Sony's PSN Pass Latest Tech To Block Secondhand Sales

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News Posted: Fri, Jul 8 2011 5:36 PM
A few weeks back, we covered Capcom's decision to limit Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3DS to a single save-game slot. That move was widely condemned as an attempt to hamper the game's attractiveness on the second-hand market, despite Capcom's assurances that being unable to restart the title and log their own achievements wasn't something players would care about. Sony has also opted to pounce on this particular bandwagon.

The company has stated that it will include a single-use "PSN Pass" code with certain upcoming titles, beginning with Resistance 3. Sony has yet to explain exactly which features the code activates but notes that "full online access" is only available if a code is given. Ars Technica further reports that anyone who buys the game used will be able to reset the title--but not without paying a nominal fee. As that site points out, Sony previously charged secondhand SOCOM 4 buyers an additional $15 to buy "Socom Pro." In that case, however, the "Pro" package contained entirely optional features.

Sony characterizes the move as "an important initiative as it allows us to accelerate our commitment to enhancing premium online services across our first party game portfolio." In a previous Gamasutra interview, SCEA PR VP Rob Dyer told the site: "I am a big believer in encouraging the gamer to have a reason to hold onto [a game] and to continue to play, and for the publisher to be able to see something if there is a second sale," Dyer said, "because right now, for years, as a publisher, we saw nothing [from used sales]."




As we've previously mentioned, we think game developers have a genuine bone to pick with the used games market. Sony's Socom Pro approach is, in our opinion, a much better method of addressing the problem than the route Capcom took with--but Sony itself hasn't yet clarified if PSN Pass codes will be used to lock away extra features and add-ons, or fundamental aspects of online play.

The long-term solution, at least as far as physical copies are concerned, is some sort of revenue sharing agreement between resellers and publishers. We're willing to acknowledge that publisher solutions that only ask used game buyers to pay for optional content are better than those that refuse to let them save games at all, but gamers are still the ones being penalized. There doesn't need to be a penalty at all--as much as companies like GameStop may not want to share the wealth, it may be in their own long-term best interest to do so.
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The long-term solution is for gamers to boycott publishers who expect to make money from second-hand sales. If you can't make a profit on the first-round sales, don't publish the game.

Meanwhile, companies like Blizzard and Steam are doing nicely by publishing games that are obviously never meant to be sold on, and no one minds because the gamers continue to enjoy the benefits of being a "first buyer," with support from the publisher for those buyers and no reason to ever want to sell the games again.

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Wow this is ridiculous. Buying used games from places like Gamespot does not save you much money anyways maybe 5-10 dollars. This also means no more borrowing games from a friend. Plus what the heck is it going to do for rentals from places like Gamefly...

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3vi1 replied on Fri, Jul 8 2011 8:53 PM

>> If you can't make a profit on the first-round sales, don't publish the game.

I agree wholeheartedly. What did Sony do that entitles them to money from the second buyer? Did they have to program, market, package and ship another copy of the game? No? Did the first person get to keep the game? No? Are they warrantying anything for the second buyer?  No?

They just want a never-ending stream of revenue from a single piece of merchandise - it's like you never own anything.

This is blatant greed. To hell with them; spend the money you would have spent on their games on a good PC game or hardware upgrade - you'll get much more use out of it.

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CDeeter replied on Sat, Jul 9 2011 12:22 AM

I really don't see how developers are being hurt by second hand sales any more than Ford or Chevy are hurt by used car sales. Or appliance makers, or anyone else for that matter. What is it that makes these guys special that they deserve to be paid twice for the same product?

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MMaddox replied on Sat, Jul 9 2011 4:33 AM

A game is bought First hand and played, player gets tired of it and sells it off, the first purchase is all the original publisher should have any rights to, anything beyond that should not be their concern. It's like someone selling a sandwich, that person eating half, then selling the sandwich to someone who passed it on to a third person, and the first person wanting money from them as well because they made the sandwich.

Its a financial model that cannot sustain itself and in the end will do more harm than good for Sony. They've had enough problems of their own causing as of late, no need to continue shooting yourself in the foot.

