowerUp Members, and that those members were less likely to buy a console that restricts use of second hand games.
But what does this mean for the average gamer? In the TechSpot article it was rumored that when a game was blocked on a second console, it may be unlocked for a flat fee.
Most people are comfortable paying extra for DLC and add-ons, but some feel the “Online-Passes” are pushing their tolerance.
Publishers such as EA and Ubisoft have already used this method in the form of “Online Passes.” These passes allow the publishers to lock the multiplayer function of a game that has been purchased second-hand unless the player pays a fee to unlock it. Most people are comfortable paying extra for DLC and add-ons, but some feel the “Online-Passes” are pushing their tolerance. Imagine how some consumers would feel if there was a fee required to play a used game at all. Sony and Microsoft also need to keep the gamers that don’t have high speed internet access in mind. In a Huffington Post report, the FCC has stated there are still 19 million Americans without high speed internet access. With this country as far behind as it is in internet access, having a console that requires constant online access could have severe implications to console and game sales.
With so many reports and rumors, it appears that Sony and Microsoft are deadly serious about their consideration of DRM functionality in the new consoles. Not all is lost though if there is something in the console stopping used games. Steam uses DRM in a very intelligent fashion. You may not be able to buy used games on Steam, but with the amount of Steam sales there are, you can pick up most new games at a great deal. If Sony and Microsoft take a page from Valve and offer on demand content at a value to the consumer, they may be able to sell enough software to make a profit. With the Sony press conference rumored to announce the PS4 coming on February 20th, and Microsoft sure to follow suit, we should know soon what they are planning. Then, we can decide if the sky is actually falling or if this is all just a bad dream.