PS3 lockout rumor reappears

A long-running rumor resurfaced today, once again fueling speculation that Sony plans to lock out used games on the PlayStation 3. But this time, the report came from no less reputable a source than the Los Angeles Times.

In the story, headlinedFuror Over Sony Patent(registration required), the Times reminded readersthat Sony has patented a technology thatcan "lock"a discto a single disc player - say, a PlayStation 3 console - and prevent them from ever being played on a different one. That'sold news, but it's the fuel firing the persistent rumor that Sony is going to nuke the sale of used games, a business which obviously costspublishers money, but which accounts for a huge portion of many game sellers' revenue.

Sony has repeatedly dismissed the idea as "rumors and speculation" andindeed, the language of the patent itself seems to consider the technology as more of an anti-piracy measure than a"screw you"to the gameresellers of the world. Even so, it wouldn't be the first time Sony has tried to nail down its copyrighted media. As the Times article points out, the company came under fire earlier this year when some of its music CDs quietly installed copy-protection software on listeners' PCs without permission or warning - something for which the company later apologized.

The Times also spoke with several analysts, most of whom reacted negatively to the idea that Sony would make such a move, sure to aggravate consumers. One said that suchactions would give Sony "a black eye" with consumers, while another said that used-games sales were instrumental to the growth and continued health of the industry (just as used car salesbolster the auto industry). One anonymous source even said locking out used games would be "suicide" for Sony.

Initial reactions aside, some analysts said that the technology could indeed be used to deter piracy, while others speculated it might only be usedto "lock"music or movie downloads. Still others were slower to dismiss the rumor, pointing out that, while destructive to the retail chains that sell used games, the new technology would be beneficial to publishers, who don't make money from sales of used games.

In any case, we at GamesRadar are still skeptical that Sony would actually pull such a boneheaded move. The company has, after all, been sitting on this patent since 2000, and there isn't any clear indication thatSonyis seriously considering the technology for the PS3. That's to say nothing of the inevitable uproar from gamers, whose goodwill toward the PS3 has already been strained by its $500-$600 price tag.

Of course, we won't know for sure until November, but we're not holding our collective breath. Then again, we never thought Sony would dump rumble controllers either, so it's obviously possible to underestimate the hubris of a powerhouse corporation.

July 10, 2006

Mikel Reparaz
After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.