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Joel H replied on Sat, Jul 9 2011 11:12 AM

I genuinely disagree--and your comparative models are somewhat flawed. First off, games aren't like cars. Car manufacturers, in fact, have an enormous second-hand revenue stream--they sell *parts.* While they may not earn a dime on future sales of the vehicle (and there is, of course, a healthy stream of 'after-market' hardware), they *do* capitalize significantly on the sale of the equipment needed to keep the vehicle running over the long term.

Second, this isn't about stopping friends from trading games or preventing a local game shop from running a trade-in business. This is really about one company--GameStop--which both dominates the US market and earns ~48% of its income from the sale (and resale, and resale) of used games.

You need to understand that this is actually a very nuanced problem. It's not as simple as "greedy publishers want more money." For every EA or Activision, there are five small development studios who depend on sales of their next title to keep them in business. If the publisher decides to slap a $69.99 price on what should've been a $39.99 game, the developer can end up screwed over something they couldn't influence. Additional funding from the used market could help keep studios in business.

Keep in mind, I agree that the wrong person--namely the players--are paying for this problem.

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rapid1 replied on Sat, Jul 9 2011 1:22 PM

It is funny really being SONY, as this and many other things I have been seeing over the last few years will affect SONY corporation in many ways. The being hacked for all there data because they were to cheap to really secure it and keep it current, in many cases there hardware is and has been becoming less rugged, there development in software in some ways currently is good, but in many other ways there decision making has been way off as well.

I will say 1 thing I don't think I personally would be comfortable investing or holding a percentage of SONY any more. If they have no backbone, and because of that no trust in any sector, then eventually they will loose in the current world.

I am sure many will say I am crazy for even suggesting a company as big as SONY is a bad one to be holding on to in any way. I say it because the largest fort can be rendered useless by a single back door. If people looking for quality buys cannot depend on the name any more the ripples from one sector to the next can kill it all in the end.

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I don't like it but actually I can see the reasons and it does harm them more than say a car manufacturer is harmed by used cars sales notice how all these codes affect the online portion of the game... when you buy a new game some of the publishers money goes towards maintaining the online servers ect but buy it used and the publisher doesn't get any money yet you can then go on and use the service that people that bought new paid towards the upkeep so that particular service is eing used free of charge no matter how much you paid for the used game :/ so this has clearly been introduced to negate that effect and blame the bright spark at EA the introduced "project 10 dollar" they started this whole thing

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joel can't places like gamestop still do this even after what they are doing here? They can just sell it for a bit less or the amount that is needed for the nominal fee?

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CDeeter replied on Sun, Jul 10 2011 2:40 AM

I see your point, but remember, the original user has stopped playing the game, and therefore is not using resources anymore. The cost of supporting that copy has already been paid for by the first user, so charging the second user for online usage would be double dipping.

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CDeeter replied on Sun, Jul 10 2011 3:32 AM

Perhaps the answer lies in charging for online access as in WOW, or the developers could continue to work on a title and charge for the new content, new "parts" so to speak instead of trying to have a new title out all the time.

If they would follow this model it would be possible for them to build a more compelling story arc and keep players interested in their game for longer. By doing this they would be able to retain existing customers ( ooo can't wait for the next chapter to come out) and entice new customers to get in on the action.

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Joel H replied on Sun, Jul 10 2011 2:57 PM

Inspector,

At this point, no one has tried to completely lock out multiplayer gaming. At a guess, the 'nominal fee' will include features that aren't necessary for online play but might include (for example) access to map packs that were released as free for everyone else.

At this point, trying to completely lock out the secondhand market would likely get the publisher in question pulled into court over what's called the right of first sale. That's a risky move from a legal standpoint, so I don't expect to see anyone trying it anytime soon. This is more of a nudge.

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rrplay replied on Sun, Jul 10 2011 4:04 PM

maybe having to pay fee to play some of the on-line feature after the sale of a 2nd hand game would be enough of a perk for the developers to get a share of  the revenue.It is possible for GameStop to resell a single copy several times with the developers getting a piece of the $$ for just the first sale.I do not think that purchasers of a second hand game should be entitled to ALL the features.,just does not seem right.

& Agree with you Joel that it may be the right type of 'nudge' needed

